Trying out the cheapest hostel in Europe (Balkan Trip Part 4)
First published: Saturday May 21st, 2022
The epic bus ride to Albania
After crossing the ridiculous Kosovo Albania border (One guy just collected my passport while I'm sitting in the bus, went outside and came back 10 seconds later. Yes only mine because I was the only tourist.), we drove into the big mountains of Albania.
The weather was pretty bad, but the ride was impressive. The highway is built on a mountain and sometimes spectacular with big bridges and cliffs. I suppose that's nothing really special, but compared to the roads I've been on this trip so far, it was. I was a bit worried about the weather, it was raining much and it would probably subjectively affect my impression about the country.
I really enjoyed the view. I usually avoid night buses and I try not to sleep on the bus, because it's really an important part for me in traveling.
The best view I had
I arrived in Shkodra and I looked up on the map a bit and I saw there was a castle. So I went there immediately and after going up the hill, I realized there was an entrance fee, and I completely forgot that Albania has its own currency called Lek. They didn't accept card, but luckily, I could pay with Euros, otherwise I would have had to go to the city and back, which would take me an hour. I wouldn't mind the time, if it wasn't winter. It's pretty stressful when the sun sets early and also if you just stay in a place for only one day. In the coming days, I sometimes skipped lunch because of that.
Anyways, it was time to explore the castle... and I had the best view of the entire trip!!!
The view in real life was unforgettable. Not only the view, the castle itself was really nice as well!
I would never expect this to be in Albania, it kind of looks like the UK to me, because of the moss. It reminded me of the island in the movie "Castle in the sky", it really felt surreal. And I was surprised by all this, because remember when I looked up the pictures of Shkodra? It was way more interesting than what I could briefly find on the internet.
The town centre of Shkodra also felt like southern Europe like Portugal (I've never been to Portugal but it reminded me of Macau). I really enjoyed the city I knew nothing about, it was a nice accidental bonus of the trip.
Without having lunch that day, I looked for nice looking restaurants in the town centre to fill my empty stomach. So I ordered a Calamari, because I've only eaten meat the whole week and we were close to the coast, so I wanted some seafood. But as soon as the meal came, I knew I ran into a tourist trap. I think you can tell just by the picture, I mean... the serving doesn't even look good right? It wasn't even warm and it came with cold crackers, but at least the beer tasted good. It's an albanian beer called Korca, and it had a really interesting taste, a bit sour if I had to describe it.
The cheapest hostel in Europe
I was looking for a hostel online in Shkodra and I found one, where they only demand 5€ per night! I was curious, how bad can it be, but the review wasn't bad so I decided to book there. It's the cheapest hostel in Europe, at least that's what I like to claim for the sake of the title, but I also did some research if there is a cheaper one in Europe.
First problem: I could not find the hostel. I walked around the entire block I think twice and walked up the stairs of an entire apartment building, but I just could not find it. I was probably not the first tourist struggling with finding the place, because eventually, a stranger knew what I was looking for and showed me the place. There was no sign and it was behind a gate, which was just open, to a building that looked like a private property.
I was welcomed by (I think) a british or american man and his wife, and they were really kind and talkative. The hostel was clean, they even had lockers and the bed was comfortable. It was a small hostel and it felt personal, I started thinking they're just doing it non-profit and just out of passion.
Because I was disappointed by the dinner I had, I wanted to eat an another one. I asked the hostel owner for good restaurants and he recommended me this. I was very satisfied by his recommendation, even though it was nothing new. Except for the cheese maybe, it might be the local cheese in Albania called Kashkaval, I hope at least.
Day 9: Shkodra -> Podgorica
I just felt too bad for only paying 5€ the night so I left some tip. The hostel owner also showed me how to get to the bus to Podgorica, as you JetPunkers all know, the least guessed european capital, the capital of Montenegro. But of course I won't be staying in Podgorica, my plan was to day trip to either Budva or Kotor and then taking a night bus from Podgorica to Mostar, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I wanted to buy the tickets for the night bus I looked up online, but they said it's only once a week and exactly yesterday. So if I want to go to Bosnia, I had no other choice than taking the coastal route, so I bought a ticket to Kotor. And if I'm visiting Kotor, there is no way I would skip Dubrovnik in Croatia. Only drawback, I will only have a very short time in Bosnia.
The bus to Kotor departs in an hour so I had the time to walk around in Podgorica a bit. I didn't make it to the town centre in time, so I can't really tell anything about the city. My impression is that it was nice, but I agree with everyone else, that Montenegro probably has better stuff to offer.
The bus ride to Kotor
The entire ride, I talked with my neighbour. She was a chinese student living in the UK and doing her first trip in Europe. It was so much fun talking, so I didn't look a single second outside the window to enjoy the view between the mountains of Montenegro, until we came here:
Everyone in the bus went "Wooow!" and it was my first time seeing the ocean in this trip. You can see the town of Budva, which I first considered visiting. Glad I chose Kotor, because it will be more epic.
I arrived in Kotor and went for a walk in the centre. A very beautiful town with history. If you look on the map, Kotor is located on the coast, but between the mountains, which provided a good strategic position. I immediately went up the mountain to the castle to get the most beautiful view. The view was becoming better each step so it was hard stopping me to take pictures every single minute. Out of exitement, I forgot to buy a bottle of water, which was a really bad idea, because I got thirsty earlier than I expected. Probably because of the sudden dry and warm mediterranean climate (It was around 23C° in February!), so I had to watch out not to dehydrate on my way. But I eventually made it to the castle!
The view was beautiful, it almost looks like a Fjord. If you visit Kotor and have more time, you can actually even go further up the mountain. You would be able to see the whole bay of Kotor. And with even more time, you can visit the nearby town Perast. Visiting Kotor was a really good idea, even if it was short. I can definitely recommend visiting, especially in February. As in the picture, no tourists in the winter season and as warm as spring.
Day 10: Kotor -> Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik might be the most popular destination of my whole trip. I didn't know much about the city, I only knew it is a thing, probably because I didn't watch Game of Thrones. You might be surprised how it's like! Just wait for my next part :).