Sunday, September 6, 2009


It is mainly people that have never been to Albania who are responsible for the country's bad press. Those who discover Albania for themselves usually return singing the praises of its friendly, tolerant people, its fascinating Ottoman cities and other historical sites and its magnificent mountain scenery and charming villages.

Albania has something to offer almost everyone. Hikers will love the Albanian Alps or the Tomorri massif, whilst cyclists will find a network of ancient tracks criss-crossing the country. Those who are interested in archaeology can spend hoursin the complex sites of Butrint and Byllis. History-lovers can explore ancient castles, Ottoman fortresses and the museum cities of Berati and Gjirokastra. Art connoisseurs should visit the little-known medieval churches, with their beautiful frescoes, and the icon collections in Tirana, Korça and Berati. And gourmets will enjoy the delicious seafood, mountain lamb, organic fruit and vegetables and, of course, Albania's excellent wine.

Fishing Lake Ohrid

Fishing Lake Ohrid

Beaches and coastline

Albania has 450 kilometres of coastline, with calm and sheltered waters for swimming. On the northern Adriatic coast centred around the large port of Durres, the beaches are sandy and shallow, making them ideal for families although they are crowded in high season. The unspoilt southern Ionian coastline, south of Vlora is more rocky, with the mountains coming down to the sea, and water sports and diving on offer. Further south, ferries from the Greek island of Corfu run to the seaside town of Saranda, giving access to the most southern stretch of coastline.

Albanian cuisine is excellent, with both Ottoman and Italian influences evident. There are many good restaurants everywhere, although obviously in smaller towns the choice is less wide than in the cities. Vegetarians will find themselves eating a lot of salad; luckily for them, Albanian tomatoes and cucumber are delicious.

Albanian Foods:

Albanian vineyards produce high-quality wine, some of it from indigenous grapes such as Kallmet (red) and Shesh (red and white). Grapes are also used to make raki, a clear spirit which is the country's national drink.

National specialties:

• Mediterraneanfish such as sea-bream and sea-bass, as well as eels.
• Koran (a species of trout unique to the Ohrid and Prespa lakes).
• Traditional dishes often use vegetables and yogurt or curd cheese to make the meat go further.
• Paçë koke (sheep's head soup).
• Kukurec (sheep's innards in a gut casing).

An image of stuffed peppers.

Traditional Stuffed Peppers

National drinks:
• Apart from raki (see above), Albania's other national drink is coffee. In bars and restaurants, this usually means espresso or cappuccino.
• In private homes, kafe turke is made in the traditional Balkan way, with grounds and sugar brewed together.

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