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Five things I discovered this week

Five things I discovered this week

By Alice Elizabeth Taylor As an expat living in Albania, every day is full of new experiences and discoveries. I love to walk around the streets soaking up the atmosphere, meeting new people, and venturing down random alleys taking photos as

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Illegal hunting present even in protected areas, monitoring shows

Illegal hunting present even in protected areas, monitoring shows

TIRANA, April 18 – A German researcher assessing the effectiveness of the hunting ban that Albania has been applying for the past four years has collected evidence proving that illegal hunting in Albania continues even in protected areas although the

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Curly Pelican, the Karavasta Lagoon’s landmark bird

Curly Pelican, the Karavasta Lagoon’s landmark bird

The Curly Pelican, also known as the Dalmatian Pelican, is one of Albania’s best-known wildlife species. What makes the local Curly Pelican special is that its nesting spot at the Karavasta Lagoon, 90km south of the capital Tirana, represents the

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Tujani Canyon, Tirana’s hidden gem

Tujani Canyon, Tirana’s hidden gem

This amazing canyon is located in the vicinity of Tirana, right on the gorge between Tujan and Brrari Mountain. The river that has formed this canyon for thousands of years, is called the ‘River of Tirana’ also known as the

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The road rarely taken

The road rarely taken

By Sidonja Manushi  “Upon entering these mountains, I asked the first highlander I met: — what are you!? – Albanian, he answered. I had asked the same question in other places, and they’d replied ‘I am Catholic, I am Muslim,

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Albania beats established destinations to rate safe 2018 destination for Britons

Albania beats established destinations to rate safe 2018 destination for Britons

TIRANA, March 15 – Albania has been placed on the list of safe countries for Britons to visit for 2018 at a time when major destinations face severe to likely terror threats, according to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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Robert D. Kaplan: Europe, the US and early-stage globalization

Robert D. Kaplan: Europe, the US and early-stage globalization

By Sidonja Manushi The first time Robert D. Kaplan was in Albania, the country was still isolated, deprived and unknown. Although communism was in its final throes, it had not officially fallen, and so nobody from the West had been

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Turkey turns into top destination as record 100,000 Albanians travelled in 2017

Turkey turns into top destination as record 100,000 Albanians travelled in 2017

TIRANA, March 8 – A record of more than 100,000 Albanians visited Turkey last year, making it one of the top travel destinations, especially for the summer vacations. Data published by Turkey’s tourism ministry shows 103,600 Albanians visited Turkey during

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Stefano Boeri Architetti’s new public schools will be open every day of the year in Tirana

Stefano Boeri Architetti’s new public schools will be open every day of the year in Tirana

Italian architect Stefano Boeri’s firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has unveiled plans for new three public schools which aim to increase a social value and every-day use in educational institutions in Tirana, Albania – it will possibly be a new educational

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Environmental experts warn forest degradation is worsening with lack of legal framework

Environmental experts warn forest degradation is worsening with lack of legal framework

TIRANA, Feb. 24 – Forestry experts have expressed concerns regarding environmental reforms, while forest degradation in Albania continues in alarming rates, according to them. In many of the municipalities in charge of forest surfaces, forestry and environmental experts have been

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                    [post_content] => By Alice Elizabeth Taylor

As an expat living in Albania, every day is full of new experiences and discoveries. I love to walk around the streets soaking up the atmosphere, meeting new people, and venturing down random alleys taking photos as I go. There is very rarely a dull moment in my life and these are some of the most interesting things I have experienced over the last seven days.

Kabuni

Last weekend my mother visited Albania for a holiday and we took an overnight trip to Kruje. In search of something sweet to satiate my hunger after climbing up to Kruje Castle, I was given the opportunity to try a local speciality- kabuni. A traditional Albanian dish, popular in Kruje, it is maid from rice fried in butter with raisins, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and wait for it…lamb. Yes, lamb in a sweet dessert. I must admit that I was rather surprised at this combination of ingredients, and more than a little dubious, but as a lover of all things food, I decided to take the plunge. It was as to be expected- unusual and completely alien to the British palette, but it was tasty nonetheless. Did I like it? Yes. Would I eat it again? Maybe not. But I definitely recommend trying it if you have the chance.

The best of Albanian wine

My love affair with wine is my longest and most meaningful relationship and as such, I was keen to find out more about what Albanian grapes have to offer. I have drunk my fair share in the six months I have been here but I know very little about it other than the colour. I got in touch with founder of the Albanian Sommelier Association, Dashamir Elezi who I was told knows everything that there is to know about Albanian wine. I was lucky enough to try out some of his all-time favourites and I now feel that I can order a nice wine with confidence and ease, next time the situation arises. My favourites were: Kallmeti Kallmet 2016, Syrah Balaj, and the Kantina Bardha- Sheshi I Bardhe- a truly delicious white wine.

Oda Restaurant

After a long day of sightseeing with my mother, we descended upon Oda restaurant not far from the New Bazaar. Laid out like a typical and traditional Albanian home/restaurant, it even has Turkish toilets which was a bit of a shock for my 74-year-old parent. Run by a team of all-women, they are incredibly friendly and helpful, and the food was to die for. Whilst it appears to be aimed predominantly at tourists, the food is so well priced and authentic that I would recommend everyone goes for a visit. We had a leg of lamb which melted off the bone, accompanied with stuffed peppers and eggplants, and a vat of delicious homemade red wine. I will be returning!

Tea Spot

Being British, I was brought up on a diet of tea and with the ethos that a good ol’ cuppa is the cure for pretty much everything. Substitute “tea” for “raki” and an Albanian would begin to be able to grasp how deep our love affair with this drink goes. Whilst I am not a huge fan of the typical tea with milk (blasphemous I know), I do love herbal and flavoured teas. I had been looking unsuccessfully in Tirana for lapsang souchong for a while, as not only do I love its smoky flavour, but it is nice in certain cocktails and as a seasoning for chicken as well. Then, during my adventures I stumbled across the Tea Spot- a small tea emporium with jars of tea stacked from the floor to the ceiling. This is my new favourite place and I intend on trying as much of the delicious teas as possible. If you love tea and are in Tirana, be sure to check it out.

