Let the Southern games begin

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 4, 2018 08:53

Let the Southern games begin

Story Highlights

  • Respecting the increasing need to return to traditionalism and our roots, something Vuno and other close-by villages offer naturally, SOF made sure to promote its unique architecture, cultural heritage, history and tradition by gathering locals to exhibit their culinary, artisanal and even cultural products in the same field close to Saint Spyridon Church where hundreds of participants from around Albania and the world were camping from Friday to Sunday.

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By Sidonja Manushi

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Tents under olive trees

Vuno might be nothing but a small dot in the South of Albania’s comparatively unknown geographical map, but anyone who’s set foot there will guarantee this: few other places can provide its salt-smelling summer air, its hanging olive tree shades, its majestic view of the Ionian Sea and its free tour back to a time when life was simpler and purer. 

This year, the South Outdoor Festival offered its crowd all that, and then some more.

Looking to promote the country’s most day-dreamy region, SOF has been going through the southern snaky roads that cut through titanous mountains and lead to virgin, utopic beaches, jumping from one remote location to the other in the past couple of years to mark the start of adventure season.

And so, on April 27, as the temperatures in the country bordered 30 degrees and Tirana started turning into a stove, nature lovers, party goers, adventure junkies and change seekers found Vuno waiting for them, marble tiles clean and shiny as ever, silence bearing nature and the sea majestically looking from afar, calling on life.

The magic happens before, way before one even reaches Vuno, sitting for years in a mountain ridge between Himara and Dhermi. Right after the Llogara road reaches the top of the Ceraunia Mountains, leaving way to the Ionian Sea to expend in the palm of one’s hand, the feeling of a choice well-made starts settling in. 

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Jal Bay

Llogara’s panoramic view became one of SOF’s hottest spots of activities during this last weekend of April, seeing off people who, stripped in front of  professional flyers and underneath colorful gigantic clothes, paraglided between sky and sea-blue to what looks like an infinity without horizon.

Respecting the increasing need to return to traditionalism and our roots, something Vuno and other close-by villages offer naturally, SOF made sure to promote its unique architecture, cultural heritage, history and tradition by gathering locals to exhibit their culinary, artisanal and even cultural products in the same field close to Saint Spyridon Church where hundreds of participants from around Albania and the world were camping from Friday to Sunday.

The three evenings that stretched into the night, but that everyone wished would last longer, were inaugurated by the iso-polyphonic sounds of the South, which UNESCO has declared a national cultural heritage. Next to the open-air food stands and the Vuno homemade jam markets, a group of amateur iso-polyphonic group of local men were giving their own show, which attracted no less than twenty foreigners filming them in amusement.

“They’ve just began. It will take them a while until they catch a breath,” a local woman told a number of girls wondering when the men would get tired.

The children were another group which, like the singing men, didn’t get tired from the outdoor events and workshops offered for free in the festival grounds, the sports games, like archery, volleyball, American football, painting and pottery; they would be seen running around until the setting of the sun, passing through the cushions laid in front of the outdoor cinema screen, and among the people strolling, chatting and dancing in front of the stage.

During the day, the SOF field and surrounding camping space completely came under the sun’s attention, chasing almost everyone away in nearby Jal Bay, which still stands in the populated end of the south’s beaches, in Gjipe Bay, the only-lately explored location that looks like the eyelid of the mountains that open up to it, or Himara and Dhermi, now popular, but always favorite.

Each of these locations offered jeep safari, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, canyoning, free ride racing, kayaking and stand-up paddling under the monitoring of professionals, the cheap prices of Albania’s up-and-coming tourism and the raw, remote setting of the Albanian riviera.

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Vuno in the distance

The cultural Himara Castle and Vuno tours, as well as the olive-oil tasting tour could not be absent for those looking to experience the more easy-going side of what the region has to offer.  

In turn, all the heat, physical effort and adrenaline people released during the day was rendered worthy when the sun would start setting in the distance, on top of vast fields of olive trees plantations, and the fireflies and fresh evening air would accompany a cold cup of beer and live music.

With an end-party at the Gjipe Bay –  the surrounding rocks of which served as climbing spots for a number of people the same morning – that had some postponing the weekend with one more lazy day in the idyllic south, the German cooperation and Ministries of culture, tourism and environment cut the inauguration rope for a summer full of light, music and life.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 4, 2018 08:53