With the start of summer it has been repeatedly indicated as an ideal place for holidays and recently, "The New York Times" has dedicated an article to the Albanian Riviera. A different image than Albania, offered by the journalist Seth Kugel.
A perfect blend of curiosity, history, natural beauty and traditions, served beautifully with humor and lightness by "The Way" by The New York Times. A trip started a little by mistake, following a sign that gave directions on how to reach a monastery. The monastery did not reach him (never!) But in return he found the beach of Gjipe.
Strange first impact with the place. The disarming beauty of the crystalline sea, which makes you believe you have found a piece of paradise on earth, mixes with a story strongly marked by the presence of bunkers. Mushroom-shaped structures installed throughout the country in 1985 to defend against a phantom enemy, never arrived. This is the first presentation of the Albanian Riviera, from where the journalist goes to the discovery of the coast, Vlora (Vona) next stage of the tour.
"A city a little tacky, with lots of cafes and bars full of outdoor fantasy pillows, grotesque music, unattractive and mediocre costs" these are just a few considerations. Then he dwells on the total lack of information on infrastructures and so many skeletons of never finished buildings. It is difficult for those who are not Albanian to move on those nameless streets. A city that still lives in the ruins of a long past, and that is still looking for the right path to development.
A city that slowly moves forward. An unnerving slowness that the Valonese (vlonjatët) live with extreme normality, playing chess and smoking "like chimneys" in that main street (Bulevardi Vlorë - Skelë) poorly lit. The visit to the Independence Museum is interesting. A two-story house, where Ismail Qemali ruled as prime minister after Albania maintained independence from the Ottoman Empire. As a guide, Ilia Cano.
The director, in "poor English mixed with French", tried to explain to the journalist the story of the Prime Minister. Valona was not Kugel's favorite city ... but how to blame him after visiting Llogara with its green expanses and the forests. Himarë (chosen as a base by the writer) full of wonderful bucolic images and historical riches. Food is also very appreciated, where the contamination of neighboring Greece is very evident. Souvlaki, zaziqi, i byrek (stuffed savory puff pastry), and the "fettunta", homemade bread with olive oil. Then Jal.
The beautiful beach of Jalë, with a deep blue sea, that seems unreal. But what struck Kugel during his journey was not only the sea and nature, but also the people. The simplicity of their gestures. A grandfather's love for his grandson. Perfect strangers who invite you to fish to show you that the fish you ate the day before was very fresh. Strangers who make you feel like you are their friend.
That make you do crazy things, like having breakfast at 6.00 in the morning with coffee and grappa, which take you into the sea, sharing with you the joy of bringing back the nets full of fish at the end of the day and much more. And then, before digesting the fish dinner the day before, the holiday ends and the sums are drawn. And it is precisely here that Albania gives you the last surprise. 459,87 € to eat as much as possible, sleep, rent the car, in short, do everything. Although, we must consider that it was not July - August, the most expensive months in Albania.
The New York Times journalist describes the journey to discover the Albanian Riviera as a journey into a parallel world. A world full of unique people and images that seem to come from a storybook. And it could not be otherwise. Albania is uniquely magical.
To read the New York Times article, the link: http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/