Korça, The Albanian Little Paris
Korça is a big city, situated in the eastern part of Albania, a city not easily forgotten after visiting. It is considered the Little Paris of Albania because of its culture and aristocratic delicacy, noticed not only in its peoples’ behavior, but also in its architecture. Korça has maintained the tradition of its “sokak” streets, (stony narrow streets), and characteristic houses with old wooden stoves and deliciously cooked food. If you travel around Albania to explore it, you should pay at least a two-three-day visit in this fascinating city. In fact, Korça is the most visited Albanian city in every season. In winter, it is surrounded by the magic of snow, while in summer by fresh air and “serenata”, a typical kind of music mostly played and sung by local old and young guitarists.
If you do not know Albanian, you should ask someone to translate their song texts, full of beautiful love rhymes. “Serenata” today is mostly played in bars and clubs, while once upon a time youngsters sang them under their girlfriends’ balconies or windows. Korça people say that this beautiful tradition has been lost with the advent of development. Now young people have more opportunities to contact their beloved, in the streets or through mobiles, while in the old days, the only way to see someone you loved was in church on Sunday.
If you choose to spend any celebration day in Korça, you need to book at least a month in advance. There are some good hotels to suggest, like Gallery life, Kocibelli or Grand, but you will also find a lot of “bujtina”, i.e. hostels, like Sidheri hostel, where traditional environment goes alongside with delicious, characteristic food, cooked by the hotel owners. Other good and affordable places to eat are Kofiel Villa and Vasili Tavern. Traditional food includes “Lakror në saç”, a kind of pie baked on a wooden fire, stuffed with meat, vegetables or cheese; “kernacka”, a kind of meatball, “petka”, a kind of homemade pasta and sugar apples. Advisable to drink is the native Korça beer since 1930.
The Old Bazaar restoration, which resembles more of a Dutch “groten markt”, will also re-open famous former inns of two centuries ago. Korça still grabs your attention with Morava mountain, situated quite close to the city, where there is also a church with a huge cross on top of the mountain. It is breathtaking to look at Korça view from top. You can also visit Liqenas, otherwise known as Pusteci, a village consisting of Macedonian minority, which lies near Prespa Lake. If you go up there, definitely you should visit one of the oldest churches in Albania, located on the island of Maligrad, or otherwise known as Serpent Island. For this, you should talk to locals, who can take you there by boat for a small fee.
Two other famous places to visit, regarding their secular culture and healthy climate, are:
Voskopoja, founded in 1330, once the most developed center of Albania, composed of Albanians, Romanians and Greeks, now has a small number of churches to visit, compared with scores during Middle Ages. It is advisable a tour on the ruins of Voskopoja Library and some of its most beautiful churches. Voskopoja is considered as “the Albanian lacking cradle of capitalism”;
Dardha, another mountainous village, which you can visit in every season, also has a skiing slope. There are a number of hotels and inns that will welcome you with great hospitality and the traditional food mentioned above. You can also try characteristic brandies here. On the way to Korça, you can stop in Boboshtica, just to try the mulberry brandy and various kinds of diaries.
Korça city is very friendly. There is no violence, robbery or crime. You can walk around at any time of the day and night. Don’t miss visiting it.