Free Flow Yoga

Being a freelance writer and working from home means that I often have to force myself to get up, go outside, and most importantly do some exercise. Unfortunately typing doesn’t burn off many calories and never-ending deadlines sometimes leave me in a less than favourable mood. It was then that I decided to peel myself away from my laptop and make an effort to do some physical exercise, so I joined Free Flow Yoga located just near the new stadium. The teachers are super friendly, the classes are focussed on dynamic, leg shaking, stomach muscle aching moves, and the ladies that attend are from all over the world, as well as being super friendly. I feel more limber, healthier, and every so slightly more Zen, which can only be a good thing. [post_title] => Five things I discovered this week [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => five-things-i-discovered-this-week [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-27 10:30:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-27 08:30:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136840 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136668 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-18 14:32:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-18 12:32:56 [post_content] => TIRANA, April 18 – A German researcher assessing the effectiveness of the hunting ban that Albania has been applying for the past four years has collected evidence proving that illegal hunting in Albania continues even in protected areas although the cases identified are sporadic and significantly lower compared to early 2014 when Albania imposed the ban. Hunters carrying rifles and hunting dogs caught on camera traps as well as gunshots heard and cartridges found in field inspections prove that hunting ban, initially scheduled for only two years but later extended for another five years until 2021, is only working in protected areas where controls are conducted regularly. "That was only the case in the protected areas that received additional training and financial support by national NGOs and international organizations and where the leading structures were incorruptible and qualified," says German researcher Daniel Ruppert who monitored six Albanian sites, four of which with a protection status, in the final quarter of 2017. Only the Divjaka-Karavasta and the Prespa national parks in south and south-eastern Albania showed good results in the implementation of the hunting ban with almost no hunting activity observed or reported from October to December 2017. Assisted by Albanian environmental NGOs, the German researcher managed to obtain evidence of ongoing illegal hunting in the northern Albania Shkodra Lake and Nikaj-Mertur nature parks where pictures of hunted wild boars, often damaging the local villagers field crops, are featured. The endangered Dalmatian Pelican, Balkan Lynx and the Otter, whose population during almost a quarter of a century of massive illegal hunting have sharply reduced, are some of the species that breed in those parks. Meanwhile, hunting in the Nivica southern Albania highlands, home to the critically endangered species, goes on as usual for locals with the ban having only curbed hunters from outside the region. The same rule also applies in Shala, in the outskirts of the northern region, where the hunting ban goes unpunished and locals hunt untroubled with hunting dogs, locally known as zagar. Both Nivica and Shala are unprotected areas but home to endangered species, such as the Egyptian vulture and the Balkan lynx. In his SWAT analysis, the German researcher identifies lack of financial resources and equipment by the state structures as the key weakness to the implementation of the full-scale seven-year hunting ban, which he describes as the world's longest. In addition, a draft law compiled by the Albanian National Federation for Hunting and Conservation aimed at lifting the ban and giving them the main responsibility to manage and monitor hunting is described as the key threat to preserving endangered species in the country. Albania has about 15,000 hunters while about 150,000 illegal firearms are believed to be in circulation, the major part of which looted from army depots following the 1997 civil unrest triggered by the collapse of pyramid investment schemes where Albanians lost more than a billion dollars in savings. Experts say the 2015 territorial reform and the decentralization of the forest management shifting the hunting administration to local government units have created overlapping responsibilities, increasing the risk for the unsustainable use of natural resources due to lack of knowledge, education, capacities, and short-term interests. An expert quoted in the report even doubted the motivation of the government to enforce the ban, saying people in power like judges and governmental officials still engage in hunting activities. The research paper also identified cases of illegal logging, despite a 10-year moratorium in place since 2016. Albanian environmental watchdogs have earlier warned animal abuse and illegal hunting in the country continue despite moratoriums in place to protect endangered fauna species and declining forest areas. Environmental watchdogs identified 25 cases of abuse in 2017, mainly related to illegal hunting and logging and animals held in captivity, also taking place in protected areas. Dozens of other unreported cases are estimated to have taken place as a considerable number of the identified abuses were advertised as trophies on social networks by perpetrators themselves, apparently unaware of the legal consequences that include heavy fines and even imprisonment. Brown hares and bears being killed and advertised as trophies on social networks or endangered species such as the Balkan Lynx kept embalmed at restaurant bars in addition to caged bear cubs held in captivity are some of the cases the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) watchdog has identified on its dedicated syrigjelber.info portal serving as a hotline to report cases of abuse. [post_title] => Illegal hunting present even in protected areas, monitoring shows [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => illegal-hunting-present-even-in-protected-areas-monitoring-shows [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-18 14:32:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-18 12:32:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136668 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136591 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-12 13:42:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-12 11:42:52 [post_content] => The Curly Pelican, also known as the Dalmatian Pelican, is one of Albania's best-known wildlife species. What makes the local Curly Pelican special is that its nesting spot at the Karavasta Lagoon, 90km south of the capital Tirana, represents the most westward site of this pelican's European habitat, says Albania’s National Tourism Agency. Tour operators suggest observing these pelicans in boat trips near the island where they usually perch. Inside the lagoon, there is a small sandy island where flocks of pelicans typically come together. The Curly Pelican is considered an endangered species and the numbers of this bird continue to decrease worldwide. About 5 percent of the entire worldwide population of the Curly Pelican breed at the Karavasta Lagoon, which has been under the Ramsar Convention protection since 1994. The Lagoon has a surface of 4,330 ha and is the largest lagoon of the Albanian coast and one of the largest along the Adriatic. Soft and wild pines dominate the lagoon where the large crown pines stand out. The multistory forest is very rich in herbals and tall woods. The nearby Divjaka sea sand is rich in iodine and temperatures above 20 degree Celsius start from the second half of May and continue until the beginning of October. The site is national park where beach activities mix with eco-tourism. In this ecosystem, there are 210 kinds of birds, 12 kinds of mammals and 16 kinds of reptiles. Lagoon waters of about 1.5 meters deep are rich in fish, especially mullet and eel, which are served in many restaurants on the Divjaka beach. The flora of the National Park of Divjaka is famous for its beauty and special freshness.   