On my first visit to Durres in 2000, much of the coastal area was lined with pine trees and clean sandy beaches. There wasn’t much going on but it was rustic and relatively untouched, at least towards the south in Golem.
But thanks to massive government corruption and the popular Albanian pastime of money laundering, every piece of prime real estate was grabbed up and ridiculous high rises were constructed.
The entire coast from Durres to Golem is now built up and they are continuing to build, even though most of the apartments are empty or for sale.
It’s a shame there was no government planning and development of infrastructure and Durres is now a bit of a mess. But the city has been around for thousands of years, I’m sure it will continue to survive.
Via Egnatia: Day 1 – Durres to Golem
After a quick visit to Tirana to pick up the guide book and GPS tracks for the Via Egnatia, we headed to Durres to get started.
The old Roman Via Egnatia has been around since the second century BC. Originally used for the movement of soldiers around the Byzantine Empire, it later became an important trade route between East and West.
In between concrete high rises and chaotic streets you can still see glimpses of the city’s ancient past. Durres Amphiteatre, the old city walls and the Venetian Tower are the most obvious.
Around the corner from the Venetian Tower is the start of the Via Egnatia (Rruga Egnatia in Albanian), although most hikers start the walk at the village of Golem, just south of Durres.
It probably does make sense to start at Golem instead of in the congested city streets of Durres. But I wanted to start where the Romans did. So we spent most of the day walking along the beach, sometimes on a dedicated path, sometimes along the sand and briefly along the highway.
At one point you’re blocked by a military zone and you have to walk along the highway to bypass it. This military area was used by Albania’s elite during communism. Once a pretty private beach surround by stone pines, who knows what it’s like now.
Once past the military base, the beach becomes quieter, cleaner and more enjoyable to walk along. They are building some massive apartment complexes here but they have to keep laundering all that drug money, so it’s to be expected.
Instead of staying the night in Golem we made the mistake of going to Kavaja, one of the cities located on the original Via Egnatia. But trust me, you don’t want to go there.
Hiking for Charity
On this hike I’m fundraising for Charity Water and will be donating $1 for every kilometre walked. If you would like to contribute you can donate here.
Live on Instagram Stories
I’ve got wifi in the Albanian mountains! You can follow the Via Egnatia live on Instagram Stories.
- Via Egnatia trail: 16 km
- Total km walked today: 21 km
- Steps: 30,000
Where We Stayed
Kastrati Hotel (on the highway near Kavaja): 2,000 lek (15 euro)
A basic hotel but the food was fantastic.
What We Ate
For 1,500 lek (11 euro) we over-ordered and had:
- 2 x vegetable soup
- 2 x large village salads (kind of like Greek salad)
- 2 x fried potato
- Salce kosi (the Albanian version of tzatziki)
- Hot pitta bread
- 2 bottles of water