Tag Archives: Albania

The Southern Albania Road Trip: Part 3, The Blue Eye and Gjirokaster

In Part 3 of our trip, we traveled from Saranda to Permet, stopping by the beautiful Blue Eye, charming Gjirokaster, and the Gryke of Kelcyre along the way!

Monday, July 30, 2018, 9:43pm

Morning at the Blue Eye

Our day began promptly at 8:00am with morning check out at the AirBnb. Finally on the road out of Saranda, I let out a sigh of relief knowing that we wouldn’t have to navigate the narrow city streets or deal with the crazy traffic any longer. 

The road to the Blue Eye was surrounded on all sides by towering trees with vines hanging from their branches.

Rather than head straight to Gjirokaster, we stopped at the Blue Eye on the way. The route to the water itself was along a dirt path, and I cringed as I once again took Mom off-roading. But the road was long enough to justify the extra time in the car, and we all hopped out of our Mercedes happy that we’d driven in closer to the main attraction.

We followed a well-trodden path from the parking lot through what felt like a tropical rainforest to the blue eye. The dirt road was surrounded on all sides by towering trees with vines hanging from their branches. There was also thick undergrowth and lush bushes adding to the jungle atmosphere. Continue reading The Southern Albania Road Trip: Part 3, The Blue Eye and Gjirokaster

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The Southern Albania Road Trip: Part 1, the Albanian Riviera

In late July, my mom and my three sisters traveled across the world and reunited in Albania! We spent eleven eventful days exploring the country I’ve come to call home. We spent Part 1 of our trip in Tirana and driving down the Albanian Riviera!

One year and almost five months after leaving the United States, I finally was able to hug my mom and sisters again!

My brave family flew across the world to Albania for an 11-day road trip across the country. Our itinerary took us on a grand tour of the south, from the Albanian Riviera to Gjirokaster, Permet, Korca, Librazhd, and Tirana.

My brave family flew across the world to Albania for an 11-day road trip across the country.

With our rented black Mercedes (which my friend joked was the car of choice for the rich or the mafia), we traveled over 450 miles (over 700 kilometers)! We had luck, two borrowed CDs, and good weather on our side, though things didn’t always go exactly as planned.

At the very least, our trip was certainly memorable! It brought the entire family together, and I was so happy and grateful that I was able to share my new home with everyone!

So without further ado, here’s a collection of my journal entries, travel advice, and photos in a very long series documenting the Southern Albania road tripContinue reading The Southern Albania Road Trip: Part 1, the Albanian Riviera

Outdoor Explorers 2018: Kelcyre

For our second Outdoor Explorers trip, my counterpart and I took the students on a tour of Kelcyre! We explored the castle, the lake, and the new cultural center, learning lessons about the environment along the way!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018, 2:17pm

Whew! What a morning! Today was our second official outdoor excursion of the season, which means that I’m two down with three to go. Oi. I’m exhausted just thinking of more trips like this one, but seeing the students so energized and happy makes it all worth it. 

The thirteen students, my counterpart, and I were all crowded together in a tiny furgon through the Albanian countryside.

I left for the multifunctional center right on time, and to my surprise, most students arrived shortly afterwords. The atmosphere as we left Permet was upbeat. The thirteen students, my counterpart Denisa, her son, and I were all crowded together in a tiny furgon through the Albanian countryside. Thankfully, Kelcyre is close, but we had to squeeze even tighter to fit both volunteers, Meredith and Brianne, into our vehicle when we picked them up in the center of town.

After our many delays, we finally piled out of the furgon and began our walk up to the castle around 8:30am. The weather was still relatively cool, but the uphill hike and the bright sunshine warmed us up very quickly. We began our trip to the castle by following the easy village path, but some students got excited about off-roading and took a gravel shortcut instead. Before long, we were catching our breath at the top of the hill. Continue reading Outdoor Explorers 2018: Kelcyre

Outdoor Explorers 2018: Leuse

In the spirit of last year’s Outdoor Excursion series, I organized five trips for Summer 2018! Students had the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of their community, learn new skills, and have fun with their friends! First up: Leuse!

Ah, summer. I love the sunshine, long days at beach (or hot springs, in my case), and evening xhiros. The season also means that students are out of school and looking for activities to keep them busy.

This year, I decided to continue Barbara’s successful Outdoor Excursion series – with a slight twist. Last summer, Barb organized three trips around Permet and engaged students in activities like marshmallow roasting, volleyball, hiking, and swimming.

I decided to continue Barbara’s successful Outdoor Excursion series – with a slight twist.

As I was thinking about the organization of this year’s outdoor trips, I knew that I couldn’t do it alone. So I worked with a counterpart at Bashkia Permet, who truly took the idea and ran with it! She not only fully supported the excursions, but she also found funding for vans and food, which meant that we could take the students to locations that were farther away!

But before leaving the Permet city limits, I tested the waters with an introductory hiking trip in the mountains around the village of Leuse. Koli, my good friend and hiking guide, volunteered to serve as the leader of the excursion, and along the way, he taught the students valuable lessons about the outdoors and navigation in nature.

So without further ado, here’s a quick snapshot of our fun morning in the mountains! Continue reading Outdoor Explorers 2018: Leuse

Hiking Nemercka

Another weekend, another hike! Nemercka was one of the most difficult treks yet. My shoes were completely destroyed, but the views made everything worth it!

Saturday, July 7, 2018, 9:49pm

What a long, exhausting adventure the past day has been! 

My friend Koli invited Brianne and me on yet another hike into the mountains this weekend, and this time we set out at the crack of dawn. Somehow at 3:30am in the morning, I had no trouble jumping out of bed, eating quickly, and then getting dressed. The sky was still pitch black with bright pinpricks of starlight as we laced up our shoes and went out the door.

We set out at the crack of dawn.

Koli was waiting for us at exactly 4:00am on the dot, and we were quickly whisked out of Permet to the village of Dracove, where we began our hike into the Nemërçka mountains. Compared to Nemërçka, Koli’s father explained, Dhëmbel and Trebeshina are hills.

“Nemërçka is the true mountain,” he said as we began our long trek into the steep and rocky terrain.

Nemercka 1
Sunrise in the mountains

I’d climbed a little bit of Nemërçka once before with Barbara, Koli, and Koli’s father. But at that time, we’d only ventured a little beyond the waterfall, which was an easy five-hour hike. Today, we were in it for the long haul, and Koli told us to expect at least ten hours of hard climbing in the mountains. Continue reading Hiking Nemercka