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ALBANIA

Holiday Ideas & Foreign Travel
SwissPaul
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ALBANIA

#246653

Postby SwissPaul » August 23rd, 2019, 10:02 pm

Off to the land of Enver Hoxha and King Zog.

Jumping the ferry from Corfu to Sarande. Did Butrint on a day trip years ago so any other suggestions /itinerarywould be appreciated. Will be there for about 10 days in October.

Thanks in anticipation

regards
Swiss

dspp
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Re: ALBANIA

#246722

Postby dspp » August 24th, 2019, 11:09 am

A friend has just come back from some good walking in the mountains, between huts. I can ask for more info if that is your sort of thing.

regards, dspp

SwissPaul
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Re: ALBANIA

#246966

Postby SwissPaul » August 25th, 2019, 9:20 pm

Cheers - but mainly wheel based and wnting to see as much of the country as we can.
regards
Swiss

malkymoo
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Re: ALBANIA

#246994

Postby malkymoo » August 26th, 2019, 8:52 am

Some information in this article in the Observer a few weeks ago:

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019 ... nd-albania

PinkDalek
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Re: ALBANIA

#246999

Postby PinkDalek » August 26th, 2019, 9:13 am

SwissPaul wrote:Off to the land of Enver Hoxha and King Zog. ...


In case TaurusTheBull's travelogue provides further inspiration, see this from March 2019:

Athens to Budapest
viewtopic.php?p=206714#p206714

Which also mentions Gjirokaster, as does the prior reply's link.

77ss
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Re: ALBANIA

#254678

Postby 77ss » September 28th, 2019, 11:17 pm

SwissPaul wrote:Off to the land of Enver Hoxha and King Zog.

Jumping the ferry from Corfu to Sarande. Did Butrint on a day trip years ago so any other suggestions /itinerarywould be appreciated. Will be there for about 10 days in October.

Thanks in anticipation

regards
Swiss


From Sarande, head to Gjirokaster (via the Blue Eye). There's an interesting painted church at Leusa - walk or drive from G. On to Korce, via the ancient bridge at Benja (near Permet) - where you can go for a swim. On to Pogradec on the shores of L. Ohrid, taking in the painted churches at Voskopoja. Some amusing pillboxes litter the shore. Then to Tirana. Press on to Kruja - the castle museum is well worth a visit. The walking in the north (Theth, Valbona Pass....) is spectacular if you ever feel like an active holiday in the future.

Head back south to Berat, via Durres. I was a bit disappointed by Durres, but really liked Berat. Then make your way back to Sarande (if that is your plan) via Vlore (a minor detour to Ardenice monastery is worth it), the classical ruins of Apollonia and the charming small castle at Porto Palermo.

I don't know whether you can fit all this in - just some thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed Albania and liked all the places I have mentioned - except for Durres - and that was probably because I had high expectations of it.

SwissPaul
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Re: ALBANIA

#258611

Postby SwissPaul » October 17th, 2019, 10:50 pm

Albania,
well after a week of rolling around the country me and Mrs Swiss had a wondrous time.

We flew into Corfu on a late one from manchester and after finding the accommodation went straight to bed as it was an early start the next morning. We had booked the ferry from Corfu to Sarande in Albania where we had arranged to pick up a hire car. For the ferry we had booked on line using Finikas (https://www.finikas-lines.com) and you need to print off your ticket and be at the port an hour earlier then the time of departure which was 09.00hrs. The port has a cafe and not much else except the duty free as we were going from an EU to a non EU country.
We had booked the jetfoil and the jourey over was quite quick if a little bumpy, it was a calm day so what it would be like in more rougher seas makes me wonder.

We had been advised that on the journey over to switch off the phone as we needed to buy a SIM as we wold be outside the normal roaming charges and giff gaff does not cover that location. Arrival throught customs was standard with no major problems.After a bit of a struggle we managed to get a Vodafone 1 week tourist SIM and it did us for what we needed during the week (texting famly, last mile directions etc) with all locations we stayed having wi-fi, which in general was very good.

Car Hire was through Enterprise and was relatively straight forward. Before going I did the necessay part 2 with DVLA - which the the guy just waved away and I also got an Int'l driving licence - just to be on the safe side - you can get from any post office at the cost of a fiver (you need an ID pic). So by lunch o clock we were inthe car and set off for Vlore which was on the coast and went via the SH8 road and the takes you along tthe Albanian Riveria which is very pretty though the road can be qute winding - think Clarkson or his ilk would love it. Stopped off at several placed on the way - Ali Pashsa's castle (Porto Palermo castle). Another stop point is the Panorama Llorga at the top of the Llorga pass - stunning views. The overall drive was about 4 hours.

Vlore is quite pretty and we had a walk round the town prior to food and a beer or two before sleep. We used booking .com for most locations and found them all to be good value.

