Tirana, Albania to Ohrid, Macedonia

The Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha was paranoid about outside forces attacking Albania. Starting in the 1970s the communist regime built 175,000 bunkers across the country. We saw many of these when we were driving through the countryside. They also built enormous bomb shelters under government buildings. This morning we visited BUNK’ART 2, a museum about the communist era and an art site. It is in a former secret bunker under the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

BUNK’ART 2
Corridor in former secret bomb shelter
Duke wasn’t welcome in Albania in the 70s
Display about people who tried

We walked back to the hotel and around noon checked out and took a taxi to the bus station where we caught a bus for Ohrid, Macedonia

Our bus for Macedonia

It was an uneventful trip except that we did see a minor accident when a truck stopped quickly because someone was stopped to make a left turn on a curve and the car behind him ran into him. This is the second accident we have seen the aftermath of. The other one happened a few days ago. It looked like a Mercedes had hit a tractor that must have been crossing the road. Both the tractor and the Mercedes’ were in bad shape

The truck involved in the fender bender

We took a taxi from the bus station in Ohrid. Unfortunately I showed the driver the address for Villa Saint Sofia instead of Villa Sofia. It took us a while to find the right place but eventually we were settled in a very nice room overlooking Lake Ohrid. Lake Ohrid is very similar to Lake Tahoe, big, clear, deep and very blue.

The view from our room

After resting a bit then we hiked up to Saint John’s church on a point overlooking the lake. We stayed to watch the sunset.

St John’s Church overlooking Lake Ohrid
St John’s church at sunset

For dinner we walked down to the waterfront. It was a bit cold but we had a very good dinner right on the edge of the lake.

Duke at dinner
My homemade sausage and fries
The view walking back to our room.

Peshkopi to Tirana, Albania

The couple who owned Guest House Tershana in Peshkopi where we stayed Wednesday night were our age. A lot of Albanians have told us they have relatives who live in the United States. Our hosts had a painting of four men on horseback in the breakfast room. The man, whose name I can’t remember, told us that it was of his father and his brothers in the picture. And that his father and two of his brothers emigrated to the U.S.

Thursday we completed our tour around Albania and drove back to the capital, Tirana. The roads were mostly paved today except for some road work.

The road back to Tirana
That’s a woman carrying a bundle of sticks on her back.

It is nice to have a car but it is also nice not to have to deal with traffic, bad roads and navigating. In Tirana we dropped our bags at the hotel then drove to the rental car return place.

The rental car return place is on a one lane street. There was a car in the driveway of the garage where we needed to return the car so we blocked traffic with horns blaring behind us until the car was moved. In any case we successfully returned the car. By the way, the car review video will be posted to YouTube soon.

Returning the rental car

Then we went for coffee and treats to celebrate a successful completion of this part of the trip.

Coffee and treats
Baklava and other honey soaked goodies

After getting our caffeine and sugar high we walked to our hotel.

The mosque in Tirana

We went to an excellent rooftop restaurant for dinner and had their 10 course tasting menu. The chef delivered a couple of the courses. Each course was a taste treat.

Tasting menu
Six of the courses

Gjinar to Peshkopi, Albania

Today added to our memorable adventures. The direct route that Google proposed said that it would take 3 hours and 49 minutes to go 80 miles from Gjinar where we were last night to Peshkopi. The alternate route which required you to go back to through Tirana was 3 hours 48 minutes to go 102 miles. We should have realized there might be a good reason for the big difference.

We took the direct route and ended up having to drive on 60 miles of very bad dirt roads. The trip took us six hours. We saw many interesting things and it was a beautiful day. So other than it being a very tiring and bone rattling day everything turned out fine.

The rutted rough dirt road
Harvesting potatoes
Duke found these giant mushrooms when we stopped to stretch our legs.
Mountain scenery

Roshnik to Gjinar, Albania

This morning when we came down to breakfast at Alpeta winery they were distilling raki in their wood fired still. it smelled fruity and warm.

Distilling raki
Breakfast

We had a breakfast of eggs, fruit, bread and cheese overlooking the vineyard.

Around eleven we started driving towards our next stop further north. We have been going around the prominent mountain in this area, Mount Malit. Last night we were south of it. Tonight we are north west of the mountain.

Mount Malit from the south
Mount Malit from the northwest where we are tonight. Our hotel is in the bottom right hand corner.

The group of Czech people at dinner last night had just hiked up Mt Malit. We thought we might do the same today. We spent some time doing online research this morning and couldn’t find a good description of the hike and how to get there so we decided to not try to fit it in today.

It seems to me that if Albania developed their hiking trails and advertised them, then hiking in Albania would almost be like hiking in the Alps. This area we are in is very scenic. It is not as dramatic as the Alps, but it would make for great village to village hiking.

Tonight we are at a guest house with a stunning view to the west. This morning there was no coffee at breakfast so the first thing we did when we arrived at Sofra E Shpatit, where we are now, was have a snack of coffee, bread and cheese.

Sofra E Shpatit
Coffee
Snack

Then we went for a hike part way up the mountain behind the hotel. We saw men with their donkeys going up and down collecting firewood.

Hauling firewood
Hiking
Hiking. You can just see Mt Malit poking up over the ridge behind Duke.

We had dinner at the hotel. We ended with a homemade compote of cornos berries. I’d never heard of cornos berries before, but they were a bit like cranberries with a pit.

Cornos berries

There is no heat in the rooms and I’m guessing the temperature is around 55 or 60 so we are bundled up working on our phones!

Keeping warm

Lushnjë to Roshnik, Albania

We had a great breakfast at Hotel Ardenica this morning. We had really good hot coffee, tasty fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, hot scrambled eggs, local cheese, and good toasted bread. And we were sitting in the open air with a great view and the sun at our backs.

Breakfast

After we finished we were working on the New York Times crossword enjoying the view and the sun when Olsi the manager brought us a home made desert. It was delicious.

Flan

Breakfast, dinner including a bottle of wine, and the room cost us $80.

Less than a mile from our hotel was the Monastery of Ardenica which according to tradition was founded in the 13th or 14th century. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the church but all the walls were painted with frescoes. They date from 1744. the church is small, beautiful and seemed ancient.

At the gate of the monastery
The church
The Monastery of Ardenica

We drove about an hour and a half to Roshnik where we are staying at Alpeta Agrotourism & Winery. As we got out of the car you could smell the crushed grapes.

Crushed grapes

At six we joined a winery tour and wine tasting. There were ten of us. We saw where the family grows and produces their wines. then we all sat at a big table and started tasting wine and talking. One couple was from Switzerland another was from Holland and a group of four were from the Czech Republic. When our host said the oldest person had to propose the toast before we downed our house made raki I was quick to point to Duke. He proposed a toast to Albania and Albanian food. Our host joined in with a big smile.

Later our host offered to bring dinner for the ten of us to share. We had wonderful conversation about what to see in the area and life in general while we drank and ate. It was a wonderful experience. All ten people at the table spoke good English. That’s Europeans for you!

The winery
Walking through the vineyards
Table for ten for donner