Albania and Kosovo Souvenirs

While in Albania and Kosovo I managed to pick out a few souvenirs to remember my time there. As I take the photos for this blog post, I realize that I actually quite enjoy the things I pick up.


Traditional Albanian Bag This bag is one of the most common symbols of Albanian culture. Typically, they are hand woven (although in modern times they are mass produced by factories) in this same style that you see below. The shapes and symbols are part of the traditional Albanian weaving style. These symbols and style of weaving can also be seen in traditional hand woven Albanian carpets. I bought this particular bag in Kruja, which is the best place to get traditional souvenirs in all of Albania.

This bag is easily my favorite purchase throughout the whole trip. When I was a little girl, I had a mini version of it in red. I used to fill it with little childish trinkets and bring it with me everywhere I went. So when I kept seeing these bags all over the place, I decided I needed to pick one up.


Postcards These postcards were purchased from the Ethnographic Museum in Prishtina. Not only is visiting the museum free, the tour guide option is free as well. As a result, I knew I had to find a way to give a little back to the museum. That’s why when I saw these postcards, I picked them up. Since then I have accumulated quite a bit of postcards from many places I have visited and plan to create some form of artwork out of them.


Coin Purse This coin purse was also purchased in Kruja. There were so many of these pouches being sold in all the shops in a wide range of different colors and prints. I choose this particular one over all the others because the colors and prints are similar to traditional Albanian weaving. Fun Fact: Recently, I was in a Turkish bakery called Simit House Bakery & Co. in Montclair, New Jersey. As I pulled out this coin purse to pay for my sweets, the girl asked in shock if I got it in Turkey because she purchased a similar one from a bazaar in Istanbul. I told her I got it in Albania, but odds are the shop owner probably mass bought them from Turkish bazaars for really cheap and was selling them in his store. Do with that knowledge what you will. 


Rock Magnet I usually try to avoid purchasing the typical tourist souvenirs. They end up just piling up and eventually getting thrown away. They also fail to have personality to them. But when I walked into a pottery store in Prizren and saw this magnet, with the glimmering rock shape of the Kosovo boarders, I realized I needed to get it. It’s pretty, isn’t it? (P.S. I have no idea why this photo is sideways. I have done absolutely everything I can think of to position it the right way and it does not work).


Rock Art This rock was painted on to resemble an image carved into the ancient walls of  the Butrint ancient ruins. There is a slab of magnet attached to the back. But the rock is too heavy for the weak magnet piece to hold it up. So this just sits on my shelf with other rocks and crystals that I have collected over the years. I kind of like the idea of having an image that someone many centuries ago created.


Carpet Bookmark I think it is no secret by now that I love to collect bookmarks. I have collected many from all over the place and continue to stay on the lookout for them whenever I visit someplace new. I saw this particular bookmark in a little indie shop in Prizren and immediately knew I had to own it. It is designed to look like a hand woven carpet which makes it particularly unique and special from all the other bookmarks I own.


The souvenirs I have shared with you today are easily some of my favorite souvenirs I have ever picked up. What is a souvenir that is special to you?


The Town of a Thousand and One Windows

I have traveled to quite a few places. Some highlights include my adventures throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. And yet, it is a small town in Albania that has me determined to retire there.

I had never heard of Berat before. In fact, when I mentioned it to Albanians that I knew, they had never heard of it either. Or had known of it but assumed it was just another town and had no understanding of how special it truly was. In fact, I discovered the town of Berat from skyscrappercity. This is a chat forum where urban development enthusiasts post photographs of the new structures that are being built and developed in cities all over the world. I am actually a very frequent visitor on this blog because I love following the way developing cities are growing and improving.

While looking through all the different cities and towns in Albania to see how the country is improving, I found the thread on Berat. I couldn’t stop looking at the photographs. There was something so charming and special about this town that kept calling me to it. So when I made the decision to road trip Albania this summer, I was determined to visit the town known as the town of a thousand and one windows. I did have to drag my travel buddies to go out of our way to visit it. And I mean drag. But in the end it was absolutely worth it.

The first thing we did once arriving was visit the Berat Fortress. What I was NOT prepared for was how the fortress is still in use! People were living in homes surrounded by ancient stone walls. Restaurant chairs stood on top of timeworn stone pavements. And the view of the town from the top of the fortress was incredible. 


