Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Albania (Again)


Recommended Posts

Yeah, the second time but not my choice.



From -8C/17,6F to 18C/64,4F!

Felt so good to be on the ground again after continuous turbulence during the flight. I'm sensitive to turbulence after having experienced terrifying earthquakes in Crete.



Unfortunately, earthquakes are also normal here, just not as bad and as frequent as in Greece. It's my second time here, actually. I visited for the first time in 2015. Travelled the length of this country then crossed the border into Greece, stayed a couple of days in Meteora and took the train to Thessaloniki where the partner came to join me. We had 4 destinations to choose from and the partner picked the one I wanted to avoid. But now that we are here I'm happy. The city has changed beyond recognition in 7 short years.



Missed the bus and with 45 minutes to kill we went back inside. Nice beer. Mother Teresa is super famous here, the only airport in the country is named after her.



First meal in the capital. Small local restaurant, non stop busy. An empty table doesn't remain empty for even 5 minutes. The lighting is mostly bright multi colour neons, it's a nightmare scenario for food photos.



Simple plain yoghurt sauce. Could use some raw garlic and finely chopped pickles.



I liked this from my previous trip. Will order mixed pickles every time. These are very sour, would be better if a bit more salty and less sour. It's "mixed pickles" but mostly aubergines and cabbage.



Albanian kofte only comes in this shape. Looking round seeing plates piled high with these on every table. 5 pieces are a standard order for each person. We got 5 for both of us.



Kofte dipped in yoghurt, nice airy pitta.



Wine marinated beef skewer. The skewer was removed and meat placed on a hot plate.



Lamb chops, mostly bones. OK lamb. The beast was probably a bit older than what we call "lamb" at home. If you eat New Zealand lamb this would be a bit strong in taste for you. But I still think it's better than much-too-mild NZ lamb.



Drinking beer in my room now. Am even staying at the same hotel on my first trip. Now under new management and had been renovated during the Covid years. It's something totally different now. 


Edited by BonVivant (log)
  • Like 11
Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of us forgot to pack a travel kettle so we went to a coffee shop. Albanians love to go to coffee shops to socialise. There are so many coffee places here it's mind-boggling. Modern Western-style coffee shops are everywhere and always full of people. Looking round I notice most patrons are pensioners and very well-dressed, even if it's just going out for coffee. We at home think gym shoes, gym clothes or pyjamas are presentable enough.


Found a new travel kettle right after drinking coffee. So now an electric Turkish coffee pot (cezve) does exist. If they make traditional Turkish coffee in it it'll turn into a deep brown cezve in no time. On my previous visit I was told when Albanians go out they drink Italian style coffee (espresso etc) but at home it's Turkish style.


Hand-painted (traffic) electrical control boxes. Tom and Jerry continue to delight children (and adults) round the world.




There are a bunch of malls now. Seems the city is in a great hurry to modernise.


American fast food chains are also wasting no time. I see KFC and BK. Still no McD yet. Should be here any day now.


The city is changing so fast but they don't dare touch this old Ottoman stone foot bridge. It got cleaned up and fully restored in the 90's and declared a cultural heritage. I still remember exactly where to find this bridge from memory.


Something old can still be found, if I look hard enough.


A typical neighbourhood, laundry drying on the wall, new buildings are at the far end.


Constructions of new huge hotels and high-rises are absolutely everywhere you look. Many streets and neighbourhoods have been demolished. I try to find traditional houses today. This is one of the few I can find.


It's an emotional day. I go looking for places and people and have photos with me. The fist meal I had on the first trip was at this small grill restaurant next to the old central market. I show the photos to the boss and employees asking if those people are still working here. The 2 young men have left to work in Germany and England. The boss is also in one of the photos, she's happy and thankful for the photos (which I give her).


At the same restaurant 7+ years later. Today we order 10 kofte like Albanians. Juicy qofte (Albanian spelling), pickled cabbage and green olives.


Yoghurt sauce again. So looks like Albanians don't use raw garlic in the yoghurt sauce.


I want something else but it's finished so I get lamb's ribs. Ribs are always fatty but flavourful. Hardly any meat on the ribs but what meat I manage to find is good and muttony (to you NZ lamb eaters).


After saying our emotional goodbyes I go looking for people and places again.


Behind the restaurant is the old central market. It's been demolished and rebuilt by an American firm. The meat hall has also been modernised.



