19 February 2018

Albania, a destination better than you thought -Telegraph Travel

Telegraph Travel has published an article listing ‘10 destinations that are better than you thought’, and among them is Albania in the 9th place. As telegraph writes ‘we judge a place or adventure by reputation”, and it shouldn’t be like this at all.
“We asked 10 of our favourite writers to challenge common wisdom and share their tales of the countries that surprised them, the places they dismissed – or embraced – in error. After all, places change. Reputations are often ill-deserved. The world is your playground: go test it out for yourself.”
Albania getting a nickname “the country of bunkers”, isn’t all about the dark communist past. In fact, tourism in Albania is blooming. Read the experience of the Telegraph travel writer Chris Leadbeater.
Radhime Beach Albania
Credits: Albania Holidays

Albania:  ‘Where was the concrete brutality I had assumed to be total?’
Just below the lounge, with its cushions and coffee pots, I could see several short flights of stairs descending carefully towards the sea. I followed them, past the swimming pool, down the cliff-face to the beach. Although it was still relatively early, just after 9am, a group of young guests was already stationed on the shingle.
One of them decided that her time had come and, fixing her brown hair in a ponytail, took a running leap from the rocks. Momentarily, I lost her, her outline devoured by the swarthy green of the Karaburun Peninsula beyond. But then she landed with a giant splash, surfaced with a smile – and, letting out a whoop of unfettered glee, demanded that her friends join her. They required no second invitation.
It was a scene that could have been staged on a hot afternoon on the Italian Riviera – the boutique retreat, the youthful abandon, the private beach, the decadent beauty of the setting. Indeed, the comparison might not be so far-fetched. At this point on the map – the crooked elbow where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet – Italy is just 60 miles west. But the Hotel Liro does not sit in Puglia – or, indeed Liguria. It is tucked into the shore at Radhimë, just outside the city of Vlorë in southern Albania, where preconceptions linger.
Mine included. I had travelled to one of Europe’s last “hidden” destinations, well aware of its past and its image – the half-century of Communist rule which endured until 1992; a reputation for breeze-block hotels rearing in unlovely fashion over dull sands. I had found the latter, not least in second city Durrës, with its humdrum high-rises at the water’s edge.
But I had found something else, too. Although Albania built badly in the domestic tourism boom which followed the parting of its Iron Curtain, it left alone much of the lower half of its 296 miles of coastline. Radhimë feels unspoiled, chic even. As does little Orikum beyond it, where the landmass kicks up, forcing travellers over the twisting Llogara Pass, the road chasing its tail towards Saranda and the Greek border – elevated viewpoints showing a gorgeously unsullied panorama, mountains plunging steeply to surf and spray. Where was the concrete brutality I had assumed to be total? Not here.

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13 February 2018

Albania among destinations that you should visit in 2018 - GEO De

Albania is true rough diamond,- writes the German travel magazine ‘GEO De’.
GEO is Europe's leading magazine for large reportage (in text and image) promoting destinations. On their recently inspirations trends about destinations that tourists should visit in 2018 they have listed Albania among 10 places.
The Albanian Riviera is becoming popular thanks to prestigious media and travel influencers who continuously promoted this unspoiled beauty.  
Photo: rh2010 / Fotolia

‘In search of barely visited wild beaches, more and more tourists are invading the Balkans. Croatia has been experiencing a tourist renaissance for years, and neighboring countries such as Montenegro are also benefiting. No wonder, then, that the view is even farther south, and there is really a true rough diamond with Albania. The Albanian Riviera is still considered the Cinderella among the famous sisters, but that's what makes it so special. No large hotel complexes, hardly any tourist infrastructure and unspoiled coastlines awaken the spirit of discovery of all those who prefer authenticity rather than comfort.
About 200 kilometers beyond the capital Tirana, the road leads over 1000 meters to the Mediterranean. The Albanian Riviera stretches for about one hundred kilometers from the Llogara Pass to the archaeological sites of the 3000-year-old Butrint in the very south just before the Greek border. And in between are beach pearls like Gjipe (picture) or Kakome, which are best discovered on a road trip.’