Bird watching tour Lonely Planet, which in 2011 placed Albania as the number one global destination to visit, suggests the Divjake-Karavasta national park as the top destination for tourists taking bird-watching tours in the wetland areas of Albania’s Adriatic coast. According to the Albanian Ornithological Society, which also runs bird-watching tours, Karavasta offers shelter to more than 245 species of birds. Albania is home to an impressive number of species of birds that vary from residents, that stay all year around, to breeding birds that spend a good part of the growing season in the country to raise their young, migrants who pass through the country with the seasons, to wintering birds who like to spend a good part of the winter in Albanian to escape colder conditions up north. One of the most special species is the Dalmatian pelican in the Karavasta lagoon where only a few dozen have survived in the past two decades due to illegal hunting. Albania has banned hunting since 2014 in a bid to put an end to uncontrolled and illegal hunting, which has decimated wildlife populations in the country over the last two and a half decades after the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s. The current ban is valid until 2021.   Development project opposed  Last year, a proposed billion dollar mass tourism resort at the Karavasta Lagoon triggered strong reaction by Albanian environmentalists worried over the development project, putting at risk the local ecosystem and its flora and fauna, including the already endangered Dalmatian Pelican population. The Kosovo company which proposed the project seems to have temporarily withdrawn from its development plans following strong public reaction. “The company is seeking to occupy about 12 km of coastline for an amount of only 1 Euro and planning to build 2,400 apartments, 370 villas, a 90-hectare tourist resort and a town for 18,000 residents, almost double compared to population of Divjaka town spanning in a much bigger area,” environmental NGOs  warned last year about the proposed development project at the protected national park. The Divjaka-Karavasta national park spans over a surface of 22,230 hectares offering a variety of habitats such as a river delta, lagoons, sand dunes and rich flora and fauna. The park is also known for its sandy beaches, pine forests and trekking. [post_title] => Curly Pelican, the Karavasta Lagoon’s landmark bird [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => curly-pelican-the-karavasta-lagoons-landmark-bird [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-12 13:42:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-12 11:42:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136591 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136524 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-06 09:51:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-06 07:51:17 [post_content] => This amazing canyon is located in the vicinity of Tirana, right on the gorge between Tujan and Brrari Mountain. The river that has formed this canyon for thousands of years, is called the ‘River of Tirana’ also known as the Brrari River in the village of Brrar, some 9 km outside Tirana. Its waters originate from Mali me Gropa (Mountain with Holes) and flows to the Erzen River. The canyon is 1.2 km long and during its path forms cavities, small cataracts, holes etc., creating an interesting terrain for those who prefer exploring it. The canyon is located along the ancient ‘Arbri Road’ that used to connect central Albania to present-day Macedonia. Those who prefer mountain walking should take the Old Arbri Road which offers an amazing experience, tour operators say. “Although there are no road signs, local guides can help. The road to Tujani from Tirana passes to Shishtufinë and continues to the village of Brrar. Most of the road is paved,” says the visit-tirana portal. In addition to Tujani, the village of Pellumbas and its famous cave close to the Erzeni Canyon, some 25 km southeast the capital city, have become a popular sites for Albanian and international hikers and adventure travelers in recent years. The nearby Erzeni Canyon is also a spectacular destination with stunning views and waterfalls, also a perfect place to bathe and swim in summer. Represented by mountain hiking and rafting along canyons, Albania’s adventure tourism is also gaining popularity among European adventurers seeking new challenges in emerging destinations. Last year, U.S.-based Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) placed Albania as one of the three destinations added to the top adventure travel destinations along with Cuba and Portugal. Several outdoor tour operators in the country offer hiking, rafting, biking, horse riding and birds watching adventures in the country, while cross-border tourism is gaining an upper hand with the opening of some mountain hiking trails such as the ancient Via Egnatia linking Rome to Byzantium, the present-day Istanbul, crossing through Albania and Macedonia. [post_title] => Tujani Canyon, Tirana’s hidden gem [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tujani-canyon-tiranas-hidden-gem [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-06 09:51:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-06 07:51:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136524 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136418 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-03-30 12:37:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-30 10:37:41 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_136420" align="alignright" width="300"]tropo Valbona River Valley. Photos: Sidonja Manushi[/caption] By Sidonja Manushi  “Upon entering these mountains, I asked the first highlander I met: -- what are you!? – Albanian, he answered. I had asked the same question in other places, and they’d replied ‘I am Catholic, I am Muslim, I am Orthodox…” This was Edith Durham’s, British traveler, writer and artist who became famous for her anthropological accounts of life in Albania during the early 20th century, initial description of the country’s northern tradition, behavior and loyalty upon visiting Tropoja in 1904. Before the majority of Albania’s destroyed, underdeveloped and forgotten roads were repaired, it would take one a whole day to reach the town of Bajram Curri, in Tropoja. Traveling time has now decreased to 7 hours if you’re traveling by bus, and 6 hours if you’re traveling by car. Even with better infrastructure, the country’s mountainous, harsh, unforgiving northern terrain remains full of twists and turns, ups and downs, so much so that it feels you’re taking a journey abroad, rather than in your own country. Most drivers choose to reach Tropoja via Kosovo’s Gjakova town – a mere 60km distance from it. It is easier, in terms of terrain, to exit Albania and re-enter it from Gjakova than it is to cross its snake-like roads all the way to the country’s northern peak. As with most traveling methods in Albania, taking a minibus is moderately uncomfortable, but if you really want to experience the country’s essence, its people and its mentality, that is the only way to do it. The minibus ride to Tropoja is full of locals – highlanders, as Durham and Albanians from other areas call them. They are easily noticeable, especially when they speak, due to their strong dialect and fast comebacks. Their dialect is not their most noteworthy trait though – as with most Albanians, it is their predisposition to go above and beyond for visitors that makes them special. This was apparent from the first hours of the bus ride; a girl forgetting her winter jacket at a bar on the way to Tropoja resulted in the entire minibus coming up with solutions to help, from ordering the driver to go back despite the lost time, to offering their own jackets to this newcomer who would most certainly freeze in a town where spring takes longer to come than usual. The border crossing from Kosovo’s Gjakova to Albania is a great altitude contrast. The traveler gradually leaves Tirana and other major cities behind for countryside landscapes and then enters Kosovo which, though offering a great view of the mountains in the distance, is dominated by fields on all sides. The Qafe Morina border crossing is the first peek to what is coming – an inhabited