We didn’t get to spend as much time as we’d liked in Albania but I can safely say that it was the warm, welcoming people and unexpectedly delicious food that made the time we did spend there so pleasurable.
Tirana, the capital, was our first stop and it was here that we had our first encounter with Albanian cuisine. We tasted a selection of grilled meats including sujuk, which is similar to chorizo, and qofte (kofte) with a side of pickles and tzatziki. It had obvious Greek influences so it goes without saying that it was very delicious.
We then met our Couchsurfing host, Florian. He gave us a tonne of insight into Albania’s history which we both found fascinating. It wasn’t long after meeting Florian that we all uncovered a mutual love for hip hop and spent most of the evening exchanging favourite artists and songs. After a long day and a few glasses of local Albanian wine, Derek and I decided to retire for the night.
Heading South from Tirana, our next stop was Berat which is also known as “the town of a thousand windows”. It’s a very quaint, sleepy town but a great place to escape the city. We stayed at Lorenc Guesthouse, one of the oldest, traditional Berati houses in Gorca. The traditional build of this 17th century house was just beautiful.
Lorenc greeted us with a glass of his very own wine produced from the grapes in his garden. Although light, it was flavoursome and quite alcoholic. It was there that we also had our first home-cooked meal for lunch. It was veal stuffed with cheese and crumbed, served with freshly made potato chips and salad. All the produce was organic and locally sourced which was so clearly evident in it’s quality and flavour. We loved it!
After our enormous lunch we decided to burn it off by making the very steep climb to Berat Castle. It was definitely one of the larger castles we’d visited and had spectacular views across Berat town. We made our descent back to our guesthouse and after a bit of chat with Lorenc, again decided to hit the sack early. We were just exhausted.
The next day on the walk to our bus headed to Sarandë we caught a whiff of charcoaled meat and just had to follow the scent. It was a small family-run restaurant with both the cook and waitress unable to speak any English. Derek walked into the kitchen and pointed at what he thought was pork and managed to also order patatas, salada and tzatziki as well. It of course came with the standard basket of bread and olive oil so was an absolute feast! The entire meal was so delicious and cost us next to nothing.
Our expected five hour bus ride to Sarandë actually ended up taking seven hours, an unfortunate occurance that we were more than used to. As a result, we didn’t get to spend as much time as we’d liked there but did get to spend the time we did have admiring the view from the balcony of our hostel.
Derek and I agreed that we really liked Albania. It really was a shame that we had to rush through the country as quick as we did, but agreed that we would return in the Summer.
So until next time Albania!