As soon as the northerly wind abates, we leave the Greek island of Corfu and sail northward along the Albanian coast. As we approach the port of Durrës, Ivar sees warning symbols on our digital chart. Sea mines!? They cover the entire area in front of the port, except for a narrow channel. We read that the mines date from the era of the Cold War and have been cleared a long time ago. Still, we don’t feel at ease. Should we use the channel, despite the long detour?
Local fishing boats help us decide. They are fishing in the former minefield. “I’ve never been so happy to see fishermen”, Ivar sighs. We reach the port without any problems. On the quay between a bulk carrier and a tugboat, just under a gigantic crane, our agent Ilir is waving at us. He has arranged this berth so we can safely leave Luci and travel to the capital Tirana.
Albania is Craving for Change
On land, one-man bunkers adorn the streets. Like the mines on the sea chart they are remnants of Albania’s isolated and schizophrenic past. Floris’s friend Suela explains to us that Albania only recently became free. Since the end of the dictatorship, the country has been changing rapidly. It is introducing new laws at breakneck speed to fulfil its ambition of joining the EU. “An open view towards the rest of the world is now prevalent, but the recent history of state terror and the lack of freedom in Communist times are still in our collective memory”, Suela explains.
As we walk around the city, we see contrasting scenes. Poor street vendors offer ramshackle goods right next to a modern hotel. Luxury cars zoom past derelict houses. The streets are full of litter, except on the city’s restored main square. Not everybody benefits from the increased material prosperity. We wonder: are there entrepreneurs here who look beyond financial gain and address environmental and social issues, too?