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12 February 2018

Albania reborn: What to see and do in Europe’s newest holiday hotspot- Daily Express

“So rich in treasures and sensational sights, everyone has wanted a piece of Albania over the centuries. Maisha Frost discovers a mysterious beauty coming out of the shadows and longing to welcome the world.” This is how the renowned British media “Daily Express” describes Albania in a long article.
Every first time visitor in Albania is impressed by so many things that you can find attractive and worth a visit in this forgotten corner of Europe.
Kruja citadel: Getty Images

“Ancient Greeks, then jeweler-loving Illyrians, the ancestors of many of today’s Albanians, were followed by Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans who all seized, settled and surrendered here in a relentless game of thrones.
Today’s democratic Albania is transforming fast in other ways: the power blackouts and potholes are in retreat and the young as stylish as their European counterparts. Few too would have predicted the land’s dividend from a failed state that never saw through its plans for collective farms. Albania’s small family-run farms stayed largely pesticide-free and its wildernesses untouched.  Today that means organic havens for produce and wildlife, a place for taste delighting foodies and ramblers, with lots for the locals to shout about.
What to see in Albania:
Tirana - Capital of many colours
The capital Tirana is lively and safe, but with an understated, surreal side that often leaves visitors wondering what to make of it.
Part Mediterranean town, part Soviet relic its rainbow-coloured apartment blocks, painted on the orders of a former mayor to bring some cheer, are more faded pastel these days.
For good reason perhaps Tirana’s citizens seem to have a Pythonesque talent for looking on the bright side of life. Ask them about Albania’s reputation as a gangster factory and they promise – only half joking - “there’s no trouble here, we’ve exported all the criminals”.
The city’s cultural highlights include a triumphalist history mural guarding the entrance to the classical artefact-packed national museum and the pretty 18th century Et’hem Bey mosque’s minaret and rare floral mosaics.
 
Tirana: Getty Images
Kruja: A land of thrones
More weird and wonderful Albania unfolds during the hour’s drive from Tirana to the medieval citadel of Kruja.
Vacant buildings in various stages of abandonment stand beside the highway, some half built or decaying shells and some brand new but desolate and often for sale.
Through a great stone archway lies a long bazaar, its low, long-eaved timbered houses and busy cobbled alleyways a lot like an episode from the TV medieval fantasy.
Beautiful Berat
South of Tirana a great gorge splits the mountains and you come to Unesco world heritage site and Albania’s poster girl Berat.
Dating back to the 4th century BC, the city’s seven-arch Gorica bridge, a favourite Ottoman masterpiece, spans the Osum river and tiers of white gabled houses climb steep cliffs to its citadel.
There towering walls form a hilltop cradle for ancient mosques and eight medieval churches, one housing a stunning collection of icons by 16th century master Onufri, famous for the luscious ruby coloured paint he used.
Berat- Maisha Frost

Wilderness walks and ancient ways
Wild nature is never far away in Albania and as I followed herders’ trails for a morning’s ramble in the sweet air high in the hills above Berat I was surrounded by slopes thick with poppies, campion, delicate blue lilies and wild orchids peeping among the tall grasses.
The crowds have not caught up yet either with the country’s archaeological sites, rated among the best in Europe.
Layers of history are densely packed in Durres, the port city and transit point for the ancient Via Egnatia route to the west of Tirana.
Although this does not have the manicured magnificence of Rome’s Colosseum, the stark suburban setting and details like the pens for lions and the steps deliberately made uneven for crowd control made me more aware somehow of history’s relentless tide.
Different again is pastoral Apollonia, a remote Pompeii-without-the-people hilltop site dating from 588 BC that was once a Greek city state served by slaves and then a Roman cultural centre.
At the entrance a Byzantine monastery’s stone walled galleries are dripping with classic bronzes, busts, vases and coins and across the cobbles gargoyles erupt from a 13th century frescoed church.
As I wandered deeper among its towering ancient pillars and olive groves, red rump swallows and bee eaters flitted by and I was suddenly in a moment only Albania could deliver.
In the distance rose the outlines of a mosque’s minaret and the hump of a bunker, then an unseen church bell began to toll.
Scenic view of Albania
Photo: Maisha Frost
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06 February 2018

Albania has the beauty of Switzerland and old-centuries unique traditions

The centuries-old traditions live together with the memories of the Communist era. This mix of both and the nature's beauty compared to Switzerland make Albania an exciting attraction for those arriving from the far north” - writes ‘Turizmus, a Hungarian tourism portal.
Turizmus praise the potentials of Albania regarding tourism, as they refer to several Scandinavian articles about Albania.
Photo: foldersmagazin.hu

“Residents and leaders of this beautiful country today do not yet know what it means when mass tourism starts. Even a couple of years and as the fast foods spread and open to the many star hotels, it happens.  Recently, in Scandinavian newspapers, we can see more and more stories about Albania as travel destination.
The capital, Tirana is not a metropolis such as Berlin, and it does not look like Budapest, "notes the author," but the mingling of minarets and concrete cubes, the hospital men offering of raki, is an exotic mix.
And here it is really all about home, in Albania you will find delicious food taken straight from farms of the villagers.

