Weekend in Albania

When JR’s co-workers asked if we wanted to join them and get out of town over the long weekend, we said yes without really knowing where we were headed. There was some discussion of Greece, Bulgaria, and Albania, and obviously, we decided on Albania. I can’t say I’ve ever given the country much thought, but I’m certain I didn’t expect this.

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Or this.

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I was prepared for a beach though. I packed sundresses, my swimsuit, and beach bag. Even though I looked at the weather ahead of time and it said highs in the low 70s and a 50% chance of rain each day. So, even though the water looked pretty, it is not quite beach season in the Balkans.

It was beautiful weather for visiting a few different towns. We stayed at a very nice hotel in Vlore, about a six hour drive from Pristina. Here’s the view from our balcony.

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On Saturday, we drove south along the coast. We initially thought about driving down to Sarande, which is supposed to be a great beach town. But we took our time with the drive, and after a few stops for pictures, we decided to have lunch in the small town of Himare. The water was a beautiful, perfect blue.

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On Sunday we drove further into Albania to see the city of Berat. The drive itself was an adventure, because some of the roads had even MORE potholes than we’d seen before, and for a decent portion, it wasn’t even a paved road. Once we arrived in Berat, we found a place for lunch and then walked around the town. Berat Castle sat on a huge hill (I’m not entirely sure when it’s a big hill and when it’s a mountain. Ohio is quite flat, so they all look like mountains to me.) overlooking the city. Before we even entered the gates, we took a ton of pictures of the great view of the city.

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The castle itself is a fortress dating back to the 13 century (thank you, Wikipedia). I assumed we’d walk around a small castle for a bit and that was all. But behind the walls there was an entire little village. A very nice local man saw us wandering around and offered to give us a tour and show us inside some of the ancient churches.

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We had briefly considered bringing our umbrellas from the car, but since we expected this to be a short stop, I said we didn’t need them. This was a mistake. It started POURING while this kind man was giving us a lengthy tour and detailed history of the town. Eventually we told him that he’d done a great job but we needed to get out of the rain. I assumed he was just passing by when he decided, out of the goodness of his heart, to tell us about his town. The others say he probably does this for every group of tourists that he sees and makes money from it. That makes me feel less special, so I choose to believe my version.

We drove back to Vlore that night, and the following day made our way back to Kosovo. As it was Memorial Day and no doubt many of our friends and families back home were having cookouts, JR and Amy both ordered “burger cheese” at our lunch stop. What they received was a square glass dish with melted cheese, peppers, and what appeared to be two Spam meat patties on top. They said it tasted fine, I didn’t try it. 🙂

Overall, it was a great weekend and it allowed me to add one more country to the list of places I’ve been.

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