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South - Albania

We haven't been tired of the Gjirokaster area yet, so we'll stay one night longer. Then we drive via Vlorë on the west coast to Berat. What differences we see in Albania. Large hotels, to slum homes and everything in between. Fat Mercedes cars to donkeys and bikes. Expensive supermarkets, to the local greengrocer. If you want to go to Albania? Then go now! The country is working hard on a cover and you notice that they have to do their best to maintain their original charm instead of building large hotels.

Morning walk past guard dogs

Something anxious happens on Wednesday morning. We walk the morning route with Misty who Rudolf has walked before. And suddenly out of nowhere, 3 large guard dogs run in from nowhere. We have seen stray dogs many times in various countries, but watchdogs? Large wirehaired dogs that show their teeth well in addition to barking. I throw some cookies that help stray dogs, but that doesn't work. We walk on quickly, because there is a fence around it, right? Well not quite, there is a hole in something. So go even faster. However, we also have to go back.

They are still on guard at the path. We walk next to a stream and in one place there is some gravel in the middle of the stream. Maybe we can cross over and walk back from the other side? Rudolf is holding Misty and I try to break the bamboo that stands in the way in half with my shoes. Arriving downstairs at the water, the gravel turns out not to be so firm, you sink into it quite a bit. Rudolf tries to get Misty about it, but he absolutely doesn't want to, our fear hare of water........... so we have to go back via the same road + some extra scratches on the ankle of the bamboo sticks. We'll take the sticks with us!

Fortunately, the dogs went back to their nest and therefore far from the path. As soon as they see us we come running them again and we speed up our run. This time I don't throw cookies, but make big gestures with my arms and the bamboo stick. We will pass by well. A watchdog experience richer, as are the scratches on the ankle and the mega dirty shoes that are completely covered in the mud of the gravel.

Gjirokaster Blue Eye

Near Gjirokaster is a Blue Eye. A large lake with many frogs, birds, dragonflies and turtles with a large blue eye at the end. It is more than so bright that it is completely blue. Misty is with us and we choose the adventurous route and not the regular path that leads to it.

We walk through the grass, over stones, under trees and Misty runs around wonderfully. Until Rudolf suddenly sees a turtle. Whether it's a land turtle or freshwater turtle I'm not sure. For those who know are allowed to respond - see photo. At some point we can't go on and we have to go around a house a bit on an elephant path and then we're finally there.

The Blue Eye is beautiful to see. Incidentally, there seem to be more in Albania. Beautiful clear water that you would like to take a dip like that. Unfortunately, that is not allowed here. The way back we walk on the usual path, it is a bit faster.


Of course we also want to see a piece of beach and sea and we are travelling to Baro Beach Campsite in Vlorë. A small simple campsite, few amenities and the beach facilities were not yet ready. 'Just' shopping took 1.5 hours. It was busy in Vlorë which is actually a very touristy and perhaps rich city. A lot is being built, many hotels, many apartments. But not everything is phased out and part is empty. They probably expect a lot from the future. We go to the Spar, but it turns out to be very expensive even more expensive than the Netherlands. So on to the Conad and it is also more expensive than in the Netherlands. Yes they have a good choice for meat and vegetables, but otherwise you shouldn't buy too many. It is better to go to the small shops and we have now found out the greengrocer that is much cheaper. We also see a lot of expensive cars driving, especially Mercedes. A car is a status symbol in Albania and this is clearly visible in Vlorë. Whether this is the real Albania I doubt. Many motorhomes drive the SH8 route along the coast from Sarandë to Vlorë or vice versa. We also drive up a bit to the beautiful mountain pass. How great this route is to drive. So green, great for walking and at some point there are also many hotels and restaurants. Unfortunately, we don't see much of the view when we get to the vantage point, because we are in the clouds and/or in the fog. It rained part of the day, yes also in Albania, in the valley the sun was shining but not yet in the hills. I can recommend anyone to drive this route. The road is less good, lots of curves, but ohso nice to drive. On the way back we saw them that they were working on a tunnel, so that you can go through the mountain from north to south. That is certainly interesting for the trucks and buses, but yes then you miss the beautiful pass.


We only stay two nights in Vlorë and continue towards Berat. As soon as you drive back inland you will see a completely different Albania. People in the well-known mercedes, but also by bike, with the donkey, old cars full of dust, tractors and all that on the same road. Incidentally, we think that 80% of the cars that drive around are Mercedes, many of those old bins to also the newer models. Berat has been a UNESCO World Heritage List since 2008, as has Gjirokaster. We choose Castle Berat campsite, two minutes from the Castle / citadel The campsite is new, a plot of land rented by the manager and neat and cosy made, new sanitary facilities. And a very warm welcome. He offers to dine with food cooked by his wife on the evening. The other camping guests do that too. On the first evening a cosy Albanian dinner with spinach pie, paprika stuffed with rice, fries, baklava, fruit, salad. Special to experience. And in the morning we get delicious breakfast, offered by the campsite. A kind of fluffy oliebol sandwich with butter and homemade strawberry jam.

