Durrës

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. 

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Feminism in Albanian Art

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Tirana

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:

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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.

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

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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.  

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

Prizren

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.

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The view from my aunt’s rooftop

Kalaja 

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.

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Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

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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!

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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!

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Do you see all the people on the other side of the river? THAT’S how crowded evenings get… with everyone enjoying the night.
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And finally… Grandma’s House

Why not show you a little glimpse of the home I stayed at for three months?

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Check out my review of The Albanian League of Prizren for another great thing to do!

Prishtina

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!

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Newborn Monument

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.

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Ethnographic Museum

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.

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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.

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Statues

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.

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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.

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Korishe

IMG_2310[1]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:

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Vali Ranch

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When I was in the third grade, my class went on a trip to the Zoo. On this trip, we all got on line for horseback riding. Amongst the many horses, there was one pure snow white horse that stood out higher among the rest. 

Every student in my class discussed the beauty and strength of this horse. Each classmate claimed that he or she would be the one to ride it. But when the beauty reached the top of the line, it was me who got lucky enough to ride her. I haven’t been on a horse since.

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There is something so beautiful about horses: the way they can be strong and powerful while maintaining their gentleness and gracefulness. There is something so utterly breathtaking in their movements and approach to the world that I just can’t shake. That is why when I heard of Vali Ranch Gjilan while in Kosovo, I knew I would take any chance I could to get back on one of these beauties.

IMG_3592[1]IMG_3606[1]IMG_3735[1]IMG_3741[1]IMG_3703[1]I hope my love of horses continues to grow as I continue to take new opportunities to enjoy their company.

Vienna Souvenirs

When I was younger, I got a purple seashell on a family vacation. It currently sits on my bookshelf, always reminding me of that vacation whenever I catch a glimpse of it. That is why we buy souvenirs when traveling to new places. As reminders of the memories we made there. Here are the things I picked up while in Vienna to remind me of her.

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The Vienna Melody

The first thing I picked up, which as a book lover is no surprise, is an actual book. This one is called The Vienna Melody, translated to English by Ernst Lothar. It tells the story of the wealthy descendants of Christopher Alt, the piano key maker.

Many people have the tradition of picking up a particular souvenir item every where they travel to and growing a collection. I have noticed that one of the most common items collected are mugs. I have decided that I want to buy a book at every place I visit. In this way, I can grow a little international library. This particular book was purchased at Frick Ihre Buchhandung bookstore (www.buchhandlung-frick.at) located in the center of the city. I actually quite enjoyed it a lot because it was very modern and had a good diversity of both German and English books. It also had a good collection of architecture books on sale which was icing on the cake!

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Klimt Bookmarks

Speaking of books and collections, I also have a growing bookmark collection (hey, don’t judge me!) and picked up two with paintings of Gustav Klimt on them. I love how shiny they are.

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Klimt Mug

I actually do not believe I will ever be a mug collector. Mostly because there are only so many mugs you can use at a time, right? But right before this trip I actually ended up breaking my everyday mug. I decided to not go out and buy new one and instead pick one up on this trip. This is the one I ended up going with. And of course, it has a Gustav Klimt painting on it.

I actually did not buy this mug in the center of Vienna, where most of the souvenir stores are located. Instead, I got it at a store right across the street from the side (not the front) of the Hundertwasserhaus. There was the kindest old man who owned the store and it ended up being my favorite shop we visited.

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Sisi Compact Mirror

And lastly, I picked up this compact mirror with the fascinating Sisi on it. Actually, the legend and story of Sisi is quite the interesting one that I enjoyed very much learning about. I couldn’t help it. I might have fallen for Sisi.

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Do you pick up any souvenirs when you travel? Do you have a collection going on? Have you found a piece that you absolutely love?

Vienna at Night

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I adored exploring Vienna in the evening. The city is just as beautiful at night than it is during the day. Here are some of the photos I took.

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I did manage to do two activities during the evenings.

Wiener Prater

First, I visited the amusement park. When traveling, I always get distracted by the museums and beautiful sights that I sometimes forget to just have fun. That was why this was the perfect thing to do! At the best part? I took a ride on Prater Turm, the world’s highest chained carousal at 117 meters! How is it possible to be so afraid yet feel so free at the same time?

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Hundertwasserhaus

As I’ve mentioned, I simply cannot stop looking at architecture. That was why visiting these buildings was one of the things I was the most excited to visit in Vienna. I clearly did not plan very well and ended up going too late in the evening to even see them properly. The next time I come to Vienna, I will make certain to take better pictures.

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