kamila

Can't live without travels! Wherever she goes she always looks for alternative spots or street art. A huge fan of Central Europe and off the beaten path places and a living proof that you can balance full time job and extensive travel!

Impressions of Albania

(Last Updated On: 28/11/2017)

Albania is the country I knew next to nothing about prior to my visit there (ok, maybe my knowledge of Moldova is even worse). But after hearing about so many people being impressed with the place I knew I have to visit it as soon as possible, before the mass tourism gets there (it’s a matter of time, trust me). And so when the opportunity appeared and I was about to plan my autumn trip to the Balkans I knew I have to include Albania in the itinerary, even if just for two days. And it was the best decision ever! From the very first moment I opened my eyes in the bus somewhere in the middle of Albania I knew I’m going to enjoy it. It looked messy, chaotic and so beautiful! Unfortunately I haven’t seen all that much, didn’t really have the chance to get to know the country properly but sometimes what you see and think at first is the most important. So here are my first impressions of Albania!


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Incredibly nice people in Albania

I’ve visited some countries where locals were extremely hospitable, helpful and well, just good and nice. But now Albania joined the club and ranks pretty high in my personal list of the countries with best people. For all the time everyone around tried to do their best to help us, make us feel as good as possible in their country. In (almost) all the cases there was a language barrier but it didn’t stop people from trying to communicate with us, one way or another. During our long and adventurous bus journey from Thessaloniki, Greece to Berat, Albania fellow passengers took really good care of us and we didn’t need to worry about getting to our final destinations, even if in the meantime it turned out we need to change the bus two times. I don’t think we’d have found our accommodation so easily if it wasn’t for people who helped us out on the streets and walked with us to our place (and then greeted us afterwards when we passed them by during our walks around the city). When we wanted to buy some burek in a small bakery the owner so badly wanted to get to know more about us that he took inside a random teenager who was passing by and who then, in his broken English, was a translator. When it turned out we are from Poland the owner showed us all his football memorabilia, including posters of Polish players from 1970s. The accumulation of such a random and nice stories was really high for these two days, much bigger than anywhere else! It could have been our luck but we didn’t meet anyone unfriendly in Albania!

Kami in Berat, Albania

impressions of Albania - people

Breathtaking views of Albania

Again, I’ve seen only a very small part of the country (and for pretty much of the travel time I was just napping – I hate you motion sickness) but the landscape I could admire was incredible! Dramatic mountains, deep valleys and picturesque towns – that’s what I’ve seen in Albania! And I was really impressed! I knew Albania is supposed to be beautiful but I didn’t expect this kind of gorgeous views!! Apparently what I haven’t seen is even more spectacular: twisting roads high up to the mountains, the capital city – Tirana – so weird that it is actually interesting and the turquoise clear sea. Just take a look at Andrea’s beautiful pictures from Albania – is that how you imagined this country?

Impressions of Albania - views

Cafes, everywhere!

It’s no surprise Balkans have exceptionally big cafe culture. But I had a feeling this went to a completely new level in Albania! I did a double take when I saw people sipping coffee in a small cafes along the road, at 5.30a.m., on Sunday morning! And no, it wasn’t a dream! Cafes were literally everywhere! On the main pedestrian street in Berat, Bulevardi Republika, there were at least 10 of them, next to each other. And all of them were full of people, but the majority were of course men. The coffee was strong, extra sweet and super thick but still really good! I’ve seen places with a big cafe culture but the number of small random cafes in Albania was definitely outstanding.

impressions of Albania - cafes

Bunkers, everywhere!

Albania is the country of bunkers! While I haven’t seem there anywhere else (or they weren’t so visible) in Albania they are on every step – literally as on average there are 24 bunkers per square kilometer! Over 700.000 of them were built between 1972 and 1984, back in the times when Enver Hoxha ruled the country. He was kind of paranoid that his land will be invaded therefore he has decided every Albanian should be protected as best as possible. When you think that Albania has just a little bit over 3 millions inhabitants it’s easy to do the math and see the real enormity of this issue. These days bunkers are one of the biggest tourist attractions of the country and its symbol, their miniatures are sold as souvenirs, there’re restaurants or cafes located inside them too. Many have been destroyed anyway but still it’s easy to spot them just about everywhere: in the backyards, at the beach, high in the mountains, at the graveyards or in the middle of nowhere! When traveling around we were playing who will spot more bunkers and this never got boring!

