Riding in a “furgon” or minivan/bus is an experience unique to Albania. It’s how most of the population gets around. In reality it’s a very efficient system – you can get on or off a furgon wherever you want along its route. Not so with buses in the US. The soundtrack of traditional or europop music, the degrees of seat (or stool) quality and the driver’s recklessness all vary each trip, but in general it’s a crowded, bumpy, noisy ride.
With some other PCVs I often joke around about the fact that “Furgon Driver” should be a video game. Navigating curvy mountain roads with bald tires and 4 more people than seats with chickens in the back is a real skill. Add to that two grandmothers throwing up in plastic bags and try and adjust the radio while texting and smoking a cigarette (not to mention driving a manual, vintage machine) at the same time ….. bonus points.
In fact, it seems that every city in Albania has its own furgon driver culture. Peshkopi in Diber functions as a regional hub/market city so there are many furgons that go out to the surrounding villages. And, it seems, a large number of those are not only large Mercedes vans, but are painted bright colors and decorated with LED lights. They remind me of Tata trucks in Nepal, and are, to date, my favorite furgons in Albania. They may not be comfortable or get me where I need to go, but they definitely have style.