I'm still looking for this herb seller. Here is the spot where I took this photo of her. Gone is the corrugated roof, sprawling, untidy typical markets in developing countries. I try to ask a couple of stallholders if they recognise her (showing them the photo and translated question). They don't remember. I wander down another aisle and ask the same thing. Soon enough all the stallholders in this aisle come to me and some of them say they know her and she's still here, pointing at a stall right in front of me. They call someone over to translate into English for me. Apparently half the stallholders have today off but they will be back tomorrow. They are sure it's the stallholder I'm looking for so I coming back tomorrow.


A small side street a few steps away... the green door is all that remains. I had a conversation with a seller here on 2 occasions back in 2015.


This is what it looks like now, totally unrecognisable to me.


I found a photo of the "new market" (official name). They say only tourists and well-to-do locals shop here. Most stalls sell mass produced souvenirs.


But it's not all bad, I found Iranian red pistachios! There's a "Christmas market" happening in the national square, with many stalls selling food products and everthing else. $13 a kilo/2,5 lbs .




I bought a kilo. Couldn't stop eating. Going back to buy 2 more kilos to snack on every day.



Edited by BonVivant (log)
  • Like 11
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow!  Love the green door amd the knob. What a great idea to show the pictures and share them. As Bowie said "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange  Ch-ch-changes"   Change can be startling. When you live there it is more graduual and washes more slowly over you.  


The red pistachios ? - is that something red rubbed into them?


As always thank you for taking us along and for your greatt descriptions and  images. Looking forward to more.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Today was even more emotional than yesterday. First thing I did was going back to a different market to find a particular fruit seller. This is where that street market used to stand.



Btw, Albanians are curious. Took them no time to notice me whilst I was totally focused on making photos. They looked at me the whole time, wandered slowly towards me and next thing you know they were very close. Then when I showed them the photos and translated texts they became even more curious, discussing loudly amongst themselves, asking passersby if they could help. I noticed this on my previously trip how kind and helpful Albanians were. Such a rare thing in this world nowadays.


Anyway, I would have liked so much to see this man again. He already noticed me making photos of him and when I was in front of his "stall" he posed for me like this. He was so delighted when I showed him this photo on the camera screen. I had wanted to return to Albania sooner but 7 years are much too late.



Later in another area where there's a park. Back then it was full of pensioners and elderly people sitting on the benches every day. Well, they have remodelled the park and got rid of all the benches, all of them. Not one lousy bench left. Woman on far left looked directly at me. I hope she's doing well and enjoying her golden years.


Ate lunch at a simple restaurant today near the park in above photo. I asked what the dish of the day was but he thought I wanted to order it and brought it to me. The partner said the rice tasted of carrot. Meat is thinly sliced chicken breast.


Server couldn't tell me what most things on a small menu were so I just picked one. Turned out I had it before in the north. In this one here there's cheese in the sauce, chunks of slow-cooked meat and tendons. One I had in the north had mostly offal and leftover bits of meat.


The clay pot has a deep crack. There's some grease leakage on the napkin. This is a cheap and simple local restaurant in a posh area of the city, but still, the meal costs twice as much as a typical cheap meal I ate in Korea which came with rice, banchan, and a big piece of grilled mackerel.


We ate the whole bag of pistachios today on the bed over spread-out newspapers like 2 chimps. I broke my thumbnail and sliced my finger with the sharp shells. Went back to the street side stall and bought 2 more kilos.


Other nuts look great but I only have this chance to buy Iranian red pistachios so...


I checked the price in the supermarket. 4020 lek ($37) a kilo. Iranian pistachios are more common here and cheaper than Sicilian (literally twice as expensive).


I did go back to the "new market" to find the herb seller. So few buyers/browsers. It's a far cry from the former atmospheric market. So sad.


Figs and other dried fruits looked good but nothing had price on it and I don't like bargaining..




Will buy some chillies to take home even though I have a lot of Mexican.








I saw her from a distance and recognised her. When I approached her she knew. We were smiling and happy. It was emotional for her, but more for me. 7 years and I still remember her. I'm so glad she's well and got through the last 2 difficult years. She should be enjoying her golden years and not standing here in the cold working. Gentle lady. So kind and appreciative.


Hope she's there again when I return next week. I bought 3 different herbs and the cost? 50 cents. She threw in a small bunch of parsley as well. I pressed a 200 lek ($2) note into her palm. Will buy some herbs the day before going home, if she's there in the new year. I hope so ('cuz I'm going to give her a lot more for the herbs). Giving them to someone tomorrow, will ask names of the herbs.


