Exploring Albania: my home country

Hello Hivers,

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For these Christmas holidays I decided to return to my home country. As I wrote in my introductory post I was born in Albania, and I moved to Italy when I was 5 years old. Although I have lived practically all my life in Italy and I am indeed very fond of this country that I consider to be my motherland, I still remain very attached to my origins, and I take advantage of these trips to meet my relatives and discover a bit more about this wonderful country.

If you want to reach Albania from my home, there are mainly three ways:

  • make the trip by car passing through 5 different countries;
  • go by car to the most convenient port, in this case Bari or Brindisi, and then take the ferry and arrive in Albania with it;
  • and finally, probably the most comfortable but least fun option, the airplane.

Usually the solution I prefer is the car, since it allows you to fully enjoy the journey through different countries such as Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and finally Albania. Usually the trip takes between 16 and 24 hours, depending on the traffic of the different state borders.
This year, however, for organizational and time reasons I decided to fly.
I left Bologna on 22 December with a flight in the afternoon, together with my brother and we landed in Tirana at about 4 o'clock and we immediately went to look for a car rental. Almost all car rentals require a credit card in order to be able to make the reservation and then rent the car, since the card acts as a guarantee in case anything happens. In Albania there are companies that allow you to rent even without presenting the card and so I took advantage of this and rented a 2018 Fiat Punto, not in great condition but working and so I managed to get away with about twenty euros a day.

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The thing that left me a bit puzzled was that usually when you rent a car they give it to you with a full tank of gas, so that when you go to bring it back you will return it with a full tank. In Albania, the same thing doesn't happen, they give you the car at the limit, so in reserve, and you have to return it in the same way, and since most people are afraid of being stranded you are forced to fill up at the gas station immediately near the airport that has very high prices (and probably agrees with them).

Usually when I go back to visit my country, I spend most of the time visiting my relatives of course and never have too much time to explore it instead. My country is really poor, it was under the communist dictatorship of Henver Hoxha up to 30 years ago and came out of it in a disastrous economic situation.
The political class is also very correct and although there have been signs of recovery in recent years, we are still one of the poorest states in Europe, and this is immediately clear as soon as you start to travel a little bit through the inland.

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Having gone away as a child I know almost nothing about Albania. So this year I decided to take some time to move around and visit some of the places I have always heard about but never wanted to visit. In particular there is a very famous place that I have always passed by on my way to visit my relatives but have never had the time to explore, so this year, with a rental car at my disposal I decided it was the right time to go and see it.

On the way we also stopped in Vlora (also known as Valona by foreigners), a famous city on the Albanian coast, to collect some sand. I know this sounds strange, but the reason is that my cousin had just bought an hourglass and since there was no sand inside of it we decided to collect it in this city.

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After about 3 hours of driving we finally arrived at our destination: "Syri i Kaltër", which translated means the blue eye. The name is very apt because, seen from above, it gives just that feeling.

When we arrived in the vicinity of the place, we had to leave the car because the road was being paved.

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This has always been one of the biggest problems of Albania as far as tourism is concerned, since I was a child I remember that the roads, especially those in the most remote and isolated places, were not passable by car, and this in previous years has slowed tourism in a country that otherwise would really have a lot to offer. Fortunately, in the last 10 years, the various governments that have come to power, among the many negative things, have at least understood the importance of tourism for our country and started to improve the roads. Obviously we are still light years behind other European countries (and this explains why we have not yet joined the European Union) but at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
So we armed ourselves with patience and walked for about twenty minutes to get to this famous spring.

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The show that appeared in front of us was really notable, trying to make the idea through the photos is quite complicated, also because we arrived when the sun was beginning to set and therefore being behind the mountains illuminated perfectly the zone, but despite this did not reduce at all the beauty of this place. Obviously we have stopped there for almost an hour for the varied ritual photos and to admire this marvelous place. Here is an image taken from the internet to give you an idea of how this place looks in better lighting conditions than we found and then some of the photos I took directly with my mobile phone.

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Source

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Another place I had already been to but never had the chance to visit properly is the capital: Tirana. I have therefore visited the city after dinner (trying to re-enter within 23.00 given that the Albanian government had decided to implement the lockdown given the increase of numbers of cases from covid). I must admit that the municipality has beautified the center with some very interesting lighting.

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Another very interesting place we went to visit, near Tirana, is the Dajti Mountain, which I also talked about in another post of mine describing the urban exploration of a public building that has been abandoned for years, here is the link to the post.

Urban Exploration in an abandoned building in Tirana - Albania

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A photo taken from the cable car station that connects the city to the mountain (a suggestive descent and subsequent ascent that lasted almost 50 min).

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I really had a lot of fun this time, since I had both the chance to visit my parents and also to get to know my country a little bit better. I believe that I will come back to Albania also this summer and I will due the same thing, I will explore even more my country 💪.


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