Albania

How do Albanians Celebrate?

I think we all agree on the fact that December goes by so fast and suddenly we find ourselves preparing for Christmas and New Year. I have a love-hate relationship with December, to be honest. I love it because it seems that is a time that brings people together and suddenly everyone is reflecting on the year that they are about to leave behind. On the other hand, this month is associated with a lot of expenses mainly for gifts about the loved ones and because Albanian mothers have this terrible urge of transforming the house into a supermarket, where you can find all kinds of groceries, drinks, desserts etc. Most probably, you wont even eat half of it, but it doesn’t mind…That’s how Albanians celebrate!

As we all know, during the communist regime, Enver Hoxha banned the freedom of religion and Albania became the first atheist country of the world. What a great start, right?

However, after the fall of communism, Albanians got to experience too the joy of celebrating and practicing their own religion. The majority of people in Albania are Muslims but you must’ve heard that here that it doesn’t matter because we all respect each other’s religion and we celebrate Eid in the same way we celebrate Christmas, all together.

In most Albanian families, there is a specific time to do the Christmas tree and that is on December 5th but those who feel in themselves the Christmas Spirit more than others usually do it on December 1st. And all suddenly, everyone is asking you “ What are you buying me for Christmas/New Year?”. That is a question I am trying to avoid this year.

The holidays energy and spirit is being felt everywhere, especially in Tirane since is the capital of Albania. Skanderbeg square doesn’t look that empty anymore; every year the square serves as a Christmas market, where small wooden houses offer a cozy place to stay, relax and drink hot wine or beer with your friends or family. You can spot all around the little children who seem to enjoy these days more than everyone and you can see them laughing out loud, begging their mothers and fathers for money to take a ride in the playground. Everything is shining and it feels good.

Albania Winter holidays celebration

On Christmas Day, every family makes sure that the table is full because a lot of people will be coming, even the people that my mother says will show up but never do, so there’s extra for anyone who wants to join.

Turkey and delicious desserts are the main dishes on Christmas day and on New Year’s Eve. A specialty of the Albanian Christmas/New Year’s dinner is "Bakllava", the famous dessert originally from Turkey.

And without even noticing, Christmas is over and then there comes the New Year. And if Christmas is all about family, New Year on the other hand is for family until 12: 00 PM, and then is for friends and partying until morning. If you are fortunate enough, you will have two days off to rest and come back to the “normal state of being”, if not straight to work. Fair enough!

©Elda Ndoja, Ecotour Albania

Albania guest of honor in Christmas market of Brussels

The Christmas market in Brussels in December 2017 will have an extra jewel to decorate it’s Christmas tree, Albania.

Brussels’ square will be animated by all what is the best from Albania. In order to know this beautiful country, we invite you to visit the stands dedicated to Albania.

The agents of the tour operator Ecotour Albania will tell you more about the holidays, tours, itineraries, cultural tours and adventure offered by Albania. The trips organized by Ecotour Albania respects the charters of responsible and sustainable tourism. 

Direct contact with locals, authentic places, beautiful mountain and seaside landscapes are part of the menu of Ecoutor Albania.

White wine, red or sparkling; beer, olive oil, typical dishes, crafts, but also traditional dance shows: this is what the city of Tirana and Albania will be offering you during the “Winter’s pleasures” which will be held from the end of the month in the city center. The Albanian capital will be the guest of honor of this 17th edition. 

All of the above will be installed on the St. Catherine Square in front of the church. 

Mire se vini ne Shqiperi

Welcome to Albania.

 

Visit of Apollonia

Visite d'Apollonia

Climbing in Bovilla

Escalade à Bovilla

Visit of Butrint, UNESCO

Visite de Butrint, UNESCO

Hiking in Albanian Alps

Ranndonnée dans les Alpes Albanaises

Holidays in Albania

Vacances en Albanie

Berat, Unesco

Berat, Unesco

Travel to Albania, off the beaten track

Voyage en Albanie, hors des sentiers battus

Ski and snowshoeing in the Albanian Alps

Ski et raquettes dans les Alpes Albanaises

Kayak in November in Albania?

Yess it's possible.

The sun, the blue sky, the blue-turquoise water and never ending olive trees...

Are waiting for you!

Contact us to experience this beautiful destination that is:

Albania

 

olives dhermi

sunset dhermi

A trip to Gjirokastër for the Fustanella Festival !