Pitta with gyros meat and cheese


A bit similar as above but without cheese, meat is different as well.



As far as I know, only in Japan KFC is the "christmas food".


Some more photos from earlier today.
Look nice but they are all mass produced and sold all over Albania and the Balkan.




A national hero in the national square. His army defeated the Turks and kicked them out for good.


There's a saying "Welcome to Albania. Your car is already here." On my previous trip I found out not only my car but also my tax.


@heidih, it's not dyed. Iran is the world biggest producer of pistachios and Iranian red cultivars are pretty much only grown in Iran. FYI, ancient Greeks called Iranians "pistachio eaters".


Re progress and changes. Young Albanians don't care about old days and old ways. They just want to be like the West. 1. To have what Greece has: receive (free) unlimited free EU money, to be one everyone's bucket list. Old people suffered so much under communism they just want to move on. Yesterday the market stallholders looked my my photos and they all had sad smiles. 

Edited by BonVivant (log)
  • Like 6
  • Thanks 3
  • Sad 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow truly emotional journey. In 20 years  they will shed their West love and wish they had preserved culture incl the food. The deep hold of the Communist control - my mother refused to stay in Europe and that is why they emigrated to US. So is bargainng the norm in markets there? I am not used to it. Here Farers Market vendors become irate when customers from other cultural backgrounds try to engage in it.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We have been here in Gjirokastra, south of the country, for 2 days now. The journey from Tirana took 4 hours by bus. Do vampires take the taxi sometimes? (In the taxi to the bus terminal)


In 2015 the taxi driver took me to a place somewhere in the city where I waited for a long distance bus by the road side with the locals.


Bus made a stop for toilet/coffee/snack break at a road restaurant. We got coffee and home-made yoghurt. A bit thin and not super rich/creamy like Turkish or Greek. Tasted like super low fat yoghurt. So far all the yoghurt I have eaten is like that.


Hello again, Gjirokaster! My lodging is next to a small mosque. Albania is officially an islamic country but unlike say, Morocco, they don't have super loud hourly public prayer. No prayer call at all so far.


Rooftop terrace at my lodging. Mosque is to my left but it's not in this photo. It's higher up here and very cold at night and early morning.


Took a first walk to the centre and found a restaurant I had been to. Recognised it straight away, but when I ate here the cook was the wife. That time I sat at a small table behind the tray full of dirty glasses and water bottles.


The kitchen is right by the entrance, still looks untidy and everything is left uncleaned from the night before.




Baked cheese with some green peppers


Peppers with cheese


Juicy qofte. In the middle is rice topped with cheese. I didn't touch the rice at all even though there's cheese in it.


He sat at the next table reading an old cookery book and watching an old Albanian food programme.




Before we left...


Restaurant is very small, 2 and a half tables inside and 1 outside. Winter is low season, there's hardly any tourist staying overnight so everyone tries hard to get some business.


Hanging garlic braid outside a house. I looked it up. Apparently, it's to ward off the "evil eye". One of Albanian superstitions.


Common to see cars from some European countries here with business names still on them.


Sardines and mackerel, mostly from Spain, some from Greece and 1 brand from Albania.


You attach this to a broom stick. After a while it gets shorter and you buy a new one.


Original sign on old door (surgeon-gynaecologist). 1902 -1980


Surgeons at home tend to live in a big house and own multiple Mercedes. Physician Laboviti lived in this simple house. He studied in Corfu, Graz (Austria) and Istanbul. Returned to Gjirokaster where he lived and worked his entire life. They named this street after him. An Albanian writer had mentioned the doctor in one of his books.


Stone streets here are so steep and narrow. Dangerously slippery when wet or icy.


Staying with a lovely family in their traditional Gjirokastrian home. Room comes with a good breakfast but we also pay extra for home-cooked dinner for the duration of our stay.
Soup with meat balls.


They cooked the vegetables I brought from Tirana. Lemon from the garden. I see 2 trees full of lemons.


Own wine. Very nice and a bit strong. Their "vineyard" has 2 short row and about 5 vine plants in each row. It's just right in the back garden.




Barely sweet, fluffy, light as air 3 milk cake with caramel. Albanian raki is quite a bit more potent than Greek.


Re bargaining. Tourists are likely to be told a non Albanian price, especially at a touristy market.

