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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Albania Mania/ Nga plazhet fantastike tek tavolinat e mbushura plot... "Albania Mania"Perfect beaches, mountain hikes and truly local food. Packing yet?

Albania Mania

Perfect beaches, mountain hikes and truly local food. Packing yet?
If you have to ask why one would choose to go to Albania, then you deserve to spend your holiday on the crowded shores of Greece. As for the rest of us, we get it — we hear the stirring among the rugged, dusty hills and porcelain shorelines of this other Mediterranean nation. Albania’s one-of-a-kind culinary scene and genuine slow-food network is straight from the pages of a locavore fairytale.
But sorry, you will not find menus boasting free range, local or organic. That’s because you’d be hard-pressed to find a meal anywhere in this 11,000-square-mile nation (roughly the size of Maryland) that hasn’t been grown organically on the very property where it’s being served. Wedged between northern Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, the mountains of Montenegro and the warm waters of the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, Albania is a small but fiercely proud country with a unique history, language and cuisine, one that is heavy with Italian and Turkish influence, yet unmistakably Albanian.
A farmhouse in Theth, a small community in the Albanian Alps in the north of the country. / Courtesy Sebastian Laraia.
For centuries, Albania has been conquered, invaded, carved up and isolated, creating a people who have learned to get by with what they have, which, fortunately, is a lot. From grapes to peppers, goats, fish and sheep, Albanian food is all about fresh ingredients and tried-and-true recipes that will leave you in awe of how good simple food can be.
Start from the capital, Tirana, and head southeast through the tree-dotted mountains, where you’ll find lots of hearty veggies, cheese and lamb. As you near the coast, heading northward from the Greek border, fish begins to take over. Squid, bream and bass are common throughout this region, as are pasta and pizza (Italy is only 50 miles away from some southwest areas).
The Lushnjë district is the country’s main agricultural provider. / Courtesy Enri Canaj.
The Lushnjë district is the country’s main agricultural provider. / Courtesy Enri Canaj.
What does a typical Albanian food experience consist of? To start: You’ll probably be sitting at a thick oak table overlooking the blue-green Ionian Sea with the strong scent of wild sage in the air. Next, your table is filled with dips, bread and the ubiquitous salad of southeast Europe — a heaping bowl filled with large chunks of fresh tomato, cucumber, salty feta and green olives. Your main course is grilled lamb, served with heaping plates of roasted eggplant and zucchini, or fresh whole fish and a healthy portion of Burek (a local savory pastry made with spinach and minced meat). Finally, it’s time for a generous shot of raki — a local grape spirit, a natural digestif and the preferred way to finish up a true Albanian feast.
STAY
FARMA SOTIRA — GERMENJ
Hidden deep within a dark pine forest on a steep mountain flank near the Greek border, Farma Sotira is a working trout farm with several small log cabins — complete with power and hot showers — set in a sub-alpine meadow. Perched over the trout stream that runs through the farm is a rustic stone dining area. Enjoy a glass of the farm’s own red wine, or try your hand at fishing a trout out of the water and dine on the freshest, most delicious fish minutes later.
LIFE GALLERY HOTEL — KORÇË
The Life Gallery Hotel and sleek Avenue 55 bar
is an unexpected dash of modern architecture situated among the hulking relics of communism that dominate the mountain town of Korçë. The hotel has 19 minimalist-chic suites and a very cool speakeasy basement bar. Relax on a spacious balcony or head down to the shady, green patio bar for a pint of Albania’s most popular beer, Korçë, which is brewed down the road. Or, try a raki-based cocktail, another local delicacy.
 Travelers hike through the tall mountains and steep valleys of the once tense border region separating Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo. / Courtesy Chad Chase.1
The cobbled streets of Berat, Albania. / Courtesy Jacek Malipan.2
  • 1 Travelers hike through the tall mountains and steep valleys of the once tense border region separating Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo. / Courtesy Chad Chase.
