The Leuse-Lipe Hike

On another beautiful weekend, I go on another hike from the village of Leuse to the village of Lipe! The route was long, but absolutely gorgeous! We explored historic churches, frolicked through flower-filled fields, and experienced true Albanian hospitality in the villages!

Saturday, June 10, 2017, 10:37pm

What a beautiful day for a hike! 

Out of the blue, one of my coworkers invited me and the other volunteers in the area on a hike in the mountains around Permet. I had no idea where we were going or how long the trip would last, but I agreed anyway, eager to explore the natural beauty of my new home.

I had no idea where we were going, but I agreed anyway, eager to explore the natural beauty of my new home.

My coworker and the rest of the group set out for the morning at 7:45am. The weather was cool, and we set off in good spirits. To begin our hike, we trekked up a mountain road to the village of Leuse before continuing deeper into the forested area.

Leuse is a small but quaint village about 1.5 km (0.9 mi) outside of Permet. It’s famous for the Orthodox church Kisha e Shen Merise (the Church of Saint Maria), which was built in the 18th century by the Greeks. The exterior of the church is painted with many different frescoes, and the interior remains largely intact despite the passage of time, World War II, and communism because the building was seen as more of an art gallery than a church.

Leuse Church 3
Frescoes painted onto the walls inside Kisha e Shen Merise

The author of the website dedicated to the church describes its beauty best:

“The front part of the church is like a monastery, the church itself like a temple. It is surrounded by three large streams emerging from the mountains and pouring into the Vjosa River. The church is an object that immediately falls to the eye when heading to Leuse.”1

Viewing it in person, the church in Leuse truly was very beautiful. I definitely understand why it’s a tourist attraction for Permet. After speaking with a man outside the church, he let us into the building, and we were able to see the magnificent artwork that was preserved inside. While the church showed signs of its age (with some wear and tear), the frescoes were still vivid and colorful, and the skills of the original artists were evident in the attention to detail.

We took a nice break at the church, then we continued our hike up into the mountains. We walked through peaceful meadows and a shaded forest path. Our route wasn’t all uphill and it wasn’t entirely in the hot sun, which I really appreciated.

Leuse Lipe 5
The view of Permet from the mountain

My coworker led us on an unmarked trail that was varied and interesting, and we had lots of opportunities for beautiful pictures. I had lots of time to chat with the other volunteers and my coworker, and everyone’s company made the time fly by! We stopped for breakfast at a copse of trees at the top of a hill overlooking the city, and the view was just gorgeous. 

We literally frolicked through a flower-filled meadow that looked like something straight out of The Sound of Music.

As we trekked through the mountains, one of the other volunteers literally frolicked through a flower-filled meadow that looked like something straight out of The Sound of Music. I truly can’t capture in words how beautiful the scenery was. I stopped multiple times out of sheer amazement because I just couldn’t believe that this was my life. I was hiking in the mountains, visiting centuries-old churches, and basically living in a postcard. 

We continued our hike across the mountains with the goal of reaching Kisha e Shen Elenes (the Church of Saint Helen) in Lipe, which is the church we tried to reach in the middle of a thunderstorm my second week at site. Today the weather was much more conducive for hiking (though it was incredibly hot), and we had no issues getting to the church. The route there was shaded and cool, and we had lots of time to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. The church was located on a steep hill and had a wonderful view of the Vjosa Valley! 

For detailed instructions on how to navigate to the church and a quick snapshot of its history, check out the Visit Permet website!

Leuse Lipe 7
The beautiful pathway leading from Kisha e Shen Elenes 

By the time we were ready to come down the mountain, it was the hottest part of the day. But since we were headed down rather than up, the heat was somewhat bearable. I was so tired and sweaty that I could hardly wait to get home. But before returning to Permet, we stopped in the village of Lipe and visited my coworker’s cousin’s house.

We were invited into a village home and sampled the local foods, which was a real example of Albanian hospitality.

We were treated to homemade gliko (which is a Permet region specialty) and fresh white mulberries. It was truly lovely! We were invited into a village home and sampled the local foods, which was a real example of Albanian hospitality.

When all was said and done, we’d hiked at least 20 kilometers (which is about 12 and a half miles). But apart from the initial climb to Leuse, the hike never felt too tiring or too difficult!

Overall, for travelers wanting to visit the churches in Leuse or Lipe, it’s easy enough to hike to each location separately from the city of Permet, but I’d recommend hiring a local guide to cross the mountain because the route was completely unmarked and in many places there was no distinguishable trail. 

Once we made it back to Permet, I said quick goodbyes to the other volunteers and practically ran back to my house and hopped straight into the shower. Afterwords I felt a million times better. I ate some lunch upstairs and came back down to the apartment and slept for at least an hour and a half. The rest of the day flew by, and I never quite recovered one hundred percent from the hike. 

I truly can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate the friendliness of the people of Permet.

I truly can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate the friendliness of the people of Permet. With the wonderful offers to visit the thermal waters and nearby mountains, I’ve been kept busy these past few weekends exploring the beautiful nature of Southern Albania.

Also I really have not gotten a lot of unwanted attention as an Asian American here at all. I’ve heard a few kineze’s, but never in a taunting way. When I’m out on the xhiro, I get some extra looks but people don’t stop and gawk. And tonight when I was out in a store another customer politely asked if I was Chinese and completely accepted my explanation when I said I was Chinese American.

I’m so lucky to be in Permet!


Getting to Leuse and Lipe:


BONUS: Check out the many extra photos I took along the hike! As always, let me know if you have a favorite!

Leuse Church 4
Kisha e Shen Merise in Leuse from afar
Leuse Church 1
Ceiling of Kisha e Shen Merise
Leuse Church 2
Interior of Kisha e Shen Merise
Leuse Lipe 3
Panorama en route to Lipe
Leuse Lipe 2
Exhausted Peace Corps volunteers selfie
Leuse Lipe 4
Walking through beautiful, flower-filled fields on the side of the mountain
Leuse Lipe 9
Another panorama of the incredible views
Leuse Lipe 6
Kisha e Shen Elenes
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