Edited by BonVivant (log)
  • Like 8
  • Thanks 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thought it was just the first morning but then every day I wake up to this...


The owners of my lodging make really good fried dough ("petulla" in Albanian). Petulla is part of breakfast and self-respectin guest houses always serve it. I really enjoyed petulla on my previous trip, nice to eat it again. Btw, it's very cold from sunset till sunrise. We eat breakfast every day on the roof terrace in the open, temperatures are usually between 1C - 4C (33F-39F). Just put on warm clothes and enjoy the views, and the breakfast prepared from scratch by our lovely host family.


Petulla is very simple, but the hosts' version also contain yoghurt. Basically, flour, yoghurt, baking power, egg. Fry in hot fat till golden.


Milk pie


I stayed at this place last time. A classic traditional Gjirokastrian house. Couldn't say hi to the owners here... the owners have recently retired and sold the business (to a friend of my guest house's owners) and it's being renovated. I went inside just to have a look... wow, a complete mess. Impossible to pass through the front door.


Shorry, it'sh taken.


Other (boy)girlfriends be like "either the tree goes or you go". Me: no, you go!


Path leading to a tourist attraction. Locals sell home-made jams and such. Texts in multiple languages.


I visited the castle last time


The entrance fee has gone up. Price on my ticket from 7 years ago is half of the new price.


Looks nice but the stones are super smooth and slippery.


Street outside my guest house. Only enough room for one car at a time.


Traditional Gjirokastrian houses on the hills


Welcome to Albania. Your car is already here.


Leeks are very tall. Never seen them this tall. It doesn't matter, I hate leeks. Vile stuff.


Found a bakery where we could sit down to eat bakllava (Albanian spelling).
Spinach and cheese pie.


Cheese pie


"Cigar" filled with nuts and rasins. Only walnuts in the triangle.


5 euros including the espresso.


Later at the guest house...
Potato soup. Broth is chicken and various root vegetables. Combined and pureed. No solid bits.


Stuffed pepper.


Cooked ricotta with herb and lemon peels. Host's wife makes yoghurt and uses the whey to make ricotta.


Slow-cooked lamb.


Airy sweet cake. (I don't eat sweets or cakes, the partner ate my portion.)


  • Like 7
  • Thanks 3
  • Delicious 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Love the tree versus structure resolution. There is a wierd cut out in a roof overhang at this house and a goofy jog in the roof because of the existing pine trees. Unfotunately the 2 old trees died (disease) but the accomodating construction remains. 


Is the milk pie like a Topfen Strudel consistancy?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

54 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

What are the peppers stuffed with?  And is there a traffic light on each end or block of the one way street?

Ha! I sincerely doubt it on the stop lights. You can hope the other car will adhere to a comon practice as noted in the UK Road Code but don't think you count on it ;)  

if it is necessary for one driver to reverse to a suitable passing place, the vehicle going downhill should be the one that reverses.

This is because in steep environments it is easier for this driver to maintain control of the car’s speed.  Even more fun on twisty winding hillsides, cliff adjacent. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

No traffic light. I assume Albanians have more patience and courtesy, from my observation. Drivers will find a spot to move aside so the other car can pass first. No honking, no aggression. There's no other options, really now is it. The streets are simply too narrow.


The feeling you have, sitting in a vehicle, when going up and down these streets is a lot like riding a roller coaster. It's steep! My guest house owner who has been driving us to places says the car gets frequent maintenance for the brakes alone. Cars here must have very good brakes and the drivers must have skills to navigate the steep, narrow streets. Every time I go somewhere by car with the owner I'm amazed at his driving. Many guests have said the owner would meet them somewhere and he would drive their cars to the guest house. They couldn't manage.


The pepper is stuffed with rice. I don't like rice but this time it's flavourful thanks to the broth it's cooked in.


The milk pie is "wet". Too bad it's sweeter than I would have liked. I only took one bite.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Omg. No. More. Photos. of me!


The resident kitten always comes running when we appear. She begs for food but we are told not to give her any. She's affectionate all the same.


(Cold) spinach-cheese pie. The cook says "take a bite of the pie then drink the yoghurt. That's how Albanians do it". The wife makes the yoghurt the evening before. Nothing like commercial yoghurt which uses milk powder. They buy meat and milk from a farm to make cheese and other dairy things at home. You can taste the difference. Rich and creamy.