Impressions of Albania - bunkers

People go for a walk a lot in Albania

One of the things that always impress me in the developing countries is the number of people that spend time outside, going for a walk or sitting in the park (men almost always play chess). We don’t see much of that in Poland anymore. Once I read an article that it’s due to the poverty and the lack of any available activities and attractions and I actually think this might be true. Albania, or at least stunning Berat, was the same. From our accommodation we had a perfect view on the main pedestrian boulevard – it was always crowded, at 8am, at noon, at 10pm… People were constantly walking up and down and it looked like the most popular pastime activity there. We also walked the boulevard few times!

Lively Berat, Albania

The most delicious vegetables

I always find the Balkans a food heaven for me! Not only there is burek easily available everywhere (and there’s no such thing as eating too many bureks!) but the vegetables are just the tastiest ever! I could live only on cucumbers and tomatoes there and I’m the happiest person ever! It was like that in the Caucasus, it was like that in Bulgaria and it was exactly the same in Albania! They all were like I remember from my childhood, the taste that is long gone in Poland now…

burek

Albanian language is one of the weirdest in Europe

While in most countries you understand some basics of what’s happening around you there’s no way to figure it out in Albania. The language is really one of a kind, it is not related to any popular languages and it reminds you of nothing. It is just a mix of letters put together but the meaning cannot be simply guessed (and try to read these words – it’s not easy at all!). I could have stared at it for minutes but my mind was blank. It was a little bit like being in Hungary, Finland or Estonia (but those last two I figured out a little bit after spending 5 months in the middle of nowhere in Finland). However the crazy language makes the whole adventure so much funnier and travelling there is even more challenging!

berat albania


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Unknown country that has so much to offer

Every time I heard the name “Albania” I thought of the list of 25 proofs that this country doesn’t exist. And no matter how funny they are the longer you think about them, the more you realize you really know nothing about this place. It’s been locked for years, making it almost impossible to learn more about it but fortunately it’s slowly opening to the world. The tourism is growing, Albania is discovered by more people and I’m sure in few years’ time it will be a really big thing! So make sure to get there before everyone else will! There are so many reasons to travel to Albania and I know after these 2 days there I want to discover so much more of it. It was like a trailer for me and now I’m impatiently waiting for the whole movie!

impressions of Albania - Berat
Would you like to visit Albania? How much do you know about the country? What was the most off the path country you’ve been to?


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If you think of visiting Albania or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it! You might be also interested in other destinations I’ve covered on the blog. If you’re looking for articles about any place in particular this map with posts might be useful for you.


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24 Lut '15

There are 53 Comments.

  1. Anna @AnnaEverywhere
    08:36 25/02/2015

    What’s this food in the photo? Looks delicious! It reminds me a bit of burek from Sarajevo.

    • kami
      23:28 28/02/2015

      ok, I cheated a little bit here and this is burek from Sarajevo ;) but the one they had in Albania looked and tasted very similar :)

  2. Agnieszka Poznanska
    08:10 25/02/2015

    Starsi ludzie na ulicach powodują u mnie jakiś taki wesoły spokojnie ducha. W centrum Londynu ich nie zobaczysz…

  3. Iwona Łazarewicz
    09:18 25/02/2015

    świetny opis i great command of English! strona naprawdę godna polecenia :)

  4. Izabela No-To
    10:28 25/02/2015

    Pozdrawiam ze Shkodry! :)

  5. Maria Purt
    13:18 25/02/2015

    I’ve been waiting for this one… thank you!

  6. Yomadic
    14:02 25/02/2015

    Nicely done, Kami. I can’t wait to go back to Albania!

  7. Kinga Bielejec
    15:19 25/02/2015

    Byłam tylko w Tiranie, trzeba będzie się wybrać do Albanii ponownie!

  8. Albania Holidays
    15:24 25/02/2015

    Thank you Kami. We loved your article about Albania, and we shared it in our blog..

  9. Jenia from HTL
    16:27 25/02/2015

    We’ve been to Albania this past summer and absolutely LOVED it! This country is a hidden gem, but I don’t think it will stay that way for long!

