Fier, Albania, A Lakeside Layover

“We need to stop talking about it, for Kai’s sake.”

Mark and I were still trying to rationalise the incident. How Kai got out of the truck. How a small pup, normally fearful of other dogs, got close enough to a wild canine behemoth to be bitten and shaken to within seconds of death. Then how, when we sought help at a veterinary pharmacy and asked for antibiotics, they injected Ivercen, an antiparasitic for livestock which is irreversibly lethal in some dogs.

Mentally, Kai seemed remarkably unscathed, considering what he had been through, and we wanted to keep it that way. Despite four deep punctures in his back from the bite, he was playful and happy, and showed no signs of being in pain.

For our own peace of mind, we parked up a few minutes’ drive from the friendly and professional Animal Hospital in Fier. Once we were sure that Kai had no adverse reaction to the Ivercen, our biggest concern was infection, particularly with Albania’s early summer temperatures reaching a brutal 39°C. Two days after the attack, once the vet, Dr. Andi, and his assistant, An Ni, could administer intravenous antibiotics, I felt a huge wash of relief.

Poor Kai’s injuries

As a seasoned traveller and backpacker, I prize my sarongs. A versatile travel accessory, they are light, quick-drying, and fold up to pocket size. I have used them as skirts, dresses, towels, sun shades, nightwear, bags, beach mats or picnic blankets, window blinds, and a dog carrier when Ruby cut her pad on a walk. Dampened down, they made a perfect cooling blanket to facilitate sleep during blistering nights in the Australian Outback.

To prevent Kai from licking his wounds, I butchered a beloved sarong which had travelled with me since 1996, when I bought it on Mana Island in Fiji. Its ultimate act of universal utility was as a lightweight doggie coat to protect our precious boy without overheating him.

Kai modelling my prized sarong, which has travelled with me since Fiji in 1996!

Our park up at the Lake Restaurant was the spatial equivalent of a reassuring hug. Up a quiet lane, surrounded by nature, with a shady terrace overlooking a tranquil pool, it was a perfect place for us all to recover.

Kai needed to rest and heal, although the sultry weather made it difficult to do much else. Our original itinerary comprised mostly beaches or river canyons, which would have been cooler, but Kai’s injuries meant sand and water were out of the question. In the torrid temperatures, all I wanted to do was lie on the bed but I couldn’t, because the sheets were too hot.

We live a minimal life with few belongings, but the weather led to an epiphany regarding what is really precious. The Beast has no air conditioning, so when the mercury hit 39°C, our most treasured possessions became two 12-volt fans, powered by our bank of leisure batteries. Even in Western Europe, decent 12-volt fans are difficult to come by, so, when one’s motor burned out, it was a real setback. The only fan we could buy in Fier was a clunky 240-volt desktop fan, which cost twice as much as Kai’s veterinary treatment, and was barely half as efficient as the Streetwize battery-powered one that died. In normal circumstances, our invertor would convert the 12-volt solar and battery power to mains voltage. Unfortunately, in the fiery furnace of the daylight hours, the invertor overheated and failed, although it just about hung on overnight.

Rosie enjoying the view & the cool breeze from the lake

At least the restaurant terrace benefitted from a slight cooling breeze fluttering across the lake. I spent my days catching up with writing, or simply enjoying the wildlife. A dense frill of khaki-coloured weed around the water’s edge was home to squadrons of darting flame-coloured dragonflies, and a frog chorus that achieved the decibel level of an airliner. The amphibians treated us to a soap opera of froggie courting behaviour, which included races through the quicksilver water, or sitting on their lily pads with their throats expanding and contracting like balloons.

One morning, we glimpsed something the width of a ship’s rope slithering through the grassy verge next to the truck. It was around two metres long and covered in shiny dun-coloured scales. Even if I’d had my camera with me, it vanished into the undergrowth far too rapidly to photograph. From the size and colour, I recognised it as an Eastern Montpellier snake. Despite its imposing size, it is not a dangerous. It is mildly venomous, but its fangs are at the rear of its mouth, which makes biting and injecting venom into prey larger than a mouse or lizard difficult.

Eastern Montpellier Snake Mapolon insigninitus courtesy of Kiril Kapustin, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

As we strolled along a little path by the lakeside, we saw at least twenty Hermann’s tortoises emerging from hibernation. The size of a small dessert plate with smart black patterns on their yellowy-green shells, it was the first time I’d ever seen a tortoise in the wild. It felt even more special because the Hermann’s tortoise is endangered. The Fab Four had never encountered tortoises either. They were brilliant at sniffing them out, but not sure what to make of them, so they just barked furiously each time they found one of the funny rocks that moved.

One of many endangered Hermann’s tortoises we saw

The restaurant owner was a charming, kind man of advancing years, but we had terrible communication problems. He didn’t speak a word of English, Italian, or German, so Mark employed Google translate to ask, “Can we stay until Monday, we have another vet appointment?” in Albanian. He looked perplexed, although when I translated it back into English, it said, “Can we stay until you go?” – so perhaps it was little wonder our host seemed so confused! I just hoped he didn’t think we were never going to leave, or trying to predict his demise.

His house and restaurant were extensive, but mostly, we were the only customers. Whenever we sat on the terrace, our host never approached to see what we would like. When we called him over, even though there was never anyone else there, he always looked over his shoulder before he approached, as if to say, “What? Me?”

He’d come over, then, each time without fail, have to go away again to fetch the menu.