Breakfast on the sunny rooftop terrace every day. It's cold so we put on jackets. We are the only guests round here this week.


The fog goes away slowly as the sun becomes stronger.


One car at a time. If a car has already entered the narrow road another one backs out and wait.


Slippery smooth stones


Looks like there are 2 lanes but the whole street is only a little bigger than a normal car. At least there's some room to move aside for the other car to pass.


Traditional house on a gentle slope


Many traditional houses were sold and turned into tacky souvenir shops and touristy restaurants.


Peaceful idyll


Traditional Gjirokastrian houses on a slope. The grander the house the richer the family.


There are many damaged and abandoned houses and buildings in the old town (where I am staying). UNESCO pays to keep them around. The old town is not very well maintained any more so UNESCO should stop funding and revokes the town's status.


An elderly man smiled and waved at me. He lives in this shack like home in a weird spot. It's not fair.


Lunch yesterday with the guest house family. We went to a spit roast lamb specialist in a village a short drive away. The guest house family are regulars here. Even Albanians no longer eat seasonally. Out of season fresh fruits and vegetables are now imported like in much of the west. Winter is time for pickles, root- and winter vegetables.


The jug is chilled. Wine is pretty good.


Creamy yoghurt for the lamb. Albanians say they always eat yoghurt with meat to cleanse the palate.


Really fantastic spit roast lamb. Moist and tasty. Locals know where to go for this kind of food which is usually in the countryside somewhere. The tourists all go to places in town where they see a certain green sticker ("TA") and eat with other tourists.


The restaurant has collected many old items shepherds used to wear and used now hung on the walls. Shepherds used to wear this wool vest. Warm and water-proof so I was told. I have seen this kind of clothing item at the weekly market at home. We have no shepherds so who's wearing it?



Edited by BonVivant (log)
  • Like 6
  • Thanks 3
  • Delicious 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That lamb looks wonderful. Such lovely morning view, table setting, and food. (kitten of course steals the show). I have lived in foggy marine adjacent areas most of my life and that tranisition as the sun imact changes is part of me. Thank you. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lovely photos and descriptions; thank you! I'm envious of having such ready access to lamb, and intrigued by the yoghurt to cleanse the palate. It looks like the yogurt may have some olive oil atop it? Does it have anything else, like garlic? I'm thinking of tzadziki, with its garlic and cucumber, rather than straight yoghurt.

  • Like 1

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A substantial breakfast before going to the countryside


The area round here has spring water sources and natural hot springs. Roadside stalls sell mountain herbs and honey to unsuspecting tourists. My guest house owner, who is also a day trip tour guide and driver, says never buy "honey" from the street as the honey is not genuine. It's nothing but caramel, with some honeycomb in the jar to make it look like honey. The spring water that comes out of various pipes is real, though. My guide filled up his big bottle for the trip.


The true beauty of Albania is found in the countryside. FYI, the country, about the same size as Belgium, is nearly entirely mountainous and has a rich geological history. And only until very recently the infrastructure has been improved. Before that many remote villages were completely cut off from the outside world in the winter due to snow or harsh weather conditions. Because of that they also make more cheese, pickles and preserves, until spring arrives.


There's a beautiful old stone foot bridge at the hot spring


The thermal pool is quite small and just barely warm, really not worth getting undressed and getting wet for. There's also a lot of gross-looking floating stuff in the water. To me it's unsafe to soak in this "hot spring".


We went for a walk instead. Endless waxberry trees everywhere. Some are within reach so I picked some and ate on the spot. Apparently it's not recommended due to possibly the presence of tiny critters on the exterior of the berries.


Albania's mineral wealth has been exploited since antiquity.



Looking down from the road above. The river bed is quite dry at the moment, but it's filled with water after lots of rain. I told the guide in a couple of years they'd build hotels along the banks, erect a gate and fence. It would surely cost a fee to enter the area. The guide said of that he had no doubt at all.


On the stone foot bridge going back to the car


The Albania I remember. Shepherds and their flocks are a part of the countryside landscape. Now I also see flocks of turkeys and their herders. But sheep outnumber them all.


Lunch at a fish restaurants in the hot spring area. Guest house owners/family come here often for fish meals so they all know each other.


The adults had the same fish dish, the children had pasta.


Crispy-fried fish that came from the river behind the restaurant. Firm fleshed and flavourful, almost without any trace of the swamp. The water comes from the mountain so maybe that's why.


Suddenly there was noises and everybody turned their heads to the source...