    • kami
      23:30 28/02/2015

      I’m also afraid it will be discovered soon! On one hand it really deserves it but on the other I kind of like it being so off the path :) I’m really not surprised you enjoyed it that much! :)

  10. Maciek
    17:27 25/02/2015

    I had no idea about Albanian language being so weird, I always thought Hungarian is the weirdest one. And, to be objective, Polish for foreigners of course :)

    • kami
      23:30 28/02/2015

      I also thought that Hungarian (and Finnish for that matter) is the worst but then I’ve seen Albanian ;) I bet Polish is a nightmare for foreigners too ;)

  11. Sam
    18:35 25/02/2015

    I’d love to go to Albania one day! It’s such a mysterious country somehow, but still in Europe – there aren’t many like that left nowadays! Zab and I like cafes, but 5.30am on a Sunday morning is a bit extreme for us. Otherwise, it sounds perfect!

    • kami
      23:32 28/02/2015

      I was really surprised by this 5am coffee too! It’s way, waaaaay too early! Albania is a little bit challenging to travel around but that’s what makes it so great! I think you’d like it there!

  12. Pożeracze Przygód
    19:35 25/02/2015

    Ładnie napisane :) Ale jeśli chodzi o komunikację to myślimy, że na tle całych Bałkanów w Albanii jest stosunkowo łatwo się dogadać po angielsu. Chyba, że tylko tak trafialiśmy :D

  13. Mateusz Konrad
    00:48 26/02/2015

    Jeszcze mnie tam nie było, może w końcu pora? :)

  14. Adri T
    10:24 26/02/2015

    Oh my God, this is SO COOL!
    If all goes well, in May I will be going on a mini round trip in the Balkans, covering Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia, and Berat is one of our stops! If you like off the path destinations you should come to Romania, I’d be happy to show you some of the most hidden, but awesomely beautiful places in Transylvania! :)
    Love the blog by the way, and the photos are very good!
    Happy Travels!
    Cheers,
    Adri

    • kami
      18:58 02/03/2015

      Thank you for your lovely comment! Your trip sounds pretty awesome! I bet you will have a blast and I will make sure to follow! :)
      And thank you for your invitation! I was already in Transylvania but I’m thinking of going back so who knows, maybe we will meet :)
      Cheers!

  15. Hannah
    12:08 26/02/2015

    I’ve heard more about Albania this year than ever before…It looks and sounds really interesting so I’ll have to check it out for myself soon :) thanks for sharing!

    • kami
      19:05 02/03/2015

      I’ve notticed that too and it is definitely getting more and more popular! It will be a big thing soon, I’m sure of that! So better hurry up Hannah :)

  16. Meg Jerrard
    17:29 26/02/2015

    I don’t really know much about Albania so I’m surprised to hear that there are bunkers everywhere – though this is what we love traveling for; abandoned places to explore, so you’ve just put Albania very much on our radar. Thanks!

    • kami
      23:19 05/03/2015

      You definitely should go there before everyone else will! And before all the bunkers will be removed! It was so weird to see them all over the place!

  17. Sarah
    22:50 26/02/2015

    I visited Albania a few months ago and fell head over heels with the country. It’s true, it a place nobody seems to know about and kind of fear, but wow wow wow, amazing! I agree about the vegetables thing… Though I didn’t realise it till now that you mention it!

    • kami
      23:20 05/03/2015

      haha, I could eat those vegetables all day long, seriously! They were just the best!! Where in Albania have you been?

  18. Hanna
    10:23 27/02/2015

    I’d better visit Albania sooner than later, as I know later it might be too crowded for me! It looks very nice in your (and Andrea’s) pictures and I’m really surprised about the cafes’ culture there! I really hope to visit it within next two years! Btw. if Albanian is a crazy unlearnable language :D what language is the most useful to communicate there? Russian?

    • kami
      22:04 06/03/2015

      You better go there asap! I think it might be a great destination for you and your tours! As for the language: Albanian is your best option and sometimes, if you’re lucky Italian as there’s a huge Albanian community in Italy. Their language is one of the craziest I’ve ever seen, there’s no way to figure out what’s happening around ;)

    • Geyik Piri
      17:54 21/09/2016

      If hopeless with Albanian language, try Italian. Albanian lands being once a part of Roman Empire, two languages share SOME amount of vocabulary. Before WWII, there has been a period when the country was under Italian rule, and during the isolation period many people secretly watched the aerial broadcasts of Italian TV channels and some of them simply learned Italian by listening, nowadays there are many Albanians living in Italy and visiting their hometowns during holidays. If you will try to communicate using another language, try Italian first.

