Albania is the most beautiful country in the world. The traveler debunks the myths about the Balkan pearl with a bad reputation

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“It’s the most beautiful country in the world. Half the globe will want to go here and the other half will be jealous they were there.” Luboš Vránek begins his lecture on Albania with a quote from the travelers Zigmund and Hanzelka. He himself did not travel as much as the legendary adventurers, but the country in the south-east of Europe interested him so much that he wrote a book about it.

When he visited this Balkan pearl for the first time in 1995, he was greeted by border guards with machine guns. In places the country looked like it was stuck sometime in the 19th century. Cholera was even rampant in Dráč at that time. But Albania captivated travelers with its rawness, beautiful mountains