River behind the restaurant


We caught up with the shepherd and the cute noise makers on the way back.


After a filling fish lunch I requested a small dinner: qofte (meatballs), mixed pickles, vegetables, yoghurt sauce and raki. The guest house owners make a lot of things themselves, pretty much the only thing they don't make is meat. I've mentioned they make own wine, but they also make raki. Couldn't drink raki on my previous trip. So strong and I hated the taste. But this one I can drink and actually enjoy it. We always get a shot at the end (digestif) but today he gave us the bottle for the meal. We drank 3 glasses each.


Their salads are usually refreshing and citrusy.


Mixed pickles. Most popular during cold months. The cooks commented I already know so much about Albanian food. (I like to research the gastronomy before visiting a place, but I've only barely scratched the surface, really.)


Home-made qofte (meatballs) can be any shape you want


Strained yoghurt (with some olive oil on top) for the qofte.


Smithy, the yoghurt sauce for meat is usually plain with some olive oil. It can also contain chopped herbs, or sliced green onions. But I really like the version with chopped pickled aubergines. This goes especially well with meat.


FYI, Albanian qebap (Albanian spelling of kebab) is also plain. Just the meat (qofte) in (hot dog-like) roll, some salt and pepper if desired, that's it. I had a long conversation with an intelligent and kind young girl 7 years back and she translated what her mother said about plain qebap and yoghurt sauce: We Albanians are poor, we don't have a lot of things to add to our food.


Btw, I never forgot that intelligent and kind young girl who spoke flawless English. Actually, I just found her family's shop again and spoked with her brother (also fluent in English) and her mother! Anyway, more about that at another time.



Edited by BonVivant (log)
  • Like 8
  • Thanks 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kitten is so light you will hardly notice she is enjoying the sun sitting on your foot.


Breakfast is slightly different every day as we stay longer than most guests.


After breakfast the boss took us on a day trip to Butrint, Albania's biggest archaeological site.

The amphitheatre is quite small.


Chunks of "debris" you see all over the place turn out to be parts of a column or structure, when you take a closer look.



A stone wall full of ancient inscriptions are just like any other walls, never truly safe from vandals. Pay the guards to keep an eye on the tourists! In Greece the guards would give you a tongue-lashing. They watch you like a hawk, and rightly so. Can't trust the tourists.


Naturally calming surroundings



Anyone who had an army or navy had been here. Venetian tower.


After visiting the archaeological site we stopped by a beach town for a while. 7 years ago I could walk on the beach behind the restaurants/hotels/cafes etc. Now these establishments have blocked off access, making the path private.


Guest house owner and son trying to fish


Corfu is extremely nearby


Driving back. Albania's brand new motorway, took 14 years and is still not 100% complete. Sitting in the front seat I saw many breathtaking overtakes in both directions. Do they understand the dangers? The countless roadside altars are invisible to these drivers. The 3 countries which I am afraid for my safety on the road are Albania, Morocco and another one in Asia. But Morocco takes the biscuit, though. Absolutely no fear of death, as if playing a driving video game, none of the seatbelts ever work.


The van in front of us made a daring overtake/passing us, missing a car from the opposite direction by a hair's breadth. Whoa.


I requested a meatless dinner. Broccoli (and other vegetables) soup.


Green salad with some mixed pickles


Aubergines with onion-rice


Beetroots and potatoes


Spinach-cheese pie with home-made yoghurt


There are "Aldi supermarkets", "Aldi bakeries", "Aldi hairdressers" etc in town, but they have nothing to do with the Aldi in Germany/Europe.


Today I took a closer look at the "vineyard" at the guest house... They have a big back garden with various fruit trees, lemon and mandarin trees, plums etc. And lots of grape vines for shade in the summer. Owner says he's going to get rid of the vines and plant kiwis.



Forgot photo of the qofte/meatballs in previous post:




  • Like 10
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, BonVivant said:

And lots of grape vines for shade in the summer. Owner says he's going to get rid of the vines and plant kiwis.


Did he say why?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Long day on the road today. The distance is short but the time spent sitting in gridlock traffic takes twice as long to get to your destination. Horrendous traffic. Move over, LA. It was not like this on my previous trip. More Albanians can afford cars in recent years so now most roads in big cities are congested at all hours of the day. Traffic comes to a painful crawl before enter the city from the motorway. The air quality is so bad. I wear 2 masks and the one on the outside turns black.


