So, we were wandering around Balkans and just happened to step into Albania. It met us like fresh wind after overcrowded Montenegro coast and though already Shkodra was a relief for the eyes with colours, creativity, bicycles, and just feeling so much more real, we thought we should get out somewhere out of cities. For this.
As for children of the low lands, mountains always remain something spectacular for us. Especially if they are not filled with crowds of tourists, wooden paths and “sightseeing points”. And not accessible with public transportation, great! 3 hours of ups and downs, turnings and mostly stones, you need a proper car for that. Like that of a priest that we hitched on the way up.
Or if not a proper 4 wheeled vehicle, good legs and a bicycle would do. Like this Canadian we met, with a plan to cycle over all European mountain ranges, then African and then who knows. Respect. Down the hill I’d like it too.
And back to the car of the priest. Yes, a priest, in mostly Muslim country. Guess what, those people hundreds years ago must have had a proper reason to move to such remote places surrounded by mountains from all sides. Catholics escaping Ottomans. I bump on the seat through the unpaved roads of quality as we seen only in Sumatra and try to imagine how these 15th century folk were climbing over the rocks to get to the beautiful valley. With no roads or paths!
When down there it’s burning +35, a little bit up and you find chunks of snow among some pine forests. Felt nearly like 3 months back to Finland, but these steeping mountains in the horizon gave away.
And so we got there. Theth! A village of maybe 30 houses spread across the valley surrounded my mountains from all sides. Beautiful and peaceful.
As valley gets basically disconnected from the world during the winter, only ten families stay in the village in winter. We were told so by our new 13 year old friend, next to whose family’s corn field we camped.
– So, you move to Shkodra in winter? And what about your cow and 15 sheep?
– They also go to Shkodra with us.
And my brain is already painting a picture of mountain roads filled with all the goats, sheep and cows on two day journey to the city. Luckily we’re here in summer. But I start looking to all this valleys domesticized inhabitants with due respect. Travelers. Like this one.
And that’s where we camped. Corn fields and mountains. Perfect.
And forgot to mention, a cow! Just next to our tent, initially not very happy with new orange tented neighbours. Or maybe it was just trying to tell us a very significant story, of its travels through the mountains and then lonely days tied to the piece of rope . So guess, we were waken up each morning not by roosters or birds singing, but with a loud moo.
Cosy. Would be like at grandma’s village, but all this grandness around.
Village is kind of divided into patches of fields with wooden fences, but it ain’t no “zona privada”. You just follow some path wherever you need, then cross on some little ladders to step over from one man’s land to another and continue. No hassle.
So we got out of the village and went off to explore
rivers and springs, like this one called blue hole
and just all these green-blue valleys and hills
Some other places look like huge stone desserts. No surprise locals built houses from stones, roads from stones, walls from stones. But it seems its changing, and many impressive old stone houses stand in ruins.
Mountain rivers’ banks are also built from stones.
and here is Mikael’s creation from stones. Slightly more modest.
So we hiked over the stones, and jumped and walked slowly and ran, slided down and climbed up. Broke the sandals, yep yep city walking sandals and mountains don’t really match. Though maybe the problem was not in sandals, I thought looking at this woman. Oho.
So when sandals broke and all body indicated overheating, we thought why not not to dip the feet into ice cold water and continue walk walk walking on the river.
through all this beauty
where the lonely trees balance on the rocks
and back to some kind of path, lonely houses manage to balance on the rocks too
and wooden poles still hold electricity cables
and locals still seem to use the old water mill
But back at the villages ( a few of them around) or along some hiking routes, where sometimes a tourist might appear, there’s a new phenomena. Called café –bar. Looks something like this.
Its probably the easiest place to open a café in Europe! The range of products is exactly the same: coke, beer and even cold nescafe cans. So there’s alcohol, there’s coffee, why not a café-bar! Especially when the number of “bar” employees often outnumbers choice of drinks, but they all wear such smiles.
On the way down from the mountains we caught a wind in the back of a pick up truck. Like so many times before in Asia.
Our truck was likely coming after a good party. Or after month’s sales in a “café-bar”.
So, very much recommended! But if you go to Albanian mountains, do it now, cause they’re starting to build an asphalt road, villagers already try to tell prices in Euros and these café-bar places might soon start selling hot-dogs. I hope not.