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New Europe

Day Twenty-two: Dubrovnik to Durrës

Sunrise over Durrės 
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If it's Tuesday it must be Albania. Sunrise over the port of Durrės.
Michael Palin - New EuropeWhen I wake up the dawn has barely broken. The coastline, indistinct in detail at this early hour, is lower and gentler than the tall grey cliffs of Croatia.

There's nothing Homeric about the 'Adriatic Paradise' this morning. Nada and the other two crew members are nowhere to be seen. Captain Neven is strapped to the wheel, fast asleep, rolling gently to and fro with the swell. I look anxiously ahead and wonder whether to wake him up as we're heading straight for a small island.

Two hours later, we've made ourselves some breakfast and the captain is now awake, standing at the wheel and talking animatedly into his mobile while casting anxious looks at the coast ahead.

The city of Durrės, Albania's chief port, slides into view to the south-east, between green hills covered with vines, golden-flowered broom and communications masts. Missing are the red-roofed whitewashed houses which helped make the towns and villages of the Croatian coast look attractive, but Durrės looks busy, with big modern blocks and builders' cranes dominating the skyline.

Captain Neven gazes out at it.

'All new. None of this building here in communistic times. All new. Italian money.'

He shakes his head. He remains resolutely unimpressed. 'In Croatia, nobody would let them to build such buildings. Not on the coast.'

But not totally pessimistic.

'I think they have good food, a bit like Turkey. Albania is eighty per cent Muslim country. We all have this five hundred years' influence of Turkey. In food and in mentality. In blood as well.'

'More so here than in Croatia?'

He nods and peers towards the shore.

'More here, yes.'
Durrės dockside 
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Hello sailors. A welcoming committee at Durrės dockside.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Twenty-two: Dubrovnik to Durrës
  • Country/sea: Croatia
  • Place: Dubrovnik
  • Book page no: 55

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