Finally got to our lovely guest house here in coastal town Durres(i), not far from the capital. Saw this local restaurant around the corner from my guest house and decided we would eat there. Well, we went there straight away after getting the key to the room. A small family-run restaurant, 2 women in the kitchen and a young man takes care of the customers. He's professional and speaks excellent English.


Typical Albanian dishes, with lots of vegs, carbs and very little meat. First dish is slow-cooked beef with cabbage. This one piece of meat is perfect size for us, that's usually how much meat we eat at home.


"Oven potatoes". Not golden roast potatoes we had in mind. They were quite wet. Must have been cooked in the oven then let sit in a savoury broth.


Bake yoghurt. Another typical winter dish. Came with a small piece of meat. Yoghurt was good and creamy.


I thought I ordered mixed grilled vegetables. It's mixed vegetables but in a broth (the vegs were cooked separately).


And mixed pickles


Checked out a couple of supermarkets nearby after eating. Italian supermarket chain Conad is sucessful here in Albania. Conad is everywhere and stocks mostly Italian products. We don't have this kind of amazing supermarkets at home in (food) hell.


Fancy salami comes in a gift box that looks like an old book.


Opposite the supermarket is a dairy shop that sells products from a certain dairy producer. I got fresh ricotta and yoghurt.


Lovely airy bread from a bakery a few steps from my lodging.


Albanian wine. Pretty good.


Ate this in my room later. Bread: 60 cents. Wine: $10. Yoghurt and ricotta: $1.40 (for both)


Smithy, re kiwis. He wants to try something different.

Edited by BonVivant (log)
  • Like 6
  • Thanks 2
  • Delicious 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day-aaaam.... a whole year flew by just like that. It was an expensive year for me but I got to travel again.

I'm still in Albania, it's not warm and "easy" like last year in tourist magnet Madeira (more developed but also costlier).

Just a tiny pinch of pistachios.


Pistachios are expensive here (imported from 2 biggest producers Iran and Turkey). It's not even common to see pistachio bakllava due to the cost. Albanian version is often filled with walnuts or other nuts. Bakllava is a treat for Albanians, and also for us. With or without pistachios it's expensive for Albanians.

And last of the 3 packages of Lebkuchen I brought with me.

When I am home again it'll be zizzzz!

Happy new year, all! Safe travels and good health!


  • Like 7
  • Thanks 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Haha... the bakllava above ^^... I could count the bits of nuts inside on the fingers of one hand. Expensive phyllo dough.




Sweet milk rice. I didn't touch it.


Last breakfast at our guest house in Gjirokaster. I requested the home-made yoghurt again. They made a short video clip of making petulla (fried dough) for me. Will miss their lovely family, whose hospitality and kindness are a way of (Albanian) life. This is how a guest house business should be run. Gave them extra money and left the wife my spare (new) camera with batteries and charger. She has mentioned she's never had a camera and I have many so I thought I'd give her one of mine. Both of them were delighted to have my camera. I also gave them some of my Iranian red pistachios for their new year home-made bakllava. The morning I left got a big plastic bottle their wine.


Back in the capital and staying the night to break up the long journey.
Clusters of seed heads?


Went to the new market to find the elderly herb seller but she had already left for the day. I printed out an A4 photo I took of her a couple of weeks earlier and left it with her neighbour to hold on to. I took one and only photo of the new market. You can put  lipstick on a pig...


At the old market all these pickled vegetables were piled high in plastic pails in the open. Stuffed aubergines were probably the most intriguing to me. Haven't seen any yet this time.


Mister Bean in his Mini Cooper


Austrian processed "cheese". I have seen some people eat a wedge alongside their qofte (kofte).


"TFC". Near my lodging, but doesn't have fried chicken like KFC. Haven't been inside. Maybe soon. There's also "AFC" (Albanian fried chicken restaurant, and Albanian version of Macca's)




I hope they are well


Same area, 7 years apart. Where the 2 old men playing game of stones on the pavement.


Time to eat. This local place has King Pils on tap.




Pickled peppers stuffed with young cheese/ricotta.




Puffy bread




Albanian sausage "Suxhuk" (from Turkish Suçuk/beef sausage)




And more bread


Same, dude. Same.  (Mural outside the restaurant)



Edited by BonVivant (log)
  • Like 4
  • Thanks 3
  • Delicious 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Puffy bread appeals. Baked or fried? The pickled and stuffed vegetables remind me of stalls @Pille showed us in Estonia  I always wonder when I see the old men congregated, smoking, reading paper, drinking coffee or tea - where are the women? We do tend to outlive them. I see it in the Chinatowns  I've visited (Los Angeles, Vancouver, San Francisco) and where I live at  coffee shops.  