On this sunny Saturday was the Fustanella Festival. The term « fustanella » refers to an Albanian traditional piece of cloth worn by men from the XIIIth century. It is a sort of kilt but in a white color. Nowadays, the tradition to wear this type of cloth remains solely in the South of the country, in the region of Gjirokastër, during festive events.

 

This edition of the Fustanella festival took place on the heights of Gjirokastër, in the fortress garden. This place offers a perfect setting for this event, with an overhanging view on the stone city, facing the mountains. The old edifice, heritage from the past, reminds us in a certain way of the ancient traditions. On this day, it created a contrast with traditional music intertwined with modern and at times international notes.

 

The large audience then had the opportunity to enjoy traditional isopolyphonic music with Albanian Iso Phonic Choir. These unique songs are precious to Albania as they got classified by the UNESCO as a World Heritage.

Spectators also had the chance to appreciate the music of Koza Mostra, on an alternative rock and ska type of note this time.

 

The featuring between Fanfara Tirana and Transglobal Underground was a nicely surprising combination as well, mixing Albanian brass band sounds with exotic vocals. The evening ended on contrasted not with the American electronic band H.A.T.

This festival finished on a high note with an instrumental demonstration of electrical guitar, cello, and drums, led by Robert Bisha. Lastly, the band The River Voices consisting only of Albanian women wearing traditional clothes, sang some more isopolyphonic songs.

 

This was an opportunity to stroll in the little streets of Gjirokastër, on the look for the old stones of the UNESCO classified town. Visitors can there visit the refurbished house of the famous Albanian writer, Ismail Kadare, as well as the one of the ex-dictator Enver Hoxha, now turned into an ethnographic museum.

On top of that, the Skenduli house, one of the largest ottoman style habitations in Gjirokastër opens its doors to the curious. Mr Skenduli, the landlord, offers a commented visit in French, and her daughter in English.

Last but not least, travelers may wander in the bazaar, where embroidery and stone or wooden sculpted objects shops go one after the other.

 

An excursion to Gjirokastër gives the opportunity to every traveler to immerse him/herself into an authentic and traditional Albania, reflecting the habits and customs from the past.

Izmir Smajlaj - Albania's first ever European indoor gold medalist!

One jump. One moment to make history.

Congratulations Izmir Smajlaj - Albania's first ever European indoor gold medalist!

No one could have imagined the excitement which would take place in the final round as Albania's Izmir Smajlaj, 23, took his place on the runway, in the bronze medal position after a second round 8.02m.

His chances of gold looked over as he had a foul, a leap of just 6.58m, and then another foul before this final attempt. Surely, he was never in the form to win.

But what a last jump it proved to be as Smajlaj, who was ninth at last year's European Championships in Amsterdam, amazingly reached 8.08m, the same as Torneus, to break his own national record of 7.98m.

And even though he had those two fouls, Torneus had had three and on countback, Smajlaj was the champion as he won Albania's first ever medal in the history of the European Athletics Indoor Championships.

“I am feeling so good right now and I would like to dedicate this medal to my father,” said Smajlaj in a competition where Ukraine's Serhiy Nykyforov won bronze with 8.07m, just a centimetre away from the top two.

 

Izmir Smajlaj Izmir Smajlaj                        Izmir Smajlaj

 

 

National Geographic :Albania, one of 10 Places That Deserve More Travelers

The 9th of June, National Geographic, published an article about the 10 places that deserved to be visited the most. Albania was one of them, but also our neighbor Kosovo.

In the article is also mentioned the recent opening of the country towards the tourism compared to the other countries in the Balkan.

In the south coast there can still be found some ruins from the past. In particular Butrint, which is located only 20 min from the city of Saranda. Butrint is an archaeological site that is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage in 1992. Today it is an ancient city, under the open sky, which used to be inhabited for many centuries. The cities of Berat and Gjirokastra and the Ohrid Lake are also listed in the UNESCO. Albania is a country whose diverse aspects will know how to amaze you!

 

Autor Estelle Thomas ©Ecotour Albania

Source : http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/ten-places-that-deserve-more-travelers/

Gjirokaster

 

Butrint Amphithetre

Discovering Berat

Today we will head to Berat, a must visit city during your stay in Albania.

Also known as the city of thousand windows, in Berat you will enjoy the vibes of the past, an environment which you will find very pleasant.

With a very particular charm, this little city is part of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 2008.