area which, if you are not visiting with a specific purpose, chances are you won’t happen to simply pass by it. Located in the south-east of the Albanian northern Alps, the town of Bajram Curri – a sort of epicenter in the district – seems to have been built diagonally, down the valley of the river Valbona. It is also the only getaway to the Valbona Valley and Koman Lake – both must-see touristic attractions in the Kukes region. Despite its close proximity to these renowned natural Albanian sights, the town itself is little-known, and even less visited. Remote and isolated among mountains whose peaks get lost in gray clouds, Bajram Curri, named after Albanian chieftain, politician and activist who struggled for the independence of Albania and later for Kosovo’s incorporation into it, and the entire Tropoja district have still managed to father some of the country’s famous historical figures – Bajram Curri, Mic Sokoli, and even former Democrat Prime Minister Sali Berisha and democracy figure of the 90s, assassinated politician Azem Hajdari. One can cross the entire city of Bajram Curr within 20 minutes. Four landmarks marks its most extreme points – the town’s hospital and emergency ward, its high school, its municipality building and the sport’s hall, the closest thing in the town resembling modern architecture. Apartment blocks can be counted with the fingers of one hand, while private, stone-tiled and low houses are plenty, traditionally looking humble and predisposed to offer the best view of the mountains, lying wherever the eye can see. The cafés and restaurants are similarly small, mostly filled with men drinking the traditional raki and coffee. It is difficult to say whether the considerably smaller number of women around is due to patriarchal norms still remaining or the lack of social activities in the no-more-than-5000-people town, especially in the end of winter. Yet, the traditions for which the whole country knows the region for are still present, possibly due to this natural geographical isolation. Last year, Tropoja’s chestnuts were qualified as the only kind in the country that met export criteria to EU countries, as they are bigger and sweeter. Experts have contributed this to the good mountainous climate. This does not come as a surprise when you visit Bajram Curr and you taste the home-made jams and the pie-like delicacy named fli, traditionally made for the pagan feast of the Mountain Range dinner, celebrated every last Wednesday of August. The same goes for the salty cabbages, which come as an extra with every serving, and which you learn to love before you know it. There’s even a ‘cabbage sweet’ to be tasted, but that is actually made of chestnut flour, walnuts, butter and fli layers. The region is mainly Muslim, but within Albania it’s actually better known for its magical folklore – which has also contributed to the country’s mythology literature – including Mrizet e Zanave, of Cikli i Kreshnikeve (Albanian Songs of the Frontier Warriors), and their more ancient pagan roots. According to the myths, Mrizet are long oak shadows, usually close to a water source which offer rest and a break. Locals believes that mythological creatures like Zanas and Oras lived and rested there, dressed in white and protecting each person assigned to them – usually the Frontier Warriors – but also very dangerous in case they were disrespected. The way to the Valbona Valley – a 25 min ride by car – offers, to this day, a chance to see the landscapes that inspired such folklore and to even pictures zanas (also a very popular Albanian name meaning fairy) coming out of the caves in the mountains next to which the blue Valbona River passes. The folklore’s traditionally tall and brave warriors and highlanders are also associated with the region’s dances, for which it has even been awarded prizes in Gjirokaster, Ohrid, Kosovo and elsewhere through the years. Tropoja’s mountain dances are known for their rhythm, energy and active dynamic between dancers. The names of the dances, some danced by men and others by women, are worth a moment of fame of their own with translations like Tropoja’s Dance, Sokoli’s Dance, Dance with the Tray, Dance of Eagles, Dance of Swords, etc. Today Tropoja, like many other isolated Albanian regions, suffers from youth migration. Most of the region’s teens are part of the wider trend of illegally migrating to European countries and trying to make it without any financial or social support. Coupled with the nation-wide decreasing numbers of child birth, towns’ like Bajram Curr populations keep dropping drastically and with them, a big part of Albanian heritage. Fatimja, an elementary school teacher on the way to Bajram Curr, said grades from first to fifth have been taught collectively in the past five years, because there’s always less and less children coming in. A part of the efforts to not allow these parts of Albania die out would be investing in the region’s mountain tourism capacity more, by extending hiking routes and traditional cultural activities in the summer further than just Valbona and Theth. Attention could also be given to increased farming capacities and export volume, at least with neighboring Montenegro, Kosovo, for traditional agricultural and culinary products and hiring initiatives for the youth that is running away, either to Tirana or other countries. A number of cross-border Albanian and Kosovo projects funded by the EU are actually trying to do the above-mentioned currently, either by implementing programs that offer youth training and possibilities for employment or developing the region’s tourism and culture. These efforts however sometimes face regulations such as the new first toll launched by the government only a few days ago – and the protests against which we witnessed in the minivan ride back to Tirana – ranging from €2.5 to €22.5 and discouraging the residents of the entire Kukes region, who, belonging in one of the country’s poorest areas, fear isolation as long as no tax incentives are provided to them. Bajram Curr and the entire northern region of Albania are beautiful because, apart from being what they are, with all their good and harsher parts, and what they were, with all its glory and magic, they also let you peek on what they could be, if paid attention to and that is a beautiful sight. [post_title] => The road rarely taken [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-road-rarely-taken [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-23 09:55:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-23 07:55:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136418 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136201 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-03-15 17:33:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-15 16:33:05 [post_content] => TIRANA, March 15 – Albania has been placed on the list of safe countries for Britons to visit for 2018 at a time when major destinations face severe to likely terror threats, according to the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice. Albania is rated as a country where terror can't be ruled out compared to established destinations such as France and Turkey where the terror threat is ‘very likely’ and Spain and Italy with a ‘likely’ terror threat and where tourists are advised to be vigilant. The countries on the ‘Terror can't be ruled out’ list such as Albania can be considered safe choices, so pack your bags and have a safe 2018 summer holiday, writes the UK's Daily Express on its online version. Over 80,000 British nationals visit Albania every year with most visits being trouble-free, says the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which assesses the risks of terrorism, civil unrest and natural disasters to advise against travel to countries or regions. “Public security is generally good, particularly in Tirana. Crime and violence does occur in some areas, but is not typically targeted at foreigners,” says the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. "Terrorist attacks in Albania can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including places visited by foreigners," it adds. Although the country has been immune to terrorist attacks until now and as of 2015 there have been no new reported cases of Albanians joining the so-called Islamic State, ISIS, attacks in Western countries and Turkey and the Middle East seem to have frightened Albanians. About half of the Albanian respondents in the World Economic Forum’s 2018 survey rated terrorist attacks as one of their five global risks of highest concern for doing business in country. In addition, the run-up to the Nov. 2016 Albania-Israel World Cup qualifier leading to several arrests in Albania and Kosovo over an alleged planned terrorist attack proved terrorism is not only a potential but also real threat to Albania, experts have said. Currently, British Airways is the sole carrier currently offering direct Tirana-London flights. Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air has announced the launch of direct Tirana-London flights starting spring 2018, the Tirana International Airport says. Data published by the country’s state statistical institute, INSTAT, shows some 127,000 British citizens visited Albania in 2017, a 24 percent hike compared 2016. The number of Albanians citizens visiting the UK is considerably lower as Albanian citizens need visas to visit Britain. Each year British people make around 50 million trips abroad. Still undiscovered and little known by most European tourists, Albania has been placed as a 2018 under-the-radar destination by prestigious travel media and tour operators. The National Geographic has rated Albania among the 2018 places one needs to visit, especially for adventurer and divers. UK-based Wild Frontiers tour operator has also named Albania among the world’s top three adventure travel destinations for 2018 as part of an off-the-beaten path Western Balkans tour. The Irish Times has also rated Albania as the top two budget destination for 2018, sandwiched between the Spanish Costas and Turkey. Closed to tourists for about five decades until the early 1990s, Albania offers a miscellaneous picture of coastal and mountain tourism and has been attracting more and more foreign tourists in the past decade being nicknamed “A new Mediterranean love” and “Europe’s last secret.”   [post_title] => Albania beats established destinations to rate safe 2018 destination for Britons [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-beats-established-destinations-to-rate-safe-2018-destination-for-britons [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-15 17:33:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-15 16:33:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136201 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136135 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-03-09 11:16:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-09 10:16:52 [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi The first time Robert D. Kaplan was in Albania, the country was still isolated, deprived and unknown. Although communism was in its final throes, it had not officially fallen, and so nobody from the West had been in the capital, let alone rural areas, for decades. Passing through the now modern Skanderbeg Square with a tour group from Greece, Kaplan, who was no stranger to the Balkans, then saw a very different image from what one sees strolling down Tirana’s center today: a number of gangs, made up of ten-year-old boys, harassing and pickpocketing around old stores, most of which poor, empty and surprisingly standing despite the cheap quality everything was made of. “It was like going backwards in time,” says Kaplan now, 28 years later, “and I hadn’t been back since. It is different, like coming to a new country, but having the advantage of having known how far it’s come.” For Kaplan, renowned American author whose books on foreign affairs and traveling are read from university students to former US President Bill Clinton, distinguishing the sometimes subtle causes and effects of the Hoxha regime in Albanian society makes up part of his life’s work. “I can see the incredible change and although I have read about it, what strikes me, with people asking my impression of Albania now, etc., is that the worst, the more oppressive the communist system, the harder it is to recover from,” he says, drawing parallels with Romania, from where he was reporting until the 1980s. Romania, Kaplan notes, was by far the worst communist system in Eastern Europe - apart from Albania. Throughout the 90s, the country was far behind Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic and, although you could still enter Romania and leave its borders, it took 20 years for it to reach normality. “There are different degrees of hell, and if Romania was in the 8th and a half circle, Albania was in the 9th. So, I’m really sympathetic to the problems, because there was nothing to build on.” Kaplan’s work over the course of three decades has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, etc., as well as has accredited him as one of the world’s “top 100 global thinkers” by the Foreign Policy magazine in 2011 and 2012. His areas of interest took him from the US to Israel and then a multitude of hot-spots for reporters, including Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Balkans. His firsthand experience as a reporter coupled with his research and publications portfolio make his positive outlook on the current situation in the country a trustworthy, and welcomed, point of view. “I know there are still problems with the rule of law, crime, smuggling, but to me, it all comes from the regime,” he says, sipping his lemon tea at the Rogner Hotel main lobby. “First, the extreme underdevelopment of the Ottoman world in this region, then the 30s and 40s were really bad, because of foreign geopolitical factors, and then the Hoxha regime. It will take a generation or two more, for this to be a normal country.” Now well in his 60s, Kaplan is once again traveling the Balkans to gather material for his new book - The Adriatic - which he says won’t be out for another two years, but will focus on the last 25 years while aiming to be of relevance even in ten years. His way to achieve that? Ignore the news; see where the region has gone in a quarter of a century. His last book on the region, Balkan Ghosts, was published in 1993. Reporting what people on the ground told him in the late 80s as a young journalist, the book’s narrative that the historic, ethnic and cultural conflicts in the Balkans could not be solved by outside intervention were perceived as fatalistic by many at the time. Kaplan, however, says it was misinterpreted. “The book wasn’t published until 1993, but it was serialized in The Atlantic in the end of the 1980s…and what was going on at the time? The media was obsessed with El Salvador, Lebanon, Nicaragua, war in all those places...it was just beginning to get interested in Poland, the Baltic states. The wall didn’t fall until the end of ‘89, Yugoslavia didn’t start to collapse till the beginning of ‘91, and the first shot was not fired until June 1991. By that time I had posted excerpts of Ghosts at the Atlantic, so I was doing my job, I was saying this is a region where there are serious, unresolved, ethnic national disputes, and therefore pay attention to it, it has a great future in the news. And in fact what happened, more or less, was an ethnic war, a large number of people were killed and made refugees, and I did my job as a young reporter, so I think Balkan Ghosts was a perfectly valid book for the time when I wrote it.” And looking back, no one can say it wasn’t. The reason it was perceived as fatalistic, according to Kaplan, is because, after the Cold War, the intellectual community believed liberal democracy was the solution to all problems, and that making any reference to national and ethnic issues was to be fatalistic. In an article titled The Necessary Empire published in the New York Times last May however, Kaplan said that “only if Serbia, Albania and Kosovo all become members of the union can the ethnic dispute between Serbs and Albanians truly be solved.” In this respect, his view on the Balkans hasn’t changed. “These states are weak states - some may be stronger than others, but they are not strong like Germany or France, and so their future has to be in what I call a post imperial order, which is the EU.” As for the backward Balkan mentality, which seems to remain unchanged after years of conflict, lack of proper education and isolation respectively, Kaplan