Sunday, May 18, 2014

A short tour northward

During my cousin’s visit to Tirana we enjoyed wonderful weather and on Saturday, thanks to my local friends, by midday we left the city and traveled northward for a mini tour of areas we had not yet seen.  A traditional first stop for coffee was just outside of the capital. 
Then we went through the city of Lezhë, which is known for the burial place of Albania’s National hero, Skanderbeg, but we did not stop here.  

We chose to go further north and in the middle of the hilly country side, for our second stop, we found a pretty area with a large restaurant-bar facility and lots of space for sports and outdoor activities for children, such as a soccer field and horse back riding.  
Since we wanted to have the main meal of the day upon returning home in an “agrotourism” spot which I love, here we had a snack consisting of small toasts with local cheese and a large dish of ‘focaccia’.  Every corner of Albania has its own type of cheese, and it is delicious everywhere, as well as the freshly baked, thin crusty focaccia drizzled with olive oil and rosemary leaves. 

After reaching the large northern city of Skoder we continued inland eastward, and began to just ride in the countryside toward the mountain areas. We stayed on paved roads, which had not much vehicular traffic.
 We encountered from time to time shepherds with their herd of sheep and goats and came across a trio of motorcyclists (touring from the Czech Republic) at a small rest stop located near a local church and quiet village. 

As we continued our travel eastward we climbed to higher elevations (just up to 1010 meters) and enjoyed the new views that would face us at each turn as we were going up and up, around the mountain sides. 
My ears would pop from time to time, but it was so pleasant to be in the middle of nowhere, breathing fresh and clean air and just feasting our eyes on gorgeous nature!

On the way back we made a brief stop at the junction of the 2 north rivers (the Buna and the Drin) just outside the city of Skoder. The  view here is from a strategically placed restaurant and bar in a complex huge construction made of stone, in the style of a castle, built on many different levels by its owner and furnished with antique irons, anchors, terracotta amphorae, and beautifully landscaped with flowers and trees.
After riding further southward, we had a leisure time dining at the restaurant where we had a reservation for 5pm, but we arrived late. This place is located at about 1 ½ hr outside of Tirana, and it is also in the middle of a valley. It is a very large restaurant, whose owner is a famous chef, well known even outside Albania, and reservations are a must.  

The main specialties here are the meats:  very tasty bits of sheep of a skewer, roasted pig and  lamb that melts in the mouth, which are preceded by an exotic cocktail (this time was from roses), and interesting mixed types of appetizers that include small portions of cheeses to be tasted with different sauces and spices. 

The desserts are also varied and impossible to resist.  The local wine is one of the best in the country, and the water served here is not from a bottle, as in town, but comes, fresh and delicious, directly from the mountain.  

We returned home at about 10pm, a bit tired, but totally relaxed and glad to have had such a gorgeous day with friends and nature.

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