The most adventurous will surely make their way up to the fortress of Berat by foot, but for the others to go there by car is also a possibility. To have a walk inside the fortress means to see closer the charming characteristic white houses of the city, to visit the ruins of this ancient fortress as well as to discover some little secrets such as the statue of the head of Constantine the Great, the church of St Theodor built with red bricks and the cistern of the Byzantine Era who was used to save the water.

In the fortress you can also find the museum of the famous Albanian painter of the 16th century, Onufri. Some of his works are placed in the museum together with other painters’ works. By entering the museum you can also visit a small church, where were found two codex of the VI th and IX th century. Today these codex’s are stored in Tirana and are also listed in the UNESCO.

From the ruins of the Berati castle you will have the opportunity to admire a view of the Tomorri Mountain, in the east of the city with a height of 2416 m. This mountain is also famous because it is a pilgrimage place for the Bektachi, second largest religion in Albania. From the castle of Berat you can also see a building that looks like the White House in Washington DC: Albanian University of Berat, a private one. Even though it is a relatively new construction it perfectly matches the architecture of the city and the traditional white houses.

Once back down in the city you can walk through the main street of Berat and so discover the main sites like the new cathedral and the big mosque.

We invite you to “get lost” in the Mangalemi neighbourhood, with small and narrow streets. There you can find the Bachelors’ Mosque and a big number of shops to pick up some souvenirs.

If you are still in for more you can cross the bridge and visit other neighbourhoods, Gorica and Kala, with multiple windows houses, who will surely enchant you.

Author Julie Terrol ©Ecotour Albania

 

ALBANIA, AS IT IS SEEN BY THE EAGLE

In a 45 minutes documentary Albania is shown as a  “wild country”; a production for the German public from Das Erste in collaboration with the Albanian television Top Channel. The focus of this documentary was its exceptional biodiversity.

Firstly in this documentary is shown the eagle, as the symbol of Albania and the far north of Albania, where the eagles’ nest is built. This region is known for the high mountains and for the rich flora and fauna. This region is also inaccessible making it the perfect habitat for the “Albanian eagle”.
Video : Wild Albania, in the land of eagles - Wildes Albanien, Im Land der Adler

Traveling towards the center of the country, it is impossible not to notice the large number of rivers and the 362 km long coastline. Even though most of the Albanian area is mountainous the coast has a great beauty at is valued as gem.

In the Lagoon of Karavasta, there can be found a wide rage of rare species such as the Dalmatian Pelican, which is the rarest in the world. 

When one talks about Albania, it is impossible to forget the rich culture and how ancient this country is. The site of Butrint hosts thousands of years history in its impressive and well preserved sceneries.

This entire documentary is produced by the filmmaker Alexander Sommer and the author Cornelia Nation, from the eagle perspective. 

Eagle Albania.jpg

Dalmatian Pelican.jpg

Eagle Albania.jpg

Valbona.jpg

Bear Albania.jpg

See the Video: 

Fichier Wild Albania, in the land of eagles - Wildes Albanien, Im Land der Adler

 

Boston Globe : Albania, an undiscovered gem!

Albania and the city of Berat are considered by Boston Globe as a touristic destination for 2016. The author of this article, Christopher Muther refers to Albania as an undiscovered gem.

The author describes the lack of infrastructure, the bad condition of roads, not a good public transport and the limited access on the internet.  But according to him these are the reasons why this country is worth visiting.

In his article he also mentions’ the beautiful Albanian Riviera, referring to it as breathtaking.

Description of the Boston Globe:

This is not a place for tourists in search of luxury, or for inexperienced travelers, but I can assure you that what you get for the price you pay is really great. If you are not sure about traveling there by your own, you can contact a travel agency. For many years Albania was an isolated country, but since the fall of the communist regime it is a well - known travel destination. In Albania you may notice lack of infrastructure, bad road conditions, not a good public transport and limited internet access. But exactly because of these you should visit this undiscovered gem. The beaches along the Riviera are breathtaking.

Direct flight? NO. Best time to travel to Albania? September.          

Albania holidays

The great Eastern European road trip, part two: road trip across Albania

On their tour from the Balkans to the Baltic, Kevin Rushby and family arrive in Albania – once unreachable, now scruffy, eccentric and entirely lovable. 

 

As soon as we cross the border into northern Albania, near Shkodër, we are faced with a decision: coast or mountain? I’ve wanted to visit Albania since the 1990s, when I glimpsed its then unreachable coast from Corfu and heard it was the loveliest in the Med. But we’ve arrived in a heatwave – 40C-plus – so turn towards the cool mountains of the south-east. After well-groomed Croatia and Montenegro, Albania appears as shaggy and ill-kempt as a lovable hound, all dirty paws and enthusiastic tail.