believes the process of EU membership itself “will help Balkan countries along the path of virtue”. Though Albania, Montenegro, Serbia may never reach the level Spain or Italy, the situation will be better than it is now. In addition, Kaplan, as a geopolitical expert, could list a number of other reasons defending the region’s almost certain future in the EU. “I think American influence is declining, Russian influence is growing - with little effort from Russia, because it doesn’t need to recreate the Warsaw pact, all it needs is a soft, traditional zone of imperial light influence in Central - Eastern Europe. And the weaker the rule of law, the weaker the institutions, the better it is for Russia. Now the EU has had a difficult ten years – it’s kind of lost its confidence, wrapped up in its own problems, which makes it harder to project power to the next geographical level of states whether it’s Serbia, Albania... Though the US has little direct influence on the daily actions of the EU, American power and values were always like a foundation for both NATO and the EU, it was all part of a system.” In this context, Kaplan sees the EU in a position of difficulty it hasn’t been in a long time. Lacking visionary leaders, crowded with technocrats and failing to project power, he says even the developments in the other side of the ocean are influencing the course of events in the continent. “People will disagree, will say oh no, Trump has been good for Europe, he’s letting EU do things on its own; I say this is nonsense. The sense of mission, of American liberal mission, which existed under the most different kind of presidents, whether it was George W. Bush, or his father, or Barack Obama, it was all different levels but it existed. For the first time now, I feel it does not exist.” And for him, isolation is not where we should be heading, but globalization is yet to be achieved. Kaplan describes the present world order as early-stage globalization, as opposed to the cosmopolitanism most people believe we have achieved. “We think of globalization as an end-state. The world is globalized, we’re all cosmopolitan people, I’m Singaporean, I’m married to a German, my children speak 3 languages, we travel around the world by plane, we go to fancy conferences, but this is a very early, superficial stage, because it only affects the highly educated and people who are successful at the top end of academia, of business, of politics…” The rest – the majority – still has to grapple with cultural, national barriers and these things shape the way people perceive reality. Kaplan believes a later stage of globalization will wear these perceptions away and, consequently, shape and change the identities that might now hinder interstate relations. What speeds things up is the great technological developments which, as Kaplan describes, enable people to see what is happening in the rest of the world. “The first stage of change is to know what the outside world is doing. Throughout the Cold War nobody knew what the outside world was doing; now everybody knows. And then comes the hard part, to make it more like the outside world, and that takes a generation or two, or more.” But the final lesson from Kaplan is that while we are heading towards real globalization, every country should find – and keep – its own speed. For Albania, this could mean maintaining a certain pace in joining the EU – not flying too close to the sun. “The best example I can give you is Greece. In the 1830s, after Greece got its independence from the Ottomans, there was this Greek leader, Kapodistrias, whom Albert Rakipi mentioned over dinner a couple of days ago; he said ‘Greece will be like France, we have to make Greece like France’. 200 years later, Greece is not like France. Don’t move too fast.  Forget for the moment about Schengen, forget about the euro, the economy has to develop much more, the rule of law institutions must develop much more before you can get to that stage…not everyone has to be on the same lane, in terms of speed.” Quality, according to him, is more important than speed and although Albania will not be like Italy in ten years, it will still go a long way – because it has already come a long way. Europe will have its stronger states and its weaker states, its better governed states, and its worse governed states and, while the world is heading towards elimination of cultural and national barriers, chances are next time Kaplan visits Albania, the country will present itself even more altered to him.   [post_title] => Robert D. Kaplan: Europe, the US and early-stage globalization [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => robert-d-kaplan-europe-the-us-and-early-stage-globalization [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-15 16:22:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-15 15:22:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136135 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136099 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-03-08 11:03:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-08 10:03:31 [post_content] => TIRANA, March 8 – A record of more than 100,000 Albanians visited Turkey last year, making it one of the top travel destinations, especially for the summer vacations. Data published by Turkey’s tourism ministry shows 103,600 Albanians visited Turkey during the whole of 2017, a 25 percent increase compared to 2016, making Albanians among the few European tourists whose number of tourists has been on a constant upward trend in the past few years despite security concerns hitting Turkey's huge tourism industry over the past few years. Differently from Italy and Greece, where about 1 million Albanians live and work and visits there from Albanian residents are often paid to meet relatives and friends, visits to Turkey are overwhelmingly destined for holidays. Albanian tour operators say the rising trend of Albanians picking Turkey as their holiday destination is dedicated to the affordable all-inclusive packages in Turkey's tourist resorts that also include charter flights. The Turkey package holidays are often cheaper compared to rapidly rising prices along the southern Albanian Riviera, but yet considerably higher compared to spending holidays along the Adriatic coastline’s hotels. Turkey’s rising popularity is also related to cultural affinity due to Albania having been under Ottoman occupation for 500 years until the early 20th century and a series of popular Turkish soap operas aired on Albanian TV. Detailed data shows some 55,000 Albanian visited Turkey during June-September 2017, with the highest number of about 19,500 recorded in August. Turkey welcomed about 32.4 million tourists in 2017, with Russians and Germans topping the list as its tourism industry recovered following a sharp decline in 2016 related to a short-term conflict with Russia and Western tourist concerns over security there. Landlocked Kosovo whose number of visitors to Albania dropped by about a fifth in 2017, had some 116,000 tourists to Turkey in 2017, a 16 percent increase compared to 2016. Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Croatia, Spain and France are some other European destinations Albanians go to for the summer vacations. In addition to emerging as a top travel destination, Turkey is one of Albania’s strategic partners and top investors. A Turkish-consortium that is building Istanbul’s third airport, one of the world's largest, has recently offered to build Albania’s second international airport in a regional project that also paves the way for Albania to set up its national flag carrier and reduce current ticket prices, among the region’s highest. Albania is also following Turkey's tourism development model on promoting quality hotels and tourism resorts by offering tax incentives for a ten-year period on luxury investment. Albanians increased their spending on trips abroad to €974 million in the first three quarters of 2017, up 12 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, but the local tourism industry generated a record of €1.3 billion in income, according to Albania’s central bank. The majority of Albanians however spend their holidays at home where the Adriatic and Ionian coastline offer a mix of sandy and rocky beaches amid cultural heritage and mountain tourism destinations. Albanian authorities say the country welcomed five million foreign tourists in 2017. [post_title] => Turkey turns into top destination as record 100,000 Albanians travelled in 2017 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => turkey-turns-into-top-destination-as-record-100000-albanians-travelled-in-2017 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-08 11:03:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-08 10:03:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136099 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136066 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-03-05 09:49:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-05 08:49:55 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_136068" align="alignright" width="300"]boeri 2 All images © Stefano Boeri Architetti[/caption] Italian architect Stefano Boeri's firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has unveiled plans for new three public schools which aim to increase a social value and every-day use in educational institutions in Tirana, Albania - it will possibly be a new educational model that can be applied in other educational designs in other countries. The firm has recently won a competition for the creation of three new public schools in Tirana. The new school complex, true epicenters of the life of the neighborhood, will be open every day of the year, 24 hours per day and for every age. Developed within the scope of the Tirana Master Plan, in the north-west quarter of the Albanian capital, in the areas of Don Bosco, Kodër-Kamëz and Shqiponja Square, three innovative architecture dedicated to pre-university education, that conceive the cultural path as an open social venture. “The school must be open to a new rhythm of life. It must be an active place in all the hours of the day, every day of the year, for everyone, at all ages: grandparents, young people, local associations, creative enterprises, institutions. The open school is the heart of our society, that beats together with the life, that flows in and around it," said Stefano Boeri. "The new school hosts meetings, discussions, dialogs for associations without head offices. It opens the doors to those seeking a space to start a social and cultural venture. It welcomes book clubs and organizes courses to explore the most intriguing, bizarre and extreme depths of knowledge," he added. boeri 3Inspired by an innovative vision of the social and cultural function of the education system, the architectural language of the complex takes cues from the tradition of Italian architecture in Tirana. The new schools' facades will be clad with red brick and made of white bases in cement - which is a combination of materials commonly seen in the tradition of Italian architecture in Tirana. "The three new schools of Tirana will have façades in red brick and white bases in cement (a combination of materials that harkens back to the tradition of Italian architecture in Tirana) and will function as a local epicenter, as a new reference point of the public life of the area. Our schools will be the true urban squares of the neighborhoods, used by students during school hours, and by the community on weekends and holidays," said Francesca Cesa Bianchi, the Project Manager of Stefano Boeri Architetti. The project of the Schools for Tirana extends over a total surface of 29,609 square meters. It is composed of the Don Bosco School Complex, with nursery, pre-school education, middle school and high school (9,812 square metes), the Kodër-Kamëz School Complex, with nursery, pre-school education, middle school and high school (11,898  square metes), and the Shqiponja School Complex, with nursery, pre-school education and middle school (7,898  square metes). (Courtesy of worldarchitecture.org)   boeri 4Project facts Architect: Stefano Boeri Architetti Partner: Stefano Boeri Location: Tirana, Albania Project Director: Francesca Cesa Bianchi Project Leader: Carlotta Capobianco, Jacopo Colatarci, Julia Gocalek Team: Jona Arkaxhiu, Orjana Balla, Daniele Barillari, Moataz Faisal Farid, Yulia Filatova, Paolo Russo,  Mario Shilong Tan, Elisa Versari Client: PPP Agikons Construction Company – Municipality of Tirana All images © Stefano Boeri Architetti [post_title] => Stefano Boeri Architetti's new public schools will be open every day of the year in Tirana [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => stefano-boeri-architettis-new-public-schools-will-be-open-every-day-of-the-year-in-tirana [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-05 10:13:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-05 09:13:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136066 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136057 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-03-02 14:23:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-02 13:23:28 [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 24 - Forestry experts have expressed concerns regarding environmental reforms, while forest degradation in Albania continues in alarming rates, according to them. In many of the municipalities in charge of forest surfaces, forestry and environmental experts have been excluded from serving local bodies, the Voice of American reported. Moreover, engineers say the moratorium aiming to limit cutting and use of trees has not found a solution for many citizens still using wood for heating and other purposes, thus worsening forest damage. The use of wood for heating purposes sees a drastic increase, especially in rural areas, during the winter. “Currently, cities and villages are supplied wood material for heating. The moratorium had a mistake, it did not provide a solution to the heating issue of families. Lacking this, supply is still done through cutting forests,” Kristaq Shore, forestry engineer for the last 40 years in the district of Korca, told local media.   Meanwhile, Senior Adviser for Forestry at non-governmental environmental organization CNVP Stavri Pllaha said the country’s need for fire wood is much greater than the capacity to provide it. “If we don’t come up with other heating alternatives, many villages, but also several smaller cities, will turn to illegally cutting forest wood,” Pllaha said. He added the forest reform has many challenges ahead; forest surfaces are now owned by separate municipalities, which are for the most part understaffed and in need of better organization - a pattern noticed in higher institutional levels as well, such as ministries, according to Pllaha. “There are many possible solutions. One could be to pass forest surfaces in rural areas to the ownership of the families living there for a long time,” Pllaha said. Gjirokastra-based forestry expert Kleanthi Mandi also referred to another danger - uncontrolled fires, which according to him are responsible for the reduction of about 200,000 hectares of forest surfaces. Mandi said this great reduction comes from intentional and unintentional fires, as well as illegal forest activities. While specialists have expressed increasing concerns for these issues, respective bodies are yet to include them and other prevention mechanisms in the forest reforms, while previously independent forest protection and observation bodies have been completely eliminated. [post_title] => Environmental experts warn forest degradation is worsening with lack of legal framework [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => environmental-experts-warn-forest-degradation-is-worsening-with-lack-of-legal-framework [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-02 14:23:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-02 13:23:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136057 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136840 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-27 10:30:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-27 08:30:20 [post_content] => By Alice Elizabeth Taylor As an expat living in Albania, every day is full of new experiences and discoveries. I love to walk around the streets soaking up the atmosphere, meeting new people, and venturing down random alleys taking photos as I go. There is very rarely a dull moment in my life and these are some of the most interesting things I have experienced over the last seven days.