  • 2The cobbled streets of Berat, Albania. / Courtesy Jacek Malipan.
HOTEL MANGALEMI — BERAT
Hotel Mangalemi has eight beautifully furnished rooms inside a restored 18th-century Ottoman mansion. The mansion, originally constructed with stones from the (nearby) ancient Greek city of Apollonia, has been updated with modern stone-and-glass bathrooms and private balconies built into its sloping, tiled roof. Mangalemi’s terrace restaurant serves up tasty, traditional Albanian white bean soup and freshly baked bread. Its location faces west over Berat, known as the “city of a thousand windows” for its beautifully maintained Ottoman old town district packed with multi-story white stucco mansions that blend together to look like one massive structure.
EAT
HOTEL LIVIA — BUTRINT
Just a short walk from the ruins of the ancient Greek city-state
of Butrint — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and with views of the Greek island of Corfu, the open-air dining room at Hotel Livia is hard to beat. Prepare for huge servings of fresh seafood linguine and locally harvested mussels slathered in sweet white wine and hand-churned butter.
Gjirokastër’s dramatic landscape is framed by the Gjerë mountains. / Courtesy DDP Images.1
A northern Albanian feast in Theth: goat cheese, tzatziki (yogurt sauce with cucumber) and corn bread. / Courtesy Paolo Della Corte.2
An Adriatic seafood salad (squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels) at Artigiano restaurant in Tirana’s fashionable Ish-Blloku neighborhood. / Courtesy Merlin Bakus.3
  • 1Gjirokastër’s dramatic landscape is framed by the Gjerë mountains. / Courtesy DDP Images.
  • 2A northern Albanian feast in Theth: goat cheese, tzatziki (yogurt sauce with cucumber) and corn bread. / Courtesy Paolo Della Corte.
  • 3An Adriatic seafood salad (squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels) at Artigiano restaurant in Tirana’s fashionable Ish-Blloku neighborhood. / Courtesy Merlin Bakus.
KUJTIMI — GJIROKASTËR
Tucked off a cobblestone alleyway under the shadow of Gjirokastër’s towering, 12th-century castle, Kujtimi’s oak-shaded patio is a great place to try a glass (or three) of Albania’s most popular red wine, Shesh I Zi, and the city’s most famous dish, qifqi, a lightly fried rice ball bursting with fresh pepper, mint and feta cheese — a dish not to miss!
After shopping, take in the view from Krujë castle, a historic fortress. / Courtesy Jordis Antonia Schlösser.
HOTEL MILLENNIUM — TUSHEMISHT
Perched over placid Lake Ohrid, the waterfront restaurant at Hotel Millennium is a great place to watch the sun set over Europe’s oldest lake. Specialties include fergese, a vibrantly red dish of slow-cooked peppers and fresh feta that spreads perfectly on the ever-present, stone-baked bread like a spicy Mediterranean cream cheese, and Ohrid trout stew, a savory slurry of fresh fish and fire-roasted tomatoes in a thick veggie broth.
SHOP
CENTRAL BAZAAR — KRUJË
The Krujë bazaar, a tightly knit set of wooden stalls on a narrow, cobblestone street leading to Krujë Castle, is one of Albania’s largest handicraft markets. It’s been in operation since the 15th century and is now under federal protection as an important site of Albanian history and heritage. If you’re in the market for a locally made handicraft, this is the place to be. Make sure not to leave Krujë without a Pils — the traditional white, felt cap worn all over Albania with a small brim and jaunty nubbin on top.
Pick up a one-of-a-kind gift at colorful Krujë bazaar, where local craftsmen sell their wares. / Courtesy Michael Toussaint.1
Pickled eggplant and other local snacks at the Pazari i Ri (“New Market”) in Tirana. Pickled vegetables are a popular snack in Albania. / Courtesy Rebecca Velazquez.2
  • 1Pick up a one-of-a-kind gift at colorful Krujë bazaar, where local craftsmen sell their wares. / Courtesy Michael Toussaint.
  • 2Pickled eggplant and other local snacks at the Pazari i Ri (“New Market”) in Tirana. Pickled vegetables are a popular snack in Albania. / Courtesy Rebecca Velazquez.
KORÇË OLD BAZAAR — KORÇË
Korçë’s old bazaar is now just a fraction of the
size of its ancient iteration, yet it remains impressive. Join the locals bright and early to get the real experience as you navigate the maze of cloistered wooden stalls, salt sellers and utilitarian cheese stands. Search for something special to take home, like a bottle of mulberry raki or a jar of buckwheat honey.
Top: Rradhima Beach in Vlorë on Albania’s south coast. / Courtesy Enri Canaj.http://modernfarmer.com/2014/12/albania-mania/

