Already when we were planning our trip to the Balkans, the reactions by most of the people were rather negative. I faced everything from septic questions (What do you do when you get robbed?) over open fear of the albanian mafia and the brutality, especially against women.
Apparently, for many people in Germany the Balkans and especially countries like Albania or Kosovo still create images of war, poverty and brutality with them.
Well, after more than a week in Kosovo and Albania, to answer the question whether it is dangerous to travel those countries as a woman on a cycle, I can clearly conclude: Yes it is. But the more important question is: For whom exactly?
Actually, already after the first days I realized that it was not me but the Albanians who I put (irresponsibly) into even life threatening danger… Flabbergasted gazes, excited honking, screaming, whisteling or waving stopped car drivers from watching the traffic and almost causing accidents. I experienced even abrupt breaking actions – also on a motorway. And in the cities, the regularly missing drain-cover posed serious risks for the starring pedestrians – when I passed on my bike.
Later Bessi from a hostel in Peshkopi made me realize that I could best be compared to a donkey in a German city – people would react in a similar way since they are simply not used to see that on a daily base. I accepted my faith, constantly reminded myself that I am actually a donkey and tried not to misjudge all the starring faces as negative or unfriendly.
Eventually I didn’t make a single bad experience with any of the albanian male pedestrians or car drivers that occupy the streets to 90%. Often, after the first shock was overcome (a woman, in the street, blond, AND on a bike) I had nice and interesting conversations and many Albanians offered us their help. Later in Peshkopi I met a British girl in my age traveling by bike on her own and she was similarly positive.