The next thing we did (which ironically was not my doing but rather a request of my travel buddies – looks like Berat was winning them over too) was visit the University of Berat. This university is among many that the Albanian government has created in an attempt to encourage education in Albania. For those of you who do not know, Albania was ruled by a communist dictator who disallowed intellectual thinking. In fact, the communist government killed those who they believed to be intellectuals. As a result, the glorification the west has on education, particularly college education, is not as prevalent in the country.

Today, grand and impressive universities are being built all over Albania to encourage the people to find value in intellectual thinking. Other cities that have had these grand universities built include Tirana, Durres, and Fier. Once I saw how massive and stunning the University of Berat was, I wanted to march right on inside and force them get into contact with other colleges around the world. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking this would make an amazing study abroad/student exchange opportunity.


Finally, the big reveal! The actual windows. I have mentioned already in this post that Berat is known as the town of a thousand and one windows. That is because of the unique architectural style of the homes. These houses each have endless windows in order to brighten them up with as much natural light as possible. This area of the large city of Berat is actually called the old town (the new town which is composed of modern infrastructure) and is much more expansive than what you see in the photographs. The old town is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.


What do I regret the most about this visit? I didn’t manage to do all I wished to do. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you travel in a group. At the top of my list was to visit the two wineries in the area. Berat is known for them. The first, Cobo Winery, has been passed down in the Cobo family since the early 1900s. The second, Nurellari Winery, is newer yet still worth a visit. Berat also has a few museums such as: Ethnographic Museum, Iconographic Museum, and The Edward Lear Art Gallery. A great way to finish off the trip would have been by exploring the river with the Albania Rafting Group located in the city.

Missing out on these experiences is not the only thing that disappoints me. Mostly, I wish I had the opportunity to just explore the many streets and alleyways of the town slowly and leisurely. These pictures do not capture the actual town, just the highlights that I visited. I need more time in Berat. I want to go one summer and rent out one of those traditional homes for a month or two. I want to spend my days taking strolls along the ancient stone streets and my evenings enjoying some Albanian cheese and local wine.


The next stop on our Albania road trip was the beach town of Ksamil. This particular location is very much loved by locals and tourists alike. I can see why. The Ionian sea is so utterly breathtaking. Look at these photos and see for yourself why Ksamil is so loved.

I have noticed, however, that whenever I visit beach towns I always completely fail to take enough pictures! This may be perhaps because I am always too busy enjoying the water to remember to take pictures. But anyways, here are the few I did manage to take.



When you think of ancient ruins what countries come to mind? Greece? Italy? Perhaps even Turkey. But I’m going to bet you didn’t think of Albania. But how could a country next to Greece and across the water from Italy not also have ancient ruins?

Once of Albania’s most famous ruin sites is Butrint National Park. What makes this particular ruin site, or city, so interesting is the way in which two thousand years of history are all presented and emerged together. There is a 4th century BC sanctuary dedicated to the healing god, Asclepius while at the same time a Venetian castle built in the 14th-16th century – all in one city. Butrint itself was mentioned in Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid describing Aeneas visiting the city of Butrint. For all you history buffs out there like myself, visiting Butrint should be on you list.


There was also an archaeological museum located on the site that was lovely to see. I didn’t manage to take any pictures of the inside of the museum, but plenty of the outside!


The Blue Eye

After spending days in Tirana and the surrounding area my cousins and I decided it was time to head south. I have actually never gone lower than Tirana before while visiting Albania so this trip was one I was very excited for. The road trip itself was a beauty. I was not aware just how stunning the landscape in Albania actually is.


The Blue Eye is located en route to Saranda, near the town of Gjirokaster. (Gjirokaster, I will regretfully say, was a city I wanted to explore but because of shortage of time was incapable of doing so). Legend says that if you bathe in the freezing waters of the blue eye you will be cured of all illness.



One of my favorite towns in all of Albania is easily the town of Kruja. It, like Durrës, is a quick trip from the capital, Tirana. The ride there takes a little under an hour. Historically, Kruja is an important town. It was the first capital of Albanians in 1190, during the Middle Ages. Today the town is stunning to see from the castle and the best place to do some souvenir shopping in all of Albania!



