The wonder tale of Gjirokastër

 Old friends we were… but I wanted to know more about the old walls. 6 years before, a fight had sadly drawn my attention from them.

I was ready. Are you? Let’s go!

 

The way there

The old bridge

This one’s closer to Gjirokastër [one can even hike there from town]. A drive is also adventurous because parking will prove challenging. We stood and watched 11 donkeys come down the mountains, accompanied by two shepherds. Ali Pasha Bridge, commissioned at the beginning of the 19th century, was part of an aqueduct complex that supplied the castle with water from the mountains. As we would later find out, water is such a precious resource in Gjirokastër.   

Ali Pasha Bridge, Gjirokaster, Albania

 

The blue surprise

Syri i Kaltër is a spring with a depth of 50 metres. The colour of the water is fascinating and it does look like a blue eye! There is a private parking lot and the road is not that bad – anyway, the natural beauty of the area is so wonderful that you won’t have time to get bored.   

The Blue Eye, Albania

 

The road from Ksamil

…is superb, diverse, and surprising… a quintessence of South Albanian roads. High passages, quaint villages, bridges, rivers…

The mountains along the road to Gjirokaster, Albania

 

Inside the walls

The hospitality

We felt at home at Castle Hotel, where the views are fabulous and the food is delicious. We were received with open arms, we learned so many things, we understood once more how much Albanians and Romanians have in common and can communicate… sometimes even without a common language. This was a very personal comment… because we miss our friends very much! ♥

Inside Castle Hotel, Gjirokaster, Albania

 

The old and narrow roads and the bazaar

The beauty of the streets, their up’n’down, and the traditional products that can be found if you look well – handmade bags and blouses, homemade jams, and the embroidered lavender bags… they will all stay with you long after you leave town.

Gjirokaster, Albania

Through Gjirokaster Bazaar, Albania

 

The food

[I am a vegetarian], so vegetable moussakas at Odaja, plus stuffed eggplants and cheese/spinach pies at Taverna Tradicionale had a homemade taste… which I loved!

Dinner in Gjirokaster, Albania

Even the trileqe that we had at Simple was homemade! It went so well with the orange juice that I had already gotten accustomed to. All day every day.

Waiting for my trileqe in Gjirokaster, Albania

One of the sweet secrets of Gjirokastër is oshaf. You can find a tasty one with a view at Kodra. The taste of figs will amaze you.    

Oshaf in Gjirokaster, Albania

 

Whereto?

Vjosa and Përmet

Our first plan was to paddle down Vjosa – we had rafted it before – but we were set to go by kayak or canoe this time around. We went scouting. Restaurant Sajmola, which I read could have been a good starting point for our route, was closed and the river didn’t look as inviting as I hoped it would.

We continued to Përmet. We had seen it last in 2016 and it changed so much! It’s got a fresh modern look now and we couldn’t leave without first visiting one of my favourite pastry shops in Albania, BLETA. Such a nice surprise!

In two days, Vjosa would regain the blue shade that I love!

Vjosa near Tepelene, Albania

 

Drinos River

Sadly, Drinos has parts where it dried out because of the hydro plant built on the Greek side. About 30 km downstream from Gjirokastër, you’ll find a bridge and an easy way down to the river. The colour is inviting, so are the rapids… they were especially for Marcel. We both paddled and played for a couple of hours in the water.

Marcel paddling on Drinos River, Albania

Scouting Drinos River, Albania

I got a prize for trying so hard!

Marce's gift to me


 

Stopover on the way to Narta

…to buy strawberries! At the beginning of May, we were happy to have them in Albania because they were delicious and because we knew that we’d have to wait a couple of weeks more for the Romanian ones.

Albanian strawberries

 

Saying ‘goodbye’ to Gjirokastër was hard. We will return. Can't wait.

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