The last two weeks of harassment have been awful and have almost broken me. Almost, not quite.
Instead of caving in to the campaign of harassment and intimidation launched against me for daring to pursue my profession, I have decided to write a list of the things that I love about Albania instead.
By channelling all of this negative energy into something beautiful and positive, I hope that I will make some of you smile, as well as myself.
— Albanian People
Albanian people are probably the friendliest people you can meet. It is quite literally a centuries-old tradition that they must welcome you, take care of you, feed you, and ask you 1000 questions before feeding you a bit more and giving you some food to take home with you. If you live here as a foreigner, be prepared to have strangers stop and talk to you in the street or cafes, and you will soon find yourself on first name terms with shopkeepers, taxi drivers, and people working in hospitality. You will never feel lonely in Albania!
— Albanian Food
Oh wow where to start? Trahana, byrek, sultiash, qofte, hajvar, tave kosi, Albanian salads…the list goes on. Albania is also guilty of producing some of the most amazing fruit and veg to ever grace your plate. The seasonal stuff on offer will delight you 12 months a year- pomegranates, strawberries, melons, pumpkins and gourds, leeks, tomatoes, cherries, figs, citrus fruits, peppers, grapes, courgettes, lettuce, onions, olives, raspberries…all in plentiful supply are there, ready and waiting to satiate your appetite.
— Albanian Beaches
Albania is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. The islands of Ksamil look like something out of a Caribbean cruise advert, Drimadhe enjoys the breathtaking effect of mountains meeting the sea, and the whole Albanian riviera is just perfect for kayaking, swimming, sunbathing, exploring hidden and secret beaches, and of course, lying back and enjoying a cocktail or three. In the summer you can enjoy activities and beach festivals, and in the winter you can enjoy dramatic walks. Even in the North, the coastline is full of dramatic cliffs and idyllic sandy bays- for beach bums and sun seekers, you really are spoilt for choice.
— Albanian Mountains
Albania is full of mountains, from the Dinaric Alps, the Sar Mountains, the Ceraunian Mountains, and various peaks from Dajti, to Tomor, to the blustery summit of Llogara pass. You can visit places like Theth and Tropoje that are all but completely cut off from the outside world, or you can hike through foothills a bit nearer civilisation. Snow capped peaks and velvety slopes are accessible almost the length and breadth of the county, but in Shkodra, you can visit the mountains, the lake, and the beach all in the same day! Amongst Albania’s mountains are a myriad of hiking trails, dotted with little villages that cling precariously to the summits. Lush valleys lie in between and you can happily spend days exploring the troughs and cloudy peaks of this beautiful country.
— Albanian Lakes
Albania has no shortage of stunning lakes that you can enjoy all year round. My favourite is Ohrid that straddles the Albania/Macedonia border, closely followed by Shkodra that sits between Albania and Montenegro. In both of these places you can swim, sail, fish, and relax whilst taking in the most incredible views and dining on local cuisine. Lake Komani that stretches between Bajram Curri and Tropoje is best visited by Ferry, but you can also visit any number of small lakes such as Farke, Bovilla, and the mystical looking Butrint.
— Albanian Canyons
Whilst Albania is about to lose Holta Canyon to a hydropower plant, there are still some wonderful canyons that you can visit and enjoy swimming, exploring, and even rafting in. Osumi Canyon is a must and is located near Corovode. Alternatively you can check out Erzen not far from Tirana or Langarica near Permet.
— Albanian Nature
If it is raw unbridled nature you are after, then you are in luck in Albania. Full of national parks, you can get on your hiking boots and get exploring, almost all year round. Divjake is great for flamingoes, pelicans and forests, Butrint is great for history, and Driloni, Valbona, and Llogara, are great for getting lost amongst the wilderness.
— Albanian History
Ilyrians, Greeks, Romans, Slavs, Byzantines, and Ottomans- Albania has an immensely rich and complex past and each visitor and has left behind their stamp on this part of the world. You can quite literally walk through the ages in Butrint, visit Byzantine churches along the coast or check out Roman ruins in Durres and mosaics in Tirana. Don’t forget the range of Ottoman architecture still on offer, and of course a total of 158 castles and forts for you to penetrate. Keep your eyes out for bunkers left over from the brutal communist regime- they are everywhere but some have been painted like ladybirds, or repurposed into tattoo parlours or museums.
— Albanian Culture
Whilst Albania has had many influences over the years, there are still many unique aspects of its culture. From the intricate woven rugs to food, old wives tales, and traditions stemming from the Kanun of Leke, there is an endless supply of quirks and interesting things for you to learn about, explore, and experience.
Drink raki, learn to dance like an Albanian, listen to the distinctive traditional music, cure everything with caj male, listen to legends and old stories, and marvel at the way the language flows- Albanian culture is rich and diverse and there is always something new to discover.
— Albanian Weather
Whilst the weather can vary drastically from minute to minute (!) and town to town, on the whole, the weather in Albania is amazing. Tirana is ranked as one of the sunniest capitals in Europe and the country as a whole experiences almost 300 days of sunshine every year. The summers are long and hot, the autumn and spring are pleasant and warm, and the winter lasts for just a couple of months. Snow occurs in the North and more mountainous regions, but in lower lying parts of the country, temperatures rarely dip below double digits.
BONUS THING- Albanian Unpredictability
Summer earthquakes, weather, curious characters, weird and wonderful street art, interpretative timekeeping- always expect the unexpected in Albania! You learn very quickly to take life as it comes and to leave any rigidity at the door. I liken life here to organised chaos, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
This article was originally published on The Balkanista.