Read the original article here

05 February 2018

Albania is a voyage of discovery, an unknown part of Europe

“Albania is a voyage of discovery, an unknown part of Europe”, writes Kurier, an Austrian daily newspaper based in Vienna.
Photo: /Manfred Ruthner
Albania opens up for all culture-interested. The hotels offer good comfort while culinary will not disappoint you as you taste the combination of Italian, Greek and Turkish cuisine.
Albania is a great package offering, magnificent landscapes, and precious cultural assets.
‘Kurier’ writes a long article describing the turbulent history of Albania, and how this country shines as must -tourist destination.
“Only a few decades ago, little was known about Albania. Visitors came sporadically and only on special occasions, such as the football World Cup qualifier in December 1980. There were no  football fans coming at that time, only a few journalists had arrived and were brought from the airport to the center of Tirana. But since the turn of the century in 1990, the country has undergone a tremendous development.
The ancient history of Albania is one of the main things that attracts visitors in Albania. From Roman heritage, UNESCO Sites to unspoiled beaches Albania will impress in each corner.
 
Photo: /Manfred Ruthner
The heritage of the Romans
The tourist treasure of Albania is located outside the capital, where grandiose landscapes and precious cultural assets await. On the way to the coast you pass Apollonia, a vast excavation field that invites you for a walk between the reconstructed parts of a Roman temple and the theater. In antiquity, the city was still accessible by ship and economically significant, but after an earthquake in the 4th Century silted up the port.
With the port city of Vlora you can reach the Adriatic Sea. Only recently, the promenade was opened with magnificent palm alley on "Lungomare".  Still, the beach chairs in front of the new hotels are unused in the sand and waiting for guests. In 1911, the declaration of independence of Albania from the Ottoman Empire took place in Vlora; Relics, pictures and documents can be admired in the Museum of Independence.
 
Photo: /Manfred Ruthner
Albania Riviera
Immediately behind Vlora, the landscape becomes more contemplative and the coastal road becomes curvier. Again and again, it opens the view to small bays, where pebble beach and turquoise iridescent water lure. Here runs the border between the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea. In tight serpentines you get on the Llogara Pass. At 1,000 meters above sea level there is a spectacular view: along its entire length the Albanian Riviera spreads, olive groves and orange groves form a delightful setting for the bright pebble beaches. At the observation deck, a paraglider is getting ready. A quick start, and the thermal already captures its glider and carries it out in wide curves along the coast. Down the beach you can see a construction site - soon the guests will be able to move into the resort.

There are hardly any cars on the panoramic road to the south and dozens of people on the bike. No locals, however, but tourists from the US, who enjoy the view on the low-traffic route at autumnal pleasant temperatures. In the distance you can see the island of Corfu.
Opposite the mainland, in the southernmost part of Albania, lies the Natural Park of Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, probably the most important in Albania. An avenue of eucalyptus trees forms the entrance, then opens the view of the well-preserved Greek theater. For hours you can go exploring in the park under shady trees. Particularly interesting are the remains of a temple, the ruins of a Byzantine basilica from the 6th century with remains of a beautiful mosaic floor and the findings exhibited in the museum.
Gjirokastra
 There is the next UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gjirokastra, the "stone city". Climbing steep cobbled lanes leads to the castle, past small shops selling embroidery, small stone-carved artwork and other souvenirs. The fort houses the National Arms Museum, which houses a remarkable collection from the period between 1912 and World War II. The view of the old town is impressive. All roofs are covered with flagstones, which are abundant in the mountainous environment.
Berat
The road to the north from here is well developed and crosses one of the most scenic sections of Albania. Wide, untamed river valleys with weathered bridges and an impressive mountain backdrop evoke memories of Karl May's novel "Through the Kingdom of Skipetars". Soon Berat is reached, one of the oldest cities in Albania. The castle district on a hill consists of numerous houses, most are still inhabited, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they are under special protection. A former cathedral is used as a museum. Impressive is the precious icon wall with scenes from the life of Jesus and the twelve apostles and saints. Below the castle is the district Mangalem, also called "city of a thousand windows", with mosques and fascinating old houses.
Photo: /Manfred Ruthner

Kruja

High on a steep mountain slope lies the city of Kruja, which is inextricably linked to the history of Albania. From here, the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg led a successful fight against the Turkish army. In the castle, the very turbulent history of Albania is graphically traced. When you look from the top, you can already see the suburbs of Tirana, the final destination. On entering the capital, you can still see depressing prefabricated buildings, relics from the communist era. But the center presents itself as metropolitan, with a broad boulevard that runs between government buildings in Mussolini architecture and well-kept parks and finally flows into the Skanderbeg Square with opera and cultural palace from the 1960s.

Read original article: https://kurier.at/reise/auf-entdeckungsreise-durch-albanien/308.080.481