Berat Citadel / castle

Off to the citadel with the ruins of the castle! From the village you can really only see the tip of the citadel, but above you only notice how big it is. The Albanians call the walled city castle. What is special is that people still live in the citadel. From the city you can climb up with a zigzag path, or you walk up the main road and then enter the citadel via the back. Even better you can also go up the back by car, that's what we did.

There are two large entrance gates and it seems you will have to pay 100 LEK entrance fee in the summer, but now it was free. There are many families and groups on this Saturday, so we choose not to walk with the big mob, but to walk a side path that is much quieter. It seems that the citadel once had 42 churches, of which there are now only a few ruins left. You can wander through the old citadel and you will encounter inhabited houses here and there. For example, an enthusiastic grandmother came to ask us if we wanted coffee and cake. At first we still had doubts, but this was a unique opportunity to see such a house from the inside. Before we knew it we sat with her behind the house on the balcony overlooking the garden and the city. I offered to help her, so I joined the kitchen. How do you describe the style? A mix of 60s-70s in the Netherlands, with the colours and decor of Albania, large sofas/beds no table in the middle, 60s-70s cupboards. It was very special to be able to see this inside.

She was 83 years old, had lived here for 70 years and also said she had quite a few physical pains. The cake she had made was delicious and so was the coffee and tea. She tried to sell some knitted socks and homemade jams, but we didn't have to. She charged a good tourist price for the coffee and tea, detracted a bit from the charm, but still I would recommend it to anyone. This was another great time to experience up close how they live here. I have doubted for a moment about the paragraph below, but you will also experience this side of Albania when you are here. A lesser moment is the visit to the rainwater collection within the citadel. The building is beautiful though, and also the steep / dangerous staircase down and then you see the large room in which they caught the rainwater. Unfortunately, there are people who can't resist throwing empty plastic bottles in, making it very nasty. Even more unfortunately, there were also dead puppies. I thought I saw a rat at first, but then I saw another one in colours that rats don't have. Then I knew enough and quickly went upstairs again. This kind of thing squeezes my stomach. I had already heard that they treat dogs differently in Albania than in the Netherlands, but if you actually see it, it is unfortunately the harsh reality.

The citadel is definitely worth a visit, beautiful views, old houses, nice restaurants and terraces, ruins of old churches and red mosque.

Berat City centre

After a tip from the campsite owner, we find a parking space very easily in the centre. Along the promenade is an entrance for an underground car park. Very handy and not (yet) expensive.

Two special neighbourhoods are Mangalem and Gorica, they are almost right in front of each other. Mangalem is at the foot of the citadel and Gorica is against it. They are two white neighbourhoods with all the same type of houses with a lot of windows. The city is also called the city with its 1000 windows. If you look up at the castle from the bridge in the centre you will indeed see a lot of windows. In the old centre the roads are narrow and with boulders. You will find various mosques. The bachelor mosque, which is no longer in use but does have beautiful frescos on the outside. The royal mosque that looks beautiful both outside and inside, it was built in the 16th century and is one of the country's older mosques. At first we are not allowed in there is just a group of French people going in and we are wearing shorts. After a short chat we can still enter :-). Nice to see! Personally, I thought the floor covering was very soft, but that's not the point of course haha.

Along and near the large boulevard, Bulevardi Republika, there are plenty of restaurants to eat delicious food for those who have become hungry after many walking and climbing. Sunday we choose a day of rest, also because of the rain that falls at Lake Ohrid and we don't feel like arriving in the rain. It was a day of rest until the campsite manager wanted to hang a door in the shower cubicle with a few comrades. The hinge is on the wrong side, has to be hammered out and put in on the other side. They just don't have the good equipment. Rudolf arrives with all his material and the men laugh themselves. Rudolf's material eventually manages to loosen the hinge and secure it on the other side. We do lose a drill bit, but that shouldn't spoil the fun. Rudolf then has a pleasant evening with the manager, I often hear them laughing from afar. Then Monday comes the day of departure from Berat. Camping Castle Berat has surprised us very much, we can recommend this campsite to anyone. On to another adventure in Albania, on to Lake Ohrid.

Warm regards from Albania.


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