While in Tirana, the days started to get hot. I managed to get sunburn simply by walking around in the city. That is why my cousins and I thought it would be a great idea to go to Durrës for a day. The trip is only a half hour bus ride from Tirana, making it a quick destination.

IMG_0709[1]IMG_0720[1]IMG_1150[1]I was so excited to finally be at the beach for the first time this summer that I did not manage to get off the beach and explore the beautifully developing city of Durrës. Because it is so close to the capital, Tirana, it has become the most convenient beach destination. That is why the city is developing at such a speedy rate. Already it is a drastic difference than it was 6 years ago when I visited last. And I suspect in another few years there will be no corner unpolished. My favorite part of the city? All the ancient ruins that find themselves blending with everyday life. Here are some photos of what the city currently looks like. Next time I visit I plan to spend more time exploring. The following photos are not my own and I do not claim ownership. 


Feminism in Albanian Art


While I was visiting Tirana I managed to spend a few hours at the National Gallery of Art. I am a frequent art museum and gallery visitor and what I found at this particular museum landed it in my top favorite art museums of all time.

What was it about this particular museum that made it so special? Its female visibility. Living in New York I have noticed that one of the biggest issues with art museums is their lack of feminism. This issue is in both the percentage of female artist’s work they carry and in exhibiting art that displays women in a modern way. This is such an issue that there are separate art museums and galleries established in order to give woman the visibility that they deserve.


I was not faced with this particular problem when entering Albania’s National Gallery. Instead, I found examples of artwork that portrayed woman in non-traditional and strong roles. This is perhaps due to the isolated communism the country faced. One good thing about communism? It requires everyone to be equal – this includes the women.


There was also a traveling exhbit while I visted displaying the artwork of Sofia Papadhimitri:  a woman who clearly knew how to capture the bodies of people.


This museum was quite the refreshing change from the usual artwork that I see. A change that has welcomed itself into my heart to stay for a long time to come.


IMG_0460[1]I have been wanting to visit Tirana for a while now. My cousin currently lives there while she is attending the University of Arts of Albania. So when she invited me to stay with her for a while, I jumped at the opportunity to finally get the chance to explore Albania‘s capital. When first arriving, this is what my cousin had waiting for me back at her apartment:


Below are some of the many things we saw and visited while in Tirana. While we managed to do some of the bigger things, there is still so much more that the city has to offer that I have not seen or done yet!

National History Museum 

Personally, I think this is a must when visiting Tirana. It will give you a well rounded understanding of Albanian history – a history that not many people of the world know much about. And I also happen to adore the mural on the exterior of the building.



“With origin and with blood I am Albanian” – Gonxhe Bojaxhiu


National Gallery of Art

Another must do while in Tirana is go to the National Gallery of Art. To this day it is one of my favorite art museums I have ever visited. I particularly enjoyed all the female visibility – both depicted in the artwork in non-traditional roles and as the artist themselves.


While the majority of the Gallery consists of permanent installations, there was even a room for a temporary exhibit demonstrating the artwork of Sofia Papadhimitri.  


Majt Dajti

When I visited Tirana, I visited dead smack in the middle of the summer. Which meant that it was hot outside. And after hours of walking around the city we decided to go up the mountains where it was cool. I personally did not find the trip up there scary, but if you are afraid of heights you might want to think about it. The restaurant at the top surrounded by the cooling mountain breeze was much needed.


The Pyramid

I actually like this structure quite a lot even though the local politicians appear to hate it and are trying to do everything they can to get rid of it. It gave me a skate park vibe. Perhaps that’s what they should turn it into? I say UP the graffiti!


Stolling The Streets

Tirana is a city growing every single day. Around every corner there is something new and exciting to see. And I predict that it will be different every time. My favorite part of the city, however, is that every few steps you take you find yourself staring at books being sold on the streets. As a fellow book lover, Tirana captured my soul with it’s love of literature. Here are some of the pics I took.


There is SO much more to do in Tirana that I regret not having more time. Honestly, a lot of my time was spent in cafés and restaurants with my cousins just enjoying my time there. So perhaps not visiting enough sites in the city is my fault, because I enjoy to take things slow. But I truly believe that taking things slow is the best way to really experience a city. Besides, it is a good thing that there is so much still left for me to see. It gives me an excuse to go back. And I think I will be going back for many years to come.