I mean, you don’t have to fear either of them! As a woman, I was driving around the countryside on my own, most of the roads were great new asphalt roads, and I didn’t have to give up any of the programs I was looking for not to get there with my little car. In fact, the local leadership culture is different from ours. Two-lane roads are converted into three lanes, and traffic lights resemble street decorations. But in the sheer chaos in which they pay attention to one another, I have not felt this kind of aggression as many times at home when they cut short a bus lane in front of me. I quickly got used to the chaotic traffic out there, and I have to pick up the beat and smile better rather than annoyed. Moreover, I have come across a degree of hospitality which, in my opinion, is rare on the continent.
I came to Albania from Kosovo and when the first big cities appeared, I was keeping an eye on the roadside shops where I could buy a local SIM card. I finally saw a mobile operator store where there are no double parked cars like anywhere else. In fact, it wasn’t really clear if you could park your car at all. There were already about 8 to 10 cars on the side of the road, but the police were just coming across the road to punish them with note stickers. I walked past the zebra and asked someone if I was in the right place at the time when someone said no. He then asked me where I came from and when he heard the answer he said with a big smile, “If you’re a Hungarian, you can stop anywhere! Just do whatever you want, and we’ll keep an eye on your car!” He even stopped the flow of the rolling car so I could go back to the other side safely. This was my first experience with Albanian hospitality, but it wasn’t the last. While traveling around the country, I kept feeling like a VIP guest! Let’s take a look at some special places of the country!
The Tirana Bunk’art Museum is a 5-storey underground complex where hundreds of halls were set up in the 1970s just in case the political elite had to flee in the event of a nuclear attack. Today, some buildings are museums, where we can get acquainted with this period in detail. Since the complex was never used, the furniture, typewriters, and meeting rooms piled up there could be considered completely intact, as a time capsule.
Berat, the “city of a thousand windows” built along the Ausum River, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Berat is not only one of the most beautiful settlements in the Balkans, but also one of the oldest in the Balkans, which was founded by the King of Macedonia in 314 BC. The main attraction of the city is the inhabited area of the castle, which was built in the 13th century. Beneath it are white-coloured dwellings lined up close to each other, which when seen from the other side of the river seem to form a single building with “a thousand” windows.
The same river that crosses the city of Berat also passes through the wonderful Awsome Valley. It is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in the country, and in high season, the rafters also enjoy cruising here. By the end of summer the water level will drop so much that kayaking is no longer possible, but the beach is great for hiking and the brave will retreat.
On the Lloga Pass, a picturesque serpentine leads from the Gulf of Vlora to the Albanian Riviera. The two-lane road offers wonderful panoramic views of the Ionian Sea. Here, too, I experienced the wonderful kindness of dairy. When I got to the start of the serpentine, it turned out that the road was closed due to renovations, so I had to go to the other side of the mountain with a big bend and a more boring road. After the construction manager working there saw my frustration, he offered to let me walk the road. He jumped into his car, ordered me to follow her and drove in front of me like some kind of driveway while the workers looked at us in astonishment.
Butrint National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a special experience, as it is a nature reserve and a site of historical monuments. Here there is an impressive collection of many eras – from the ruins of a basilica constructed in the 6th century BC to a theater from the 3rd to the 16th centuries. It was built in the sixteenth century. The area was a completed architecture book, but at the time of my visit, much of it was under water due to heavy rain. It didn’t bother me, but most tourists did, so I was able to walk around the park almost undisturbed, as it was at all possible.
The source of the blue eye is a wonderful natural phenomenon where water erupts at the surface from a pool no less than 50 meters deep. We don’t know exactly how deep it is, because divers only discovered it so far. In any case, the combination of great depth and clear water results in an enchanting blue color that is even more pronounced by the tropical environment in spring. Since it is a nature reserve, it is not possible to swim here, but it is a real paradise for photographers.
After seeing a picture of the beautiful bridge near Perm, there was no doubt that I was going here too. A few kilometers from the city you can reach very charming thermal pools and a beautiful stone bridge built in 1760. The road to here was recently completed, so the place was not crowded.
Kruja Castle is the pride of Albania and is a town for locals like us in Eger. This is where Skanderbeg, who repelled the attacks of the Turks from here, was born. Janos Hunyadi was Skander Beg’s ally, which certainly contributes to the fact that Albanians especially love Hungarians. The main attraction of the city is, of course, the castle, which offers great views of the city.
I bid Albania farewell to the enchanting Albanian Alps to continue my Balkan adventures across the border into Montenegro. The asphalt road to the small town of Theth, deep in the national park, has recently been completed, although the railing still needs repair, but the landscape is beautiful, with colorful waterfalls and lakes hidden among the mountaintops. Although it was a few degrees cooler than the beach, this highway made a point on i to finally close this wonderful country to my heart.
Written and photographed by Kisgyörgy Eva – Travelina
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