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 (from Albania’s most luxurious hotel) 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.
It’s interesting to see how the coastline changes the further you get from the city centre. After the port, the beach is ugly and dirty, lined with crumbling high-rises and not much to see.
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 surrounded 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.
Further along, you’ll see some of the original pines and the high rises are replaced by expensive walled-in villas.
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 unless you fancy a revolting hotel with no water.
- 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)
A basic, kinda nasty hotel but the food was delicious.
What We Ate
For 1,500 lek (€11) we over-ordered the following for two hungry hikers:
- 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