Lovely gesture on the camera gift. 



Edited by heidih (log)
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The bus ride from Tirana to the north, Cathlic stronghold Shkoder city, should take about 2 hours, but it actually took 3,5 hours. That's 1,5 hrs stuck in a horrendous traffic jam. We couldn't get the key to the flat until 3 so we ate at a simple local restaurant in the same building.


The rice dish with grated cheese, some sort of sauce and qofte was "dish of the day". But we got a standard small portion from the menu. I noticed most Albanian men eat 2 portions of this rice and qofte. The women had the same but with less rice.


Vegetables often come with this balcalmic vinegar sauce. I don't mind balsamic vinegar but not when it's in the food without me knowing. I like to add it to my food myself, don't make that decicion for me.


It's called qofte in sauce. Very soupy. The meatballs were super strong in taste. I asked an employee what sort of meat but apparently it was just beef. Well, we didn't get sick afterward so it wasn't spoilt meat.


Home-made yoghurt, same super strong taste. Owner said it was cow's milk. Many Albanians also ordered the yoghurt for afters.


After dropping off the rucksacs we went to the street market in search of someone I once talked with. I found the byrek shop that I remember. I was trying to look for a shop where I had spoken with a young, very intelligent girl who lived with her family there. I had a short story tranlated into Albanian and showed it to everyone in this area but nobody knew anyone like that. I went inside all the shops and asked, people on the street couldn't escape me either. It was fruitless. It was in late afternoon and some people were starting to close for the day so I decided to come back the next morning and try again.

This byrek shop where I bought and ate cheese, spinach pies on the spot. The girl's shop should not be beyong this point.


Later in the evening... Food in Albania is basically this: Albanian = meat. Italian = pizza and pasta. At some point you will want something that does not contain meat .




The next day.


I went back to the street market to find the girl whose family had a shop. Again, with the translated texts to ask people where I could find her. I decided to start with the first shop this time. A young man and his mother were in the shop. I showed him the Albanian texts and he said "I think it's my sister!". He showed me her photo and I recognised her at once, even though she's no no longer a teenager. The brother, mother and I  talked for a long time, it was emotional. Suddenly a tourist showed up and made everyone cry shortly after they opened the shop. The mother remembered me. The girl I was looking for is now quite successful in her career and living in Luxembourg. I knew she would be a success. Well, long story short, we are now back in touch and hoping to meet up in a near future.


Not that long ago horse and/or donkey carts were a common site in the city.


I notice everything


Boiler outside


Plant pots on trees outside someone's house. Also, this street is unusually clean. My eyes are not used to seeing that. Shkoder is exactly as I remember it: scruffy, crowded, noisy, sprawling street markets, dirty, so much rubbish everywhere. The government is in a great hurry to destroy and modernise the capital but the rest of the country remains pretty much the same Albania I experienced on the first trip.


They installed these bike racks all round the city. 5 bikes can park in the space of a car.


On close inspection turned out a German organisation paid for it. Germany is your pay master. In my travels I see many things are paid for by Germany.


What is nostalgia good for? I take photos of old phones wherever I travel. No longer work and they haven't removed them.


Lunch at a restaurant popular with both locals and tourists. We were the only tourists there at that moment. The lighting is crap (only orange light).


Grilled vegetables and that thick balsamic venegar again.


Stuffed aubergines. They didn't say "stuffed with onions only".


Puffy warm bread


Flattened qofte. I think whenever the meatballs are flattened they take less time to cook.


Roast lamb. Even when it's not the ribs it's still mostly bones and fat. And almost muttony.


Hey now. The toilets at this restaurant.


Later in the flat... Supermarkets have plenty of cheese but I prefer to buy it from a cheese specialist or small shop. They always seemed surprised to see us.


Albanian produced sardines. I'm used to tender sardines from Spain/Greece/Portugal/Croatia etc, these was quite firm. Comes down to quality and how it's processed.


Home-made wine given to us by guest house owners in Gjirokaster. 1,5 litres, took us 3 days to finish.



HeidiH, bread is always warmed in the oven.

  • Like 6
  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Create New...