This year...I am driving. The flights and train fares are nearly $400, I can drive 800km in my car for about $60. From Tirana to Vajta it is about 950km (625miles) each way. I had to purchase international insurance which was about $25 for 2 weeks, as well as an international permit for my car, about $5. I will drive to Prishtina the first day, 3 1/2 hours, and spend the night...then it will take another 10 hours to Vajta. Lirak, my dear friend, will help with the driving.
Now for the route to Vajta. Initially, I had decided to take the shorter route from Tirana, through Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina into Hungary. Due to transit visa expenses for my friend Lirak we moved on to plan B...through Serbia. Lirak, being from Kosova...has to have a "transit visa" for each of these countries, which takes a long time and a lot of money. The new route goes from Tirana, to Prishtina, to Macedonia, the entire length of Serbia into Hungary. In the past I would get out my paper atlas and plan the route. The paper map I have from the US is 7 years old...and to be honest...the roads in eastern Europe have significantly changed. So...I moved on to Google maps which for the most part worked pretty well. I received some counsel from other missionaries that travel the route from Macedonia to Hungary often. Great tips and encouragement for the trip.
Interesting facts regarding this trip:
- It is not possible to enter Serbia from Kosova. Serbia still does not recognize Kosova, and if you are in Kosova without going through Serbia first...you are in the country illegally. So...that is why we must drive south to Macedonia to enter Serbia. But...on the return trip, we can save 250km of travel, because we can enter Kosova from Serbia, not having to go all the way south to Macedonia.
- There are required items that must be in the car: reflective vest, reflective triangle, first aid kit, tow rope, and safety helmet. I understand all the other items...safety in the event you break down on the side of the road. What is the helmet for...? Hmmm....???
For the very last part of the trip, Google maps was not very specific about the directions to the Bible college campus. I asked one of the staff at the Bible college for specific directions from the closest city. He sent me GPS coordinates. Really...??? Clearly this is a sign of our technology saturated society. My cell phone only sends text messages and rings. My car does not have GPS. My friend Lirak has been a student at the Bible college...so I will rely on him for directions the last 50km.
Stay tuned....always an adventure!