We travel through Albania in a diesel locomotive at a leisurely 40 kilometres per hour. The aged trains make their way through the countryside on single-track lines. Travelling by rail in Albania is not always for the faint-hearted.
The trains that are still running were once in the service of the former Deutsche Reichsbahn, the East German state railway before the fall of communism. Albania’s rail network was never successfully connected to that of its European neighbors. In fact, it is even threatened with closure in favor of expanding the roads.
There are said to be just 50 train drivers left in the country, and as mechanics they also take care of their decrepit diesel locomotives. The documentary accompanies one of them, Vladimir Shyti, and conductor Florida Kucuku on a journey to the north, south and east of the country, on the last remaining sections of track through an intact natural landscape.
The wind whistles through broken windowpanes and branches whip against the 112-ton locomotive. It sounds dangerous and it is. The numerous level crossings have no safety precautions and pose a great danger to pedestrians, cyclists and animals. This often leads to serious accidents. The last trains in Albania all start their journey in Durres, also known as the “gateway to the Mediterranean,” and that is where every journey also ends. Anyone boarding a train needs plenty of time and patience. Although rail travel is very inexpensive, it cannot compete for time with travelling by car, which is reflected in the low number of passengers. Hardly anyone takes the train these days. So how long will this form of transport continue to exist in Albania at all?
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