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Monday, 13 June 2016

Albania: the South



Have I ever told you that I have two favourite micro-regions in the world?
Well, I do now. And Southern Albania is one of them. I’ll let you guess the other.
This year, however, the entire team – that is, Andra, Marcel, and I – was a bit worried that the scenery would not stun us as much as it had 11 months prior.
But then, after actual streams flowing down the mountain as we crossed the border from Greece, snippets of what we recalled to be heart-warming hospitality, magnificent snow-capped peaks [this time around], a breakfast to be remembered, and some traditional desserts that I dreamt and dreamt and dreamt of… we took the long road from Përmet north. And we realised that those lands were indeed special, magnificent, and terribly beautiful.
To Berat
The poppies twinkled bright red and our Berat sunset that evening was also red, a different shade though. We experienced sights, tastes, and sounds that we’ve known before: rafting down grand Osumi River and its canyon the following day. The new had to follow, with a private tasting at Çobo Winery, guided by laughter and fireflies.
Last minutes in Berat
Our last morning in Berat combined the old and the new: we revisited the castle, but explored Onufri Museum and its expressive religious paintings. Unlike a year ago, I felt that it was time for me to leave. Although I had been welcomed as I remembered by the land and the people alike, I could perceive a heaviness in the air, under the roofs of the white houses that seemed not to leave my thoughts. I’m still wondering about its cause and I’m still making assumptions. What happened to the cheerful people I knew?
Where land meets sea
Soon enough, smiles were again all over my face. We were in Divjakë, marvelling at the region’s wetlands on stretches of earth that met the sea. Yes, there were wows for places I hadn’t yet been introduced to, in a land that I thought I knew too well.
Leaving Divjakë and the South
Was I ready for the North?  

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