Monday, December 22, 2014

WITH ITS NATURE IN MYRIAD SHADES OF GREEN, ITS BEAUTIFUL COASTLINE, ITS CULTURAL HERITAGE AND ITS FLAVORFUL CUISINE, NOT TO MENTION ITS ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES, ALBANIA IS A SMALL, STORYBOOK LAND ON THE ADRIATIC. FOR A RELAXING BUT ENERGIZING TRIP, HOW...



Our first stop is Tirana, a city designed by Italian artists that has saluted the world proudly as Albania’s capital since 1920. Affording visitors pleasurable experiences in its historic venues, galleries, shopping centers and gourmet restaurants, Tirana also looks quite modern with its wide, asphalt streets. As long as you’re here, take the Dajti Express to Dajti Natural Park to savor nature’s lush green and shed your urban stress on the hiking trails. Add to your list the Ethem Bey Mosque, adorned with miniatures as well as Italian-made decorations, because this is the city’s most important surviving Ottoman monument.
THE MANY FACES OF SHKODRA
One of Albania’s oldest cities, Shkodra’s (Albanian Shkodër) most important historical structure, Rozafa Citadel rises on a hill overlooking the city to the west. While in Shkodra you can visit the History Museum and the Fototeka Kombëtare “Marubi” art gallery and bask with your family in the green and blue landscape at the resorts and camping areas on Lake Skadar, the biggest lake on the Balkan peninsula. Because it is on the Adriatic coast, Albania is actually ideal for travelers seeking a holiday on the sea. Vlorë, especially, which lies between the Adriatic and the Ionian coast, and Durrës, also on the Adriatic coast and one of two major ports along the ancient Roman road known as the Via Egnatia, are famous for their long sand beaches, shallow waters and pine forests. 
THE UNESCO HERITAGE SITES
Butrinti dazzles the eye with its ancient Greek and classical Roman ruins. Gjirokastra and Berati have a place on the list thanks to their typical Ottoman period architecture. The white houses especially, perched on a mountain slope, are very photogenic. And the quarter called Mangalemi in Berati, where the houses rise in the shape of a pyramid, is dubbed the “town of a thousand windows”. The National Ethnography Museum and the Onufri Museum are some of the places you can visit in Berati. Don’t miss the ancient Hellenistic city of Antigonea on a hill east of the Drinos Valley either.
TREKKING AND MOUNTAINEERING
Fertile valleys between the snow-capped Albanian Alps, rushing rivers, wild wetlands and charming villages make Albania an ideal destination for trekking and mountaineering buffs. As you zigzag through seemingly impassable mountains on your trek amidst shades of green, orange, turquoise and lavender, you will also savor the pleasure of pristine air and inner peace. Thanks to the crystal clear springs flowing at your side, you’ll be able to keep your canteen constantly replenished. And hearing mountain tales from the villagers you meet along the way will not only relieve your loneliness but also awaken awe at this land and its people and what they have been through.
THE RICHNESS OF KRUJË
Aka Akçahisar in Ottoman times, this old city in northern Albania with its historic texture and local products is nothing short of awesome. You can find souvenirs from authentic Albanian costumes to old books and musical instruments in the market of Akçahisar with its cobbled streets and colorful shops. In addition to the market, which also boasts traditional handicrafts as well as Communist memorabilia, don’t forget to visit Krujë Castle, the Skanderbeg Museum and the city’s ethnographic museum.  
ALBANIAN CUISINE
One of the most successful marriages of East and West, Albanian cuisine is heavily influenced by Mediterranean flavors. The olives that grow the Berati region especially have even won awards for their outstanding taste. Skilled as well in the preparation of meat dishes, the Albanians are justly proud of their stews. With its “tave kosi” yoghurt, goat cheese, “chofta” sausage, lamb and rice dishes, spinach beureks, and “tulumba” sweets, Albanian food is a feast for the eye as well as the stomach.
Burgeoning Land of the Balkans
Albania lies at the crossroads of Europe due to its geo-strategic location. With a thoroughly liberalized trade regime and open to investment, the country is attractive to investors thanks to tax incentives and exemptions offered in key sectors. Albanian Ambassador to Turkey, Genci Mucaj underscores that all sectors are open to foreign investment, pointing out that Albania is a very safe place to do business. In addition to rapid infrastructural developments in energy, telecommunications and transportation, Albania’s young, well-educated population and its advances in the area of art and culture are also turning the country, which placed fourth on the New York Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2014 list, into a major hub. For queries please contact (embassy.ankara@mfa.gov.al) http://www.skylife.com/en/2014-12/balkan-beauty-albania

