Things we learnt from our first night in the Valbona Valley. The silence at night is eerie, and it gets really dark.
Not surprisingly, we slept well and slept in too as breakfast was at 8am. Sheep cheese, local honey, fig and plum jam, freshly baked bread and pancakes.
Our transport this morning was this awesome yellow thing, which somehow still works. We all loved it!
The drive was a short one. Which was a shame. I think we would all have liked to spend more time in our yellow van… but maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t.
We crossed a dry riverbed, and started to climb. Our three-hour walk took us deep into the remote valley of the Valbona Valley national park. The climb was slow, but we made good progress. Surrounded by high mountain peaks, the landscape is alpine. Green meadows, wild flowers, traditional homes and farmlands. Most houses around here have their own plot where all family members are buried. We had bird song for company, as well as butterflies, beetles, lizards and someone spotted a snake.
We foraged tiny wild strawberries and raspberries, which tasted heavenly.
It was a gentle walk – both the ankle and the knee held up so that was good news.
On the way back, we stopped in someone’s house for drinks. Andy had a Turkish coffee (strong and thick) and I had mountain tea. The tea is made with a natural plant we’d seen on our walk – a kind of chamomile.
Continuing down, we came across the abandoned post office, which in recent years was used by the mountain police – the high peaks are the border with Montenegro. In the village, we saw a few other abandoned houses and a couple of bunkers. I make it that I’ve now seen four bunkers, maybe five… so… only another 699,995 to go. Yep, Albania has a lot of bunkers.
Lunch was a relaxed affair at Tradita restaurant. One of those long stretched out meals in the shade. We were there for over two hours I’d say. And we tried a lot of things. The usual salad (cucumber, tomatoes, salad and olives); bread; grilled corn bread; chips; locally made yogurt (slightly sour); cheese; polenta and cheese; spinach byrek… So tasty. Lager for me, and local white wine for Andy (he will learn… eventually).
Back at Villa Dini for a rest.
At 5:30pm, we went to the house of a village elder. We sat under a tree, and we asked questions, many questions, about life in the village and the changes he’s seen over the last twenty years. His wife joined us. They’ve been married 64 years and they seemed very happy together, sneaking smiles every so often. They were very welcoming. And the raki came out. Homemade plum raki. Strong rough stuff. And fresh cheese. So good.
Dinner was a lengthy affair. We all got a little giggly.