Chicken soup is the code name that Linda Jo and I have for some one for whom the efficacy of their last shower and/or deodorant has expired.
To make my escape from Tirana and Albania, I had intended to take a train to Shkodra. From there, the info was sketchy. I could take a bus or furgon to the border at Han i Hoti and then, if lucky, once in Montengro catch a bus through the mountains to the coast, but no schedules of course. The taxi driver who was taking me to the train in a conversation that was mostly in sign language, pigeon English, Albanian with a pinch of Italian told me the trains were terrible. Rather than the posted 3 hours, it would take 4 or 5. A furgon would have me there in 1 1/2 hours. Since, the furgon would give me more time to plan my next move in Shkodra, it seemed clearly the way to go.
My furgon had 13 people on it. Remember, this is a mini-bus/van. Of the 12 passengers on the furgon, only one was not a gypsy. For those of you wondering, I am not a gypsy. As soon as I was crammed into the side bench seat with no back, the chattering among the gypsies got louder as they furtively and sometimes not so furtively eyed me. I assumed they were dividing up my worldly goods. In the conversations, as they checked me out, I would hear the words: Inglander, Finn, Deutsch, etc. They were trying to determine were I was from. Eventually, the matriarch of the gypsies pokes me and says something that I assumed was an inquiry regarding my country of origin. When I said, "American", the chatter rose to a fever pitch. My guess was they were calculating the size of the ransom I would command. My attempt to diffuse the situation with a little humor, by telling her that I assumed she was from Sweden, failed.
As we traveled along, the odor of chicken soup in the furgon was overwhelming. It was mitigated only by the constant cigarette smoke. Each time, I opened a window, even a crack, a gypsy would poke me and point to the one baby on the bus. Apparently, it was Ok for the baby to be marinated in chicken soup fumes, breathing nothing but secondary smoke, and burst into flames on a warm day, but fresh air would be harmful.
When we get to Shkodra, I am debating leaving my pack and running. Perhaps they will be satisfied with my things and forget about the ransom. All the gypsies get off the bus first to await my exit. The furgon driver signals to me to stay on the furgon while he drives away. He takes me to a friend, who, like all Albanians, except for gypsies, has a Mercedes. The friend for a reasonable fee (to get out of town, any fee would have been acceptable), takes me to Budva on the coast of Montenegro. Apparently, the taxi driver in Tirana told the furgon driver my intended destination.
By the time, the train would have reached Shkodra, I was in a beautiful beach town. My hotel room was large, painted white and blue with a big window that looked directly out on the old walled town and the Med. Today, the travel Gods smiled on me, but I don't think I will be having chicken for dinner.