Friday, December 19, 2014

Albania travel guide for 2015, I want to tempt you to visit with 50 of my favourite photos of Albania

Since my first visit to Albania in 2000 I’ve seen the country develop from what was often cited as “the poorest country in Europe” to an increasingly popular tourist destination.
Most visitors head to the beaches in the south but there’s much more to see including the incredible Llogara Pass, UNESCO sites Berat, Gjirokastra and Butrint, quirky abandoned bunkers, disused Cold War submarine bases, Ottoman bazaars and some pretty spectacular scenery.
To celebrate the latest update to my Albania travel guide for 2015, I want to tempt you to visit with 50 of my favourite photos of Albania.  
 50 fotografi që do ju joshin që ta vizitoni Shqipërinë”. Kështu e ka titulluar shkrimin e saj blogerja australiane Andrea Anastasakis të publikuar në rearviewmirror.tv. Gjatë vizitës së saj në Shqipëri, Anastasakis ka realizuar 50 fotografi të cilat më pas i kapublikuar në faqen e saj për të joshur vizitorët që të vizitojnë vendin tonë. Ne kete menyre vijon promovimi i Shqiperise dhe destinacioneve te saj ne syte e turisteve te huaj. 
Butrint National Park
Gjirokastra Captured US Plane
Mushroom Bunker in Himara
Kruja Old Town Mosque
Sunset Over the City of Saranda
Llogara Pass on the Albanian Coast
Southern Saranda with Ksamil and Greece in the Distance
Ksamil Beach in September
Butrint with the Greek Border in the Distance
Tirana's Main Square
Looking Down on Borsh Beach from the Llogara Pass
Butrint at Sunset and Corfu Island (Greece)
Borsh Beach and the Olive Groves
Llogara Pass Near Vlora
Ksamil Island at the End of the Tourist Season
Kruja's Ottoman Bazaar
Typical Albanian Sunset
Fishing Village Near Himara
Berat's Thousand Windows
Foggy Llogara Pass in the Mountains
Albanian Car Ferry in Butrint
Earthquakes Are Common in Albania
Bunker on the Beach in Himara
Ksamil Albania
Local Wildlife Near Himara
Gjirokastra Tourist Shops and Castle
Albanian Submarine Base
Sunset from Saranda's Castle
Lukova Beach in Southern Albania
Dead Trees Along the Llogara Pass
Sunset After a Storm in Himara
Almost Abandoned Village Near Himara
Moon Rise Above Albanian Villages
Restaurant Hanging Over the Beach in Himara
Ottoman Era Houses in Gjirokastra
Dhermi - Albania's Most Famous Beach
Berat Castle Walls with Poppies
Abandoned Beach Cafe in Borsh
Butrint Amphitheatre
Blue Eye Near Saranda and Gjirokastra
Tirana's Infamous Pyramid
ENVER was changed to NEVER on the mountainside in Berat
Bay Near Himara
Kruja Fortress Near Tirana
Winding Road on the Llogara Pass
Stormy Sunset in Himara
Gjirokastra Mountains
Himara Beach Umbrellas
Another Amazing Sunset in Saranda
Watching the Sunset on Top of a Bunker