Next day we drove to Shkoder, had had a brief stop off in Durres for some lunch and to rubber neck at any earthquake damage that had occurred ten days before our arrival. Never saw any damage but a walk along the beach was a delight as it is the main port / seaside resort for the capital city (Tirana) - about 40 mins away. After an ice cream walk allong he beach we jumped back in the car happy to hit the motorway. I have to admit the traffic on major roads was qute light, except for going through towns and cities when you had to have your wits about you. One of the strange ones is giving way on the roundabout - and I received qute a few beeps as I sailed on through. Italan rules dominate which equates to use your horn as much as you can and drive like you own the road - and never ever ever give way!

We had a loverly walk around Shkoder that nght but it was an early night as we were being picked up early the next morning as we had booked a trip to the Komani damn (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Koman,. The original plan was to take the car, and get the ferry from Komani to Firenze and then drive down to Tirana. A bit of research made me conclude this was not a good idea - do'able, but maybe not wise. Anyway we got picked up from the hotel about 7 and the journey was a bone bouncing 2 hours which I think the hire car could have done, but Mrs Swiss would have been bounced around more than would be appreciated, when someone elese is driving - well you just suck it up! Overall cost was 48 Euros for me and Mrs Swiss which was return bus and ferry journey.
The ferry was packed with day trippers - mainly tourists taking this wondrous journey through tthe Albanian Alps making it equivalent of a day trip through the fjords. Catering was very basic but we struck up some lovely conversations with all the hikers on the ferry who were after the sefie shot tick list. If you are going to go to Albania - it is a must to do this trip and was a woundrous day spent on the water. The advice I would give though is take warm clothing as you are in the mountains on water and going through gorges so the wind can be qute chilly, though we managed to get a sunny spot on the ferry as the locals just go inside and take all the warm seats. That night we had a lovely walk around Shkoder and need to go back as there is so much to see and feel that we did not do it justice.

Next day we then had a late start and headed down to Tirana but stopped off in Lezhe for an hour as we wanted to visit the tomb of Skanderberg who the Albanians view as their national hero. it was funny in that the guidebook we had mentioned that foregners visiting the tomb are well respected. We asked a young guy for directions and his reply was "wow you have come all this way to see our national hero " he was impressed with us and took us straight there.

Onto Tirana - the traffic was horrendous and we arrived at our accommodation only to find that we had to park in one of the main car parks - under Skanderberg square which in the old day looked like it had hosted many a parade of the party faithful. Next day was spent going round the various locations ranging from Enver Hoxa's tomb to one of the bunkers used by the interior minister that would have been used should someone somewhere presssed the red button. The bunker was a history of the secret state and the the secret police. Mrs Swiss got very upset about a tale of an 18 year old young female party member who had been suspected of spying and the way she was treated.

Another tip is to go on a bus ride (20 mins) and then jump onto one of the gondolas that take you up Mount Dajti (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dajti#/me ... -07-14.jpg) which gives you a fantatsic view of Tirana and the surrounding area. It is also used a jump off point for some walks and if we had tme would have gone for a look around.
Cathedrals, mosques, parks - Tirana has it all and we had a lovely time just walking the streets. I can see a bit of a Chinese influence still exists in that one street we went down was full - and I mean every second shop was a bicycle repair shop.

That afternoon we set off for Gjiorkaster (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gjirokast%C3%ABr) some 4 hours away, the trip was realtivly smooth and the last third quite picturereque as we headed into the mountains we arrived at a lovely B&B with stunning views across the valley and the castle. Next morning it was out an up as we headed off for a lovely day at the BejaTherma baths past Permet. The drive was good until you get to Permet but the road was quite narrow after that. The river is fed by a sulphurous spring and has been damned and made into several pools and so is always warm and not as cold as you would expect a river to be. To access the pools you have to cross a bridge (or ford theriver) as thebridge had no handrails and if like me you have no head for heights well you can see for yourself.(https://www.google.com/maps/place/Llixh ... 20.4324163

We then spent another day in Gjirokaster exploring the town especialy the old castle which is steeped in history and has commanding views of the valley. Eveing meal that night was at the B&B and I have to say it was marvellous as the owner and his wife made us some lovely local dishes and gave us a bottle of his own wine that even I ( confirmed beer drinker) took a glass full.

The last morning we then headed back to Sarande as the car had to be back in for 12. Good journey but the road was a bit twisting an turning. We stopped off at Blue Eye for a look. It is a spring and natural phenomenon in that it is a lovely view and nice peaceful place to visit.

Finaly back to Sarande where we had a couple of hours wait before our return trip to Corfu. I fancied a swim but did not want to be putting the case on the beach. We spoke to the lady who ran the cafe in the port building, leave it in the corner she said, we said will it be safe; oh yes indeed she said as she nodded towards some customs guys, police and others havng what seems to be the national past time of sitting with friends and colleagues having a coffee - or playing dominoes and having a coffee.

One thing we did note was the amount of dogs just wandering around. These strays seem to be well looked after, except for seeing the occasional one lying dead at the side of the road which looked to be the unfortnuate result of a traffic accident. These strays would never go into cafe's or restaraunts and most just wanted to be stroked or given some attention - which resulted in you being followd for ages!

Overall Albania - defintely will go back. So much to see and at a bargain price as well. Lovely country ful of lovely people who are so glad you are visiting.

faleminderit (thank you) .

Swiss


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