Caravan walk 2009: Peqin - Northern Macedonian/Greek border
Impressions from participants
The most special characters of this trip were our 4 Albanian donkeys. At first we were quite reserved, both us and the donkeys, but really soon we all became good friends and companions. Together we went through rain, storm, beautiful sunny days, hills, villages, mountains and cities so this is for them: Dusko, Mara, Prenga, and pregnant Marija. Hope you are having nice and peaceful time somewhere in Albania.
Nature as it is. Rain. Sun. Stars. Thunder. Lightning. Morning. Sun again. Beautiful people. Villages. Villagers. So many things to be experienced. And shared. I loved it. 4 days of via Egnatia, and I realized what I have been missing. We must make more Via Egnatias. And enjoy them.
Katerina Vasileska, Northern Macedonia
Tom performing for his co-walkers at the dinner table and villagers
Everywhere we come these amazed and amused looks. The Albanian villagers welcome our unexpected caravan with great hospitality and humor. In Broshka we camped on the meadow in the middle of the village, surrounded by horses, sheep, ducks, and a herd of boys of all ages, from four to eighty. This is a recurring scene: curious boys around us, with questions in Albanian that we try to answer in our best Shkip, untill one of them speeks Greek and we can really communicate. Girls nowhere to see, sometimes a few very daring ones run across, hand in hand. This is Muslim country. In the evenings nice meals, partly self cooked, partly given to us by the locals, surrounded again by a bif group of men. And the the singing starts... In Broshka we had a kind of spontaneous European songfestival, where undoubtedly our three Slovenian girls won the first prize, with their heavenly three-voiced singing. Holger brings out his clarinet, and Franz his flute. And then an Albanian old man starts singing, all the other men doing the base-tone. We join in - This is the Balkan, but this is also Europe. There obviously is so much more that unites us, than what divides us.
Marietta, from Holland
Two days on the road with 5 to go to Ohrid and what has been experienced so far could fill the pages of a book. New friends from 8 different countries, 4 donkeys, stories shared about cultures as we walk along an ancient Roman road, blistered feet, smiling faces as we pass through beautiful Albanian villages, weather conditions that would make many people stay inside, deep belly laughs and priceless memories that will last a lifetime.
Karen Schaan, from United States currently living in Northern Macedonia
East is East, And West is West,
On Via Egnatia they meet
Carl Hagan, an American in The Netherlands
Great walk and a chance for all the EU nations to get together; is it possible that one day we will have an empire as well run as the Romans? We've been well received by the Albanians but they are puzzled why rich foreigners should want to walk around their country with donkeys rather than ride in Mercedes like civilized people!
Tim Lunt, UK
Via Egnatia was a trade road connecting people at times when we were all living in peace. Now we are living together with borders "guarding" us. Via Egnatia Foundation made the start for a re-connection and I am happy to participate walking in Via Egnatia in Albania. I met people open, warm and friendly.
Christina Kontaxi, Greece
The Via Egnatia connects many peoples over a long distance, but so far we have only travelled a short way, and we have really just made a start. So far we are still in Albania and if just one good thing were to come out of what we are doing then it would be the recognition that the people of Albania are friendly, welcoming and happy. That is probably very different to the image that they and their country have in the eyes of most who have never been here. It is a far away country of which we know little, but now I hope many others will know more and come here. They may not be as lucky as we are to have donkeys and such a wonderfully eclectic group, but they will find a fascinating country and possibly walk part of the Via Egnatia, the road to Byzantium.
Tom Sawford, England
Walkers together with schoolchildren in Peqin
Not only international connecting but also connection between generations. I never thought I would have so much fun with middle aged people.
Strong experience that connected so special people, moments. Full of impressions, thoughts and feelings.
Via Egnatia: there are no problems, only different situations and through these situations I have learned a lot.
Apart from the good company and the many friendly people we met, I enjoyed the landscape very much. In Albania, hills and slopes in every shade of green, the Skumbin river and the big torrent, the beautiful plains, snowcapped mountains all around, and then, all of a sudden, the lush meadows in Macedonia covered with all kinds of wild flowers like orchids, ornithogalum, blue anemones, which have disappeared in Holland long ago. I hope we can support the people of Albania and Northern Macedonia to preserve their natural beauties.
Looking for the old Via Egnatia that connected west to east and all the people in between. Some parts are still being used by local people, by cows and by playing children. Where do we find the old parts still visible?
Sometimes newer roads cross the old ones, small rivers grew into wild waters with the power to take away rocks. Stones from the path were probably used by local people to build houses and to make new tough roads to lead you to new villages and new houses. So where do you look for an old road? Your fantasy starts working when you discover or think you discover a nice laid path. Do I hear the feet of those nice young man, soldiers of Rome, who were sent to far countries? Did they sing, did they enjoy their visit to these beautiful areas. Did they see and enjoy the beautiful wild flowers we see? Did they hear the sounds of the cuckoo and other birds we hear now. Did they meet the same friendly people, the grand-grand fathers and mothers of the people we meet. People who make coffee for us the moment we arrive in their villages, tired, satisfied and thirsty. Always interested in our cause to look for the old road. They advise, they show us, for the memories of the road are never far away. "We show you the way, do not turn right, do not go to the left." So we go straight ahead the same way that armies went. We get lost many times, we have to go back because the river is too deep, we did not study the map enough, we doubt the map, we doubt the compass and then all of a sudden, we are back on the road again.
Juul, from Holland
Hi all! Two weeks have passed and my memories are still so vivid. During the last two weeks we were busy with telling the stories from the caravan to our old friends and meeting in Sofia our new friends. For us Via Egnatia turned out to be a real way to connect. What I liked most was meeting so different interesting people. What I hated most was ... I am not sure there is such a thing. My biggest surprise was ... that I had so much fun in conditions which would make most of the people cry heavily. I was not surprised when ... we lost our luggage. It was a matter of time. What I learned was ... to sleep wherever it happened. What I forgot was ... the need to use a mobile phone. What I cherished most was ... hot running water. What I didn't care for was ... rain - again and again. What I gained was ... a lifetime story! And hopefully new friends!
Gergana, from Bulgaria