Kabuni

Last weekend my mother visited Albania for a holiday and we took an overnight trip to Kruje. In search of something sweet to satiate my hunger after climbing up to Kruje Castle, I was given the opportunity to try a local speciality- kabuni. A traditional Albanian dish, popular in Kruje, it is maid from rice fried in butter with raisins, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and wait for it…lamb. Yes, lamb in a sweet dessert. I must admit that I was rather surprised at this combination of ingredients, and more than a little dubious, but as a lover of all things food, I decided to take the plunge. It was as to be expected- unusual and completely alien to the British palette, but it was tasty nonetheless. Did I like it? Yes. Would I eat it again? Maybe not. But I definitely recommend trying it if you have the chance.

The best of Albanian wine

My love affair with wine is my longest and most meaningful relationship and as such, I was keen to find out more about what Albanian grapes have to offer. I have drunk my fair share in the six months I have been here but I know very little about it other than the colour. I got in touch with founder of the Albanian Sommelier Association, Dashamir Elezi who I was told knows everything that there is to know about Albanian wine. I was lucky enough to try out some of his all-time favourites and I now feel that I can order a nice wine with confidence and ease, next time the situation arises. My favourites were: Kallmeti Kallmet 2016, Syrah Balaj, and the Kantina Bardha- Sheshi I Bardhe- a truly delicious white wine.

Oda Restaurant

After a long day of sightseeing with my mother, we descended upon Oda restaurant not far from the New Bazaar. Laid out like a typical and traditional Albanian home/restaurant, it even has Turkish toilets which was a bit of a shock for my 74-year-old parent. Run by a team of all-women, they are incredibly friendly and helpful, and the food was to die for. Whilst it appears to be aimed predominantly at tourists, the food is so well priced and authentic that I would recommend everyone goes for a visit. We had a leg of lamb which melted off the bone, accompanied with stuffed peppers and eggplants, and a vat of delicious homemade red wine. I will be returning!

Tea Spot

Being British, I was brought up on a diet of tea and with the ethos that a good ol’ cuppa is the cure for pretty much everything. Substitute “tea” for “raki” and an Albanian would begin to be able to grasp how deep our love affair with this drink goes. Whilst I am not a huge fan of the typical tea with milk (blasphemous I know), I do love herbal and flavoured teas. I had been looking unsuccessfully in Tirana for lapsang souchong for a while, as not only do I love its smoky flavour, but it is nice in certain cocktails and as a seasoning for chicken as well. Then, during my adventures I stumbled across the Tea Spot- a small tea emporium with jars of tea stacked from the floor to the ceiling. This is my new favourite place and I intend on trying as much of the delicious teas as possible. If you love tea and are in Tirana, be sure to check it out.

Free Flow Yoga

Being a freelance writer and working from home means that I often have to force myself to get up, go outside, and most importantly do some exercise. Unfortunately typing doesn’t burn off many calories and never-ending deadlines sometimes leave me in a less than favourable mood. It was then that I decided to peel myself away from my laptop and make an effort to do some physical exercise, so I joined Free Flow Yoga located just near the new stadium. The teachers are super friendly, the classes are focussed on dynamic, leg shaking, stomach muscle aching moves, and the ladies that attend are from all over the world, as well as being super friendly. I feel more limber, healthier, and every so slightly more Zen, which can only be a good thing. [post_title] => Five things I discovered this week [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => five-things-i-discovered-this-week [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-27 10:30:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-27 08:30:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136840 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 41 [name] => Features [slug] => features [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 41 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 594 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 41 [category_count] => 594 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Features [category_nicename] => features [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 41 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

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