After a night in Shkodra we were off to Tirana, Albania’s capital, for a couple of days. Before we left, though, we made a quick trip up to Rozafa Castle, a big old thing looming over the city that was already an important site when the Romans captured it in the second century BC. It was the site of the Siege of Shkodra in 1478, the subject of a worldwide best seller in the 16th century that’s just recently been translated into English and is available now on my Kindle!
After the stop we were finally ready to drive to Tirana. What we were not ready for, though, was the incredible, driving rain storm. We’d stopped at a hilltop restaurant on the way out of the city for coffee, but it turned into a longer wait as the storm blew in and the electricity went out. Realizing that it wasn’t going to just pass, we took off anyway, but it just poured all the way down to Tirana; what should have been a 90-minute drive took probably twice that long. Basically, up to that point every drive we took in Albania was doomed.
Once we landed in Tirana, the highlight was meals with Rezart’s parents and sister Sidrita. We stayed at Rezart’s apartment, which is in the building next door to his parents’ place. So while we napped and explored the city, mom Resi and Sidrita cooked both nights we were there. The meals were, simply, amazing. Stuffed eggplant to die for. Veal so tender it fell off the bone. A yogurt casserole unlike anything we’d ever had that you just had to taste to believe. Spinach one night in a pastry crust that I couldn’t get enough of so the next night they made it with a meat filling. The single best honeydew melon I’ve ever tasted, as though it had honestly been dipped in honey. Fresh figs. Really fresh. The funny thing is, the food was so good we never took pictures, we just didn’t think of it until we were stuffed.
I could get used to that, though my diet would sure take a beating. On top of the great food, I should add, Rezart’s family was great fun. His sister lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband, but was visiting on holiday. Like Rezart she’s fluent in English (they both were high school exchange students in beautiful Houston, Ohio), and handled translation for us older folks. You’d have been amused listening to the conversation of me trying to explain to Rezart’s dad what the Federal Reserve Bank was and why it’s structured the way it is…
After the quick two-night stop in Tirana, it was down to Dhërmi, a small beach town in southern Albania. For the first time, a drive in Albania was pretty much uneventful – mostly divided highway, no bad weather, just … driving. Until we got near the beach, at least, when the views were spectacular.
A fun story about our hotel. For the first time on this adventure, we got to the hotel and they said they didn’t have a record of our reservation. We’d made the reservation on Booking.com, and fairly soon thereafter received an email from the hotel that there was a problem with our credit card and they’d canceled the reservation. So we re-entered the credit card info, the reservation went through, and we got a confirmation number. Still, the hotel said they didn’t have a reservation for us and they had no extra rooms. So we drove around for an hour or two until we found another hotel with rooms (we’re still traveling with Rezart) for three nights.
Amusingly, today Mark got an email from Booking.com saying the hotel reported us as no-shows and so they were going to charge our credit card for the night’s stay. Amusing, right?