One of Albania’s most popular cities, we finally made it to Saranda! I can definitely see the draw to the beauty that is Saranda and why everyone raves about it so much. And frankly, I have no words. I will let the pictures do the talking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The city of Prizren is easily one of my favorites in the world! There is so much history and culture among it’s streets. Below are photos I have taken while roaming through it’s many alleyways.
The Kalaja of Prizren is a medieval fortress that is located on top of a mountain overlooking the city. It is my favorite spot in all of Prizren! The view of the city from the top is utterly breathtaking. In order to get to the Kalaja, you have to hike. There are two hiking trails that you can take. The first is near the center of the city and paved. This route should only taking you 30 minutes. The second route is for the hikers and takes up to two hours. I prefer this one because you also get beautiful views of the mountains and forests on your way up to the top.
Roaming The Streets
One of the things I love about Prizren is that at every turn there is a new thing to see that you simply can’t stop snapping pics!
Prizren at Night
When the light goes down, the people go out. The streets of Prizren get covered with people going out for an evening stroll. And there is no discriminating here, everyone goes out: families, couples, youth. Even all the street cats and dogs!
And finally… Grandma’s House
Why not show you a little glimpse of the home I stayed at for three months?
Check out my review of The Albanian League of Prizren for another great thing to do!
When I was staying in Prizren I managed to make a few trips to the capital of Kosovo: Prishtina. I explored quite a bit of the city, from the main public library to the multitude of cafés. Here are a few of the things I did that I enjoyed the most. And best of all? They are all absolutely free!
The Newborn Monument was implemented when Kosovo declared independence. It signifies that the country is a newborn one. The monument is constantly changing and every time you see it, it is different. At first, it was painted yellow. After being entirely covered in graffiti, it was painted in green camouflage. After that, the flags of the countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence covered it. And now, it is painted plain white.
An interesting way to learn and gain an insight about the way in which Albanians – a culture not very known to the world – lived is by visiting the ethnographic museum. It displays a traditional home. The museum is not only free itself, but the tour guide is also free. There is however the possibility to give donations if you so wish.
Mother Teresa Cathedral
How is that a country in which over ninety percent of the population are Muslim has the biggest cathedral in the Balkans? One which is visited regularly? The Mother Teresa Cathedral was still being painted and constructed on the inside when I visited – but that did not make it any less stunning to see. I simply can not wait to re-visit to see it once it is completed.
Prishtina has many statues honoring some of it’s many important figures. Here are just a few I managed to snap pics of. Many others include the Bill Clinton statue and the Women War Fighters statue.
All in all, I enjoyed visiting Prishtina. It is so fascinating visiting a city that is constantly growing and re-inventing itself. I wonder what this city will look like in a decade.
I spent two months living in Prizren, Kosovo. While there, I took a day trip to the little town of Korishe. Korishe is located approximately 30 minutes south of Prizren. It is located near the Kabashi Mountains of Kosovo. Many, if not most, of the people still living in the town have the last name Kabashi. This is a present day example of locative surnames: taking the name based upon the land or geographical features of where a person was born and lived.
The town itself, while small, has a lot of history. A lot of it’s more recent history revolves around the Kosovo War. Most notably, it is the location of the Korishe bombing that occurred in May 14th, 1999. Unfortunately, there is not currently a museum to exhibit and inform visitors of the history – although I do hope there will be one day! The only way to learn about it is directly from the people themselves. Which can be a very rewarding experience.
When visiting, instead of exploring the town itself, I decided to explore the nature surrounding it. These are photos that I took of that day:
Hands down, one of the top things you need to do while visiting Kosovo, or anywhere in the Balkans, is to go see The Albanian League of Prizren.
The League of Prizren was organized in January 5, 1877 as a defense of the Albanian territories and their human rights. The political organization was a response to western and ottoman influences. The western world, such as Berlin, attempted to give away Albanian land to neighboring countries as a way to decrease the influence of the Ottomans in Europe. The League was a way to demonstrate that the Albanian identity as a distinct entity from the Ottomans.
When visiting, there are four aspects of the League you must see. First, there is the outside: the architecture and gardens. The architecture has been rebuilt and restored to exactly match the original. After that, you can visit the three museums. The first consists of art work from many different Albanian artists. This was my favorite part of the museum – the artwork all relates to the League of Prizren and there were quite a few pieces I enjoyed viewing.
The second part of the museum is ethnographic and exhibits many rooms in traditional Albanian decor. There are also many old traditional items and clothing on display. I, unfortunately, only managed to get one photo.
And finally, the third and most interesting installment displays the old books and documents of the members of the League of Prizren. This aspect is less cultural and more political. There are photos of the original party members. And documents they wrote back and forth to other nations indicating their statehood and rights.
And finally, after you are done visiting the League of Prizren, I recommend you enter one of the MANY cafés right outside and have yourself some refreshing ice cream!