It’s been exactly two weeks since I been back to Vancouver after being in Europe for over six weeks. The first stop was my country, Albania. I left my country when I was 18 years old and have been back a few times since I left. Visiting Albania, my home country with my siblings was one of my favourites and unforgettable trips I’ve had in a long time. The last time I visited Albania, was seven years ago.
I planned on visiting my country in October after the fashion week, but my baby sister called me and suggested all of us to surprise our parents and spend a week together in our village where we grew up. We have reunited all together in the past but never in Albania. Since three of my siblings live in Germany, and my baby sister in USA we have always been meeting each other in Germany. Let’s say that I was happy to reunite again and excited to be back home where we grew up and had all the beautiful childhood memories. We decided to meet all at Tirana airport and drive to the village altogether. I can’t explain all the happiness and excitement, and I couldn’t wait to get off the plane and hug my brother and my sisters. Although we have been apart for over twenty-six years, our times together are always amazing.
We arrived in our home 2am and my mom couldn’t believe that we were all together. Looking at the videos we took at the moment we arrived and my mom being all confused seeing us all together was the biggest surpsise. Thankfully they didn’t have a heart attack!
Home Sweet home – Kote
Kote is a small town of Vlore, were I grew up. The first few days, we spend time at our village visiting the river where we used to play as children, highschool and driving around. What I noticed was that everything I saw if felt small, not what I had from my memory. Back then, everything felt bigger. I had Turkish coffee with my mom and sisters in the veranda every morning, ate mom’s byrek while teasing each other like when were little. Having my brother with us was a treat as all of us sisters talk to each other daily, but he isn’t a big fan of exchanging text messages all day long. He likes face to face interaction, so is my dad. I barely talk to my dad or my brother on the phone, but we talk a lot face to face.
A day at Jale beach
After a few days, we decided to drive to Jale beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Vlore city. I travelled to many places in Europe, but my city has the best beaches I’ve seen. Sorry, Croatia, Italy, Greece, and Montenegro, I know you’ll disagree, but Albania has got the best beaches in all of Europe. The stony beaches make the water a gorgeous, crystal-clear turquoise that feels like your real-life it’s Photoshopped. The beaches of Himara and Dhermi are breathtaking. The pictures won’t do its justice. If you travelling to Albania, Jale beach is one of the hottest spots to visit. It’s a bit pricey then the rest of the beaches, but to spend a full day is all worth it.
With the roads being repaired, we had the best of both worlds. We drove back and forth in the city with the drive being only 15 min away from our home. All-day in the town visiting families and friends and half of the day being at the beach, we would be happy to be back and eat mom’s food. I mean, in Vlore, you could eat the best fish and fresh food at any of the beach restaurants, but honestly, nothing beats moms home cooking.
Kalaja beach is another beautiful beach that is in the city. It’s small, and you need to go in early to get a seat. There is s small Bar that offers coffee and snacks and the best summer music. It was our go-to beach since other nice beaches are a bit of drive from our home.
Rozafa Castle – Shkoder
Growing up in a village, we didn’t have the luxury of travelling. We couldn’t afford it. Even when I left Albania and each time I visited, I had a bad experience when the roads in Albania were awful, so I didn’t travel much to other cities. Even though Albania It’s a small country that you can go around in one full day, the bad roads made it harder to travel. I was happy this trip to find that it wasn’t the case. Of all the routes we took, were structured as everywhere in Europe. When I was little, I always wanted to visit Shkoder. It was one of the cities that intrigued me the most, only by watching Albanian movies and reading books. The city is one of the most advanced in Albania in terms of lifestyle and culture.
The city didn’t disappoint; it is simply breathtaking. We visited the Rozafa Castle the first time I have ever experienced seeing something touristy in my country. We drove through the city, visited coffee shops and had a wonderful lunch by the river. Shkodra is known for cooking the best fish. So delicious and tasty that I wouldn’t have thought I’d enjoy it as much. It was one of the best days I had while being in Albania. Thankfully my brother is also curious and loves being a tourist just as four of us girls. So we had him driving us and treating us afterwards to the most delicious meals. Yes, I have the best brother; what can I say 🙂 The dress from Dorothy Schumacher that I have worn in the past in New York was also a big hit in Shkoder too. Still a favourite dress of mine!
Tirana, Albania’s capital, is unlike any other city in Albania. It’s chaotic and exhilarating, unique and intriguing, fast-paced and improving. The best way to get a sense of Tirana is by walking. I visited Tirana for a few projects (more on this later ) and one of them being a guest in TV Klan in Rudina Magjistari show. I felt honoured when they reached out to me. The interview was great, but I was a bit nervous to tell you the truth but had fantastic feedback afterwards. Thank you to all who mesaged and called me. My mom was crying with happiness thinking I am this big celebrity. She kept saying everybody is calling and telling her that they saw me on TV. I’d feel the same as my mom if my son was on TV to tell you truth so I don’t blame my mom!
After my projects finished, I spend a few days catching up with a few friends and my cousins. The nightlife in Tirana is enjoyable. I loved going out in the Blloku neighbourhood, the old heart of the communist party loyalists. The district has turned into a hipster/upscale area of sorts, where a draft beer goes for 12 euros. It ain cheap but is fun and safe.
If you’re travelling solo and but want to experience the best of Albanian nightlife, you can do a bar hooping through trendy Blloku accompanied by a local if you are not feeling comfortable on your own. After two weeks I left Albania happy and proud. One of the best trips I’ve had since I lfet. Being with my whole family I felt so happy that I never wanted to live, but I had to be back to my lovely husband and my beatufil city of Vancouver. Until the next time my beautiful Albania! I hope this inspires you to visit my beautiful country and experince the culture and the beautiful beaches and scenery! Aurela x