Once we were ready to order, we would once again repeat the calling over and “What? Me?” ritual. Then, inevitably, he would have to depart to retrieve his pad, pen, and spectacles before he could take our order. Often, he would bring our food but no cutlery.

One day, he stabbed at the menu with his finger to recomend petale (deep fried bread) served with a sour cream dip. It was so delicious, I took a photograph, and, with a succulent Greek salad, it became our lunchtime staple. Despite being the only customers and eating the same thing every day, we still struggled to order. We would ask for petale by name, point at it on the menu, or as a last resort, show him the photo of the dish on my phone, although that only ever served to enhance the confusion.

The photograph seemed to mean nothing to him. Then, on another occasion, he brought us a half portion of petale because I took the photo after we’d sampled one piece each!

Our favourite lunch, petale with sour cream, although this photograph didn’t help us to order it again!

On a slightly busy Sunday, an English-speaking member of an Albanian dining party chipped in on our behalf and told him,

“They want what they had yesterday.”

As the owner wandered off shaking his head, giggling and saying to himself something that sounded like qengj (lamb), I had to get the Albanian chap to intervene again and reiterate that we wanted petale!

The entrance to the Lake Restaurant

Dinner was an even greater comedy of errors than lunch.

Although we avoided menu items such as Frog, we worked our way through and sampled the scrumptious slow-cooked lamb. ‘Piggy’, as the bill of fare described it, was off, so we ended up with zog – which translates simply as ‘bird’. We weren’t entirely sure of the species: it was too small to be a chicken, but whatever it was, we got the neck, organs, and almost everything else jointed and deep fried in a savoury coating that would make Colonel Sanders jealous. Delectable as it was, I was grateful that my dinner wasn’t able to stare back at me. Once in Greece, I had a ‘who will blink first?’ contest with a lone eyeball floating in my rabbit stifado.

After two weeks, Kai’s wounds were clean, uninfected, and healing well, but Lani and Ruby both had sore ears. Grass darts in Albania are sharp, sticky, and ubiquitous. We went back to the Animal Hospital so many times for Kai’s check ups and to have grass darts removed that we wondered whether Dr. Andi would think we were stalking him. That said, he recommended his favourite places in Albania to us, showed us photos of him treating all kinds of exotic wildlife, and invited us to meet him at his friends’ restaurant in Hammersmith, West London, during his planned visit at Christmas.

Dr. Andi treating a pelican

We reflected that we’d spent about half our tour waiting around near vets. Beautiful as it was, the purpose of our three-week stay in Matera, Italy, was principally to sort out Albanian animal health certificates for The Fab Four.

Nevertheless, it was a very relaxing layover in Fier, and just the tonic we all needed after the trauma in Vlorë.

We were sorry to leave, but Albania’s many treasures were calling.

Join us next time as we explore the magnificent UNESCO-listed ‘chronicle in stones’, Gjirokastra.

Catch up with our previous adventures in The Beast on my Truckin’ About page HERE, or check out my books HERE on my blog, or on Amazon/Goodreads/Facebook via the buttons below. They are the PAWFECT Valentines gift for the dog lover/traveller in your life.

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Published by Jacqueline Lambert @WorldWideWalkies

AD (After Dogs) - We retired early to tour Europe in a caravan with four dogs. "To boldly go where no van has gone before". Since 2021, we've been at large in a 24.5-tonne self-converted ex-army truck called The Beast. BC (Before Canines) - we had adventures on every continent other than Antarctica!

29 thoughts on “Fier, Albania, A Lakeside Layover

  1. We have all been there, trying to make ourselves understood! Google translate has a bit of a way to go yet and I am still waiting for the babel fish to be invented. I am also enjoying the happy ending and thinking how travelling with pets does just add another layer to the people you will encounter when travelling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The waiter was so lovely, but it really made me chortle that we started every day from zero! I think Google translate hindered rather than helped. I have never tried speaking Portuguese. I’m sure it’s rather difficult to get your head and lips around.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Maggie! xx

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It is the most upsetting thing that’s ever happened on our travels. It could have been much worse, though, so we’re thankful it turned out okay in the end.
      The snake was majestic! I don’t mind snakes so long as I know they’re not poisonous. The vipers are the only dangerous snakes in Albania and the Balkans. They tend to be shy and move away, so long as you don’t provoke them.


  2. Wonderfully interesting post, Jackie, and I’m SO glad Kai recovered from his awful experience! I don’t know how you maintained your sanity when dealing with the guy at the restaurant. (Honestly, he sounds pretty dotty to me, and it may not have been totally because of the language problem. When even pictures don’t work, you gotta wonder!)

    Thanks for sharing, and I really enjoyed the tortoise and snake photos, too! Happy travels! 🤗❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Serpentes and Testudinidae are right up your street, Marcia!
      The waiter was an enigma. I thought I’d nailed it when I showed him the photo, but as I say, it seemed to mean nothing to him! I have heard of African tribes who don’t understand the concept of a picture. If you show them a picture of a leopard, they don’t know what it is, but if you showed them a part of the animal, they then appreciate what it is, but the waiter had a mobile phone, so photos were not an alien concept! Maybe he thought we were trying to show him a picture of our relatives and decided we were bonkers!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my, poor Kai … but I’m so glad he got through this traumatic experience! And how handsome he looks in your Fiji sarong! Placing an order at the restaurant sounded like quite a mission – I’m having a good laugh at that half portion 😄. I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just drink beer!!

    Liked by 1 person

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