  19. Sammi Wanderlustin'
    12:56 27/02/2015

    Yeah I really want to visit Albania, I’m really into the idea of going anywhere like that, I like places less popular because I always feel less disappointed by them.

    • kami
      22:05 06/03/2015

      Actually these less popular places are often so much more interesting! :) fingers crossed you will have a chance to visit Albania sooner than later! :)

  20. Nina Travels
    13:31 27/02/2015

    We traveled overland to Albania 2 years ago and loved it! It is trully an amazing country. Love the fact it’s not so often on travel maps as it makes it much more unique! Hope to go there soon again.

    • kami
      22:06 06/03/2015

      I really hope to go back there soon as well! I think Albania is getting more and more popular but it’s still a long way till it gets on everyone’s radar!

  21. Beth
    16:14 27/02/2015

    I feel like Albania is so underrated when it comes to tourism. I have a feeling that’ll be changing soon though ;)

    • kami
      22:07 06/03/2015

      It’s crazy underrated but I’m sure it will be a big thing very soon! It’s already getting more and more popular every year!

  22. Jenna
    19:26 27/02/2015

    Ok, you just moved Albania way up on my list of places that I want to visit–it looks wonderful! I always love hearing about nice locals, and the views and cafés look incredible!

    • kami
      22:10 06/03/2015

      ha, that’s good to hear (or read ;)) I really hope you will be able to travel there soon, this country is pretty amazing (even if somewhat challenging). But friendly locals, incredible views and all these cafes make up for that! :)

  23. Raphael Alexander Zoren
    18:25 28/02/2015

    Great article, I’m going to the Albanian Alps in a few weeks, cannot wait!!! :D

  24. Ewa
    00:28 01/03/2015

    The most off the path country I’ve been to was South Sudan. I notices it had a potential (like breathtaking mountains for example) but now when the situation is unstable I don’t think I would recommend to go there…

    • kami
      22:12 06/03/2015

      you’re so hipster for being there! Actually South Sudan sounds really fascinating and interesting to me, too bad it’s kind of no-go zone now…

  25. Tresvodka_Chile
    04:31 01/03/2015

    Dzięki za miły spacer po kraju, o którym wiem niewiele. Co do języka to podobne uwagi mają moi studenci polskiego, kiedy słyszą polskie słowa, które ciężko im do czegoś porównać czy odnieść. Czarna magia, ale dzielnie dają radę :)

    • kami
      22:15 06/03/2015

      o tak, wyobrażam sobie jaką męczarnią dla obcokrajowców musi być polski! Ale mając jakie takie o nim pojęcie już można dalej walczyć z innymi językami słowiańskimi, a ten albański to taki jedyny w swoim rodzaju :) dziwny i nieznany jak i cały kraj ;)

  26. antonette - we12travel
    09:59 01/03/2015

    Like you, I don’t know anything about Albania. It looks pretty nice from your pictures though so wouldn’t mind paying a visit in the future…

    • kami
      22:17 06/03/2015

      I think you’d really enjoy it – they have some incredible mountains there so I bet hiking there is pretty amazing!

  27. John
    17:41 01/03/2015

    Beautiful photos once again! I really could spend all day reading your blog, I love it!

  28. Tiana
    17:42 03/03/2015

    haha I love your walking comment. Europeans tired me out!

  29. Shing
    06:39 06/03/2015

    Your photos present a great impression of local life, but I guess that’s partly due to it being less unhibitited by toursits, huh? You’re right, the time to see the country is now. I was really susprised to hear about the bunkers, to see them must evoke many feelings from interest to sorrow.

    • kami
      22:37 06/03/2015

      you’re so right about bunkers! they’ve been bothering me for a long time and even now I keep thinking how weird it must have been to live feeling a constant danger. I was in Albania in November so I think this might be the reason too why it was so empty. But I’m sure soon the place will be bustling with tourists!

  30. ROSA ALFANO
    19:04 21/03/2015

    Kami ,it was a pleasure for me to read your comments and would like to receive all the time yur different trips and your wonderful pictures, thank you

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