In the country, East to Fier, the landscape is sprinkled with dozens and dozens of small derricks (first photo).
On the second photo, I have made an enlargement that shows the tall structure, an electric pole and the small one, the oil pump. In 1988, the pumps looked very old but most were still working. I would be curious to know how many barrels each of them produced every day.
However, in 2007, the derricks were still there, together with the strong smell of fuel, but none were working.
most places in albania are off the beaten track, but if you take the small roads then you really get a feel of being far away from home.
this road here is a little north east of tirana, where i went on my mountainbike one day.
very cool place for biking.
In Albania I must recommend a trip along the road between Gjirokaster and Saranda. It is as slow and tortuous as any Albanian road, but the reward is the breathtaking mountainous landscape. You'll see the occasional tiny village along the road, just a few houses and maybe a church. I saw one little church perched precariously on the uphill side of the road, with it's Greek-style cemetery on the other side. You might also be lucky enough to see eagles on the journey, they are supposed to be plentiful in the Drinos valley - I caught a glimpse of a large bird of prey that might have been an eagle on the way down to the EU-built road from Ioannina.
The beautiful stretch of coast between Saranda and Vlore is paralleled by the most spectacular and most dangerous road in Albania, which apparently hasn't been repaired since World War 2. The many crosses along the abyss clearly show, that the road is simply not wide enough for two vehicles.
A 2000m high mountain range forms the hinterland and at the foot of the mountains there are long white beaches, deserted even in summer. The sea here has a wonderful blue color and it's easy to see why this region is called Albanian Riviera.
If you drive along the coastal highway be sure to stop at the wonderful panorama caf?, about halfway between Saranda and Vlore. The views are spectacular!
The ruins of the ancient city of Butrint south of Saranda are a UNESCO cultural heritage site. Some of the structures are still surprisingly well-preserved, esp. the theater and the public baths.
Chances are that you can explore the ruins all by yourself, even in August.
Some of the most spectacular mountain scenery of Albania can be admired on the road through the country's wild and poor North-East.
For a long time this region was off-limits for independent travelers due to banditry, but the situation has improved and the road is now heavily patrolled by the military.
Kukes itself is an unremarkable town at the back of beyond, but the surrounding area is stunningly beautiful.
a charming,unspoilt,fishing village,apart of its ancient importance,is well worth a detour to see the wooden and stone houses....and also for good sandy beach on the far side of the promontory.
lake ochrid is very rich in fish,particularly a unique member of the trout family,the "koran" ,which is delicious to eat and can often be bought cheaply from local fishermen.
this fish makes also famous macedonian city of ohrid,situated on the opposite edge of the lake....
The area surrounding Butrint National park is constituted by two Municipalities: Ksamil and Xarra. This last one includes 5 villages and takes the name from one of these: Xarra, Vrina, Shen Delli, Mursia and Shkalla.
The villages are located in the surrounding area of the Park. Vrina and Shen Delli are just on the Park south border; the other three are a bit faraway from the Park south border. All of them stand on the road that goes from Butrint to Konispol, the last little town in the south of Albania, close to Greek border.
Agriculture is the backbone of the local economy with a majority of the active population being engaged in farming activities and also fishing is an important income generating activity.
If you want to get off the beaten path, and see a little of the real, completely tourist-free Albania, I recommend a trip through these villages.
magnificently situated 135m high ;byzantine citadel,quite impregnable,built on sheer cliffs,with its own water supply and secret passages leading down to the riverside below......hence gave rise to some of the most blood soaked sieges ever seen in europe,particularly the final heroic
defence against the turks in 1479 in the siege of shkodra....60000 unburied corpses lying on the battlefield...
up,spectacular views on the surroundings and on the lake
the largest building of its kind in the balkans,was begun in 2th c. ad,under reign of emperor hadrien.
about 15000 spectators could be seated,with entrances for gladiators and wild animals.
only partly excavated,and as you can see on photo,ottoman and modern buildings remain on sides of the arena.
they founded an early christian chapel,under the ranks of seats.
"steel of the party":metallurgical complex,built with chinese assistance in the 1960s and 1970s.
it was called "the second national liberation of albania" by enver hoxha,and was designed to refine ferro-chrome,nickel and other ores so that they could be sold abroad in a concentrated form,rather than exported in their natural state.
with its chimneys,the tallest in the balkans,always belching smoke and emitting a stream of dangerous polluants,the city became a byword for the problems of hoxha industrial development,and soon meant that much of the prosperous agricultural area in the river valley was useless for all crops...
The North-East of Albania is as much unexplored as today as it was 20 years ago. Unlike neighbouring Kosova it has received fractional if zero media attention. Probably because the area is well-known to be bound up in blood feuds and it's locals have little respect for the law, but these are local issues and it is much less dangerous than the home office website would tell you.
I know because I have been there. People are simple, kind, pro-west, not wild outback bandits waiting in the bushes on the off chance that a rich westerner will come their way. Westerners...there are no westerners there. The only westerners that ever go there are the girlfriends of local boys that have flown the nest and of course the old soldier. If you want to experience something and somewhere that cannot be seen in any magazines or brochures but offers all the breathtaking views and local hospitality then please read on and check my Albania pages marked Kukes. The scenery will not dissapoint.
Two Kilometres off the main road between Gjirokastra and Saranda is a beautiful place called Syri i Kalter. Underneath old shady oak trees is this unusual "Blue Eye Spring" giving birth to a small river. The water bubbles up through a more than 50 metres deep pool and is creating a curious shape. The water is deep blue in the centre and lighter blue at the edges. With a bit of fantasy it looks like the an eye´s iris and pupil.
A couple of years ago a French expedition was trying to explore the cave. The divers didn´t reach the bottom of the spring but surveyed the first 45 metres. The temperature is constantly 10°Celsius. The waters spit out of the spring can be as much as 8,8 m³ / sec.
The blue Eye Spring is a pretty spot! During the days of communism it was reserved for the party elite which indicates how nice this place is. Nowadays its a bit run down but still worth a visit. There is a restaurant with some bungalows for visitor who intend to stay overnight.
About 10 km from the Blue Eye Spring on the road towards Saranda is the old monastery Mesopotam with the largest Byzantine church in Albania.
Syrri i Kalter is about 20 km from Saranda. Turn off the main road when you see the large brown sign saying “Tourist Attraction” towards the dam where all visitors have to pay a fee of 100 Leke. From there its about 2 km.
Everywhere in Albania are bunkers. Hundreds of thousands of concrete pill boxes were constructed throughout the country. Nowadays some of them are used as storerooms. It can be interesting to explore them. The Bradt guide gives a good explanation about the strategy.
These were my local 'tour guides'! The mass of water behind is connected to the River Drin which runs through Kukes.
The old town of Kukes is submerged under the lake.
The lake is used for recreational use in the summer.
Absolutely stunning, you won't be able to put your camera away.
Having spent approximately 5 months in the Sheraton-Tirana, I know the "ins" and the "outs" of the...more
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