We went to Albania, Kosovo, and Albania. The thing that are interesting about these places is they are cash only. You have to be able to get cash at the ATM or take enough with you. The local hotels are cash only as well. If you stay at bigger well known hotels then they should take a credit card. But no place else will take credit cards.
We started our trip out in Tirana. After the long flight that is the closest place to stay for the night and then go on from there. We stayed at the City Hotel. This is a basic hotel. With U.S. standard it would be about a 3 star property. All of the hotels we stayed at was very clean. In the small local hotels they don’t have any elevators and so you have to walk up the stairs. The rooms have anywhere from 1-4 beds. Sometimes they will have a queen and a twin in the room and some rooms might have 4 twin beds in them and so it just depends.
There are bigger hotels and more 4 star hotels as well. They have the International Hotel that is pretty close to the city center.
Our next stop was going over to Kosovo. This is a fun city as well. There is a tunnel that you drive through on the way to Kosovo is the longest tunnel in the Balkins. It is a couple of miles long. We stayed in a hotel in Pristine. On the way over to Pristine we stopped at the Kalaja Fortress. Then we went to Prizren and Peja and just did those as day trips.
From Kosovo we went into Macedonia. There is a river that runs through the city. On one side of the river they speak Albanian and the other side of the river they speak Macedonian. We spent the night there and most of the next day. We went to a museum that was a tribute to Mother Teresa. She was born in Skujpe Macedonia to an Albanian family. They are pretty proud of that and several cities have a cathedral that is named after her. We also went to a local museum there as well. Macedonia is a great place if you want to hike or ride bikes. It is a beautiful country and they have a lot of different hiking and biking trails.
On the way back to Albania there is a really cute little vacation town called Ohrid. It was raining and so we didn’t spend a lot of time there but there is a lake and it was a beautiful vacation place. There were signs on several houses that said the houses was for rent. Once we left Ohrid we went on a road that was a National Forest road and it took us to another lake. This lake connected Macedonia, Albania, and Greece. It was a beautiful drive. We were a bit surprised because there was no wildlife in this area.
Once we passed through this then we came back over the border to Albania. It was a different border than we normally see as you get out of your car and walk up to a window to show your passports. There wasn’t anybody else crossing the border at that time. Once we crossed the border we drove through beautiful little towns. These towns that we went through had sheep and sheep herders that were herding them.
Once we got back into Albania we went into Korch for the first night. Korch is the place that has the first school house in Albania.
We went to Durres. This is a town that is right on the Adriatic Sea. It is a beautiful little town and it has museums and an amphitheater. There is a great place to be able to walk along the Adriatic. It has restaurants all the way along this walking area.
We also went to Serrando. This is a beach town and a great little town. We just stayed a couple of days over here and we didn’t do much except for enjoy the beach. Some of the hotels aren’t right on the beach and so they make their own beaches. They have more rocks on the beach instead of sand. We went in May and that was the perfect time of the year to go. It was nice and warm but not too hot.
One of my favorite places that we went was the Bashtova Castle. This castle was built in the fifteenth century and it served the venitians. When you go here you are pretty close to the Greece border. You can actually see Greece from this area.
I also really liked Gjirokastër. In Gjirokaster we went to a museum that was really cool. The castle dominates and overlooks the town. This contains a military museum featuring artillery and memorabilia of the Communist resistance against German occupation. It also has a captured United States Air Force plane that they say was shot down.
This was an incredible place to visit. The Balkins is a beautiful place in the world. One thing that I loved about this area was the parks. They aren’t what we think about parks but they have chairs, tables, and benches. Quite often you will see older men in the park or in a restaurant playing dominoes together. You will also see the cab drivers playing on the trunk of the car while they are waiting for customers. The older couples also congregate in the park to visit with each other.
One other thing that I loved is each town had one stretch of road that was completely closed off to cars. You just walked in that area. It had restaurants and shops and you didn’t have to worry about traffic.
This is a great place to go. I feel that you should be a bit more of an experienced traveler to go to this area. Most of the younger people speak English and can communicate pretty good. The older people don’t really speak English. So it is a place that you can get around pretty easy even if you don’t speak the language.