After a night at a wayside hotel, we continue south, turning off the main road at Urakë to explore. Our guidebook says there are Illyrian tombs near a village called Selca. The road becomes a track and divides. We stop to ask directions and at this moment we finally arrive in Albania.

 

The man speaks a lot and waves his arms. I’d guess we are getting 90% Albanian and a smattering of other European tongues, none of them English. Albanian is seriously different from any other living language, but speaking it quickly to foreigners will, it is widely believed, make it perfectly comprehensible. This man, we gather, advises taking the left fork. We do so, and within a mile he is proved correct.

Away to our right is a magnificent ancient bridge, spanning the river in two impressive and wildly uneven arcs of stone. A youth appears on a horse with a wooden saddle. “Via Egnatia,” he says, pointing at the bridge excitedly. “Old!” This is an understatement. The Via Egnatia was constructed in the third century BC, probably on top of an earlier road, the only land link between the eastern and western regions of the Roman empire.

Notable feet have trodden its route, including Julius Caesar, the apostle Paul, and many crusaders. There are hopes that its remnants might become a long-distance hiking trail, but for now this bridge is unmarked. We only have the youth and his horse, which we lead over the cobbled arches that have supported so many travellers.

Resuming our search for the tombs, we meet an old man on a donkey who feeds us wild plums and points out the bee-eaters nesting in a mud bank. Only it’s not the birds he’s pointing to, but the dark blobs of cave entrances on the next hill. A third-century BC Illyrian king, Monum, is supposed to be buried here. We tramp around, finding three tombs in the rock, long since emptied of all treasure, much to the disappointment of Maddy, 12.

 

 An ancient bridge on the even more ancient Via Egnatia.

Later that day we drive over a pass and catch sight of Lake Ohrid, 300 metres deep and entirely fed by aquifers. Macedonia is on the far side, 10km away. Closer, on a small promontory, is a lovely village, Lin, where cottages are decked with flowers, old ladies in black sit in the shade, and all the children are out playing in boats. Just as we say to each other, “It’d be nice to stay in one of these houses,” a young woman accosts us in English: “Would you like to stay in my house?”

Rosa shows us through a gateway to her shady terrace by the lake, where her rowing boat is hauled up. She pours us a tot of raki and fetches a bowl of fresh figs. There is never any doubt we will stay: the only question is for how many years. We eat a lunch of koran, a sort of trout and one of seven fish species that haunt the deeper zones of the lake. Later we swim and explore the rest of the promontory, where there is a ruined fifth-century church with mosaics of peacocks eating luscious bunches of grapes.

“The village is half Orthodox and half Muslim,” Rosa tells us later, “But we are all happy together.”

 Floria in the garden at her homestay in the village of Dardhe.

We leave, reluctantly, next day and drive into the mountains on the Greek border, reaching Dardhe, once an important trading post but now largely abandoned. Some of the fine stone houses are being restored, as is the road – clearly there are big plans for Dardhe – but we amble out on a footpath and eventually come to a house with a sign. Is it a B&B? We can’t decide.

We enter the idyllic garden. An old lady in black greets us by kissing Sophie and Maddy, then serving more raki. She can’t understand why Maddy doesn’t swill the stuff down. She talks continuously. “I think she’s explaining about wolves in the forest,” I say. “No,” disagrees Sophie, “she’s talking about the London Olympics.”

A man appears from inside and tells us in halting English that Floria, his mother, is offering a room, but wants us to understand she will not be making lakror today – though the nearby tavern will have it.

Again, there is no doubt we will stay. At the tavern, home to a stuffed lynx but no wolves, the waiter fills our water carafes from a gushing spring and we order lakror, not knowing what to expect. After an hour he returns with a wooden block, clears a vast space, then brings out an iron pan the size of a cartwheel and lays it proudly on the table. “Lakror,” he announces.

Lakror, it turns out, is a local speciality, a bit like a Turkish börek – a flat pie stuffed with cheese and vegetables and utterly delicious. Which is fortunate, as we are eating it for the next two days. When we leave, Floria is heartbroken that we have not tried her lakror, but we promise to return. After all, we have fallen deeply for this shabby, hugely eccentric gem called Shqipëri by its inhabitants, and Albania by everyone else.

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2015/aug/15/east-european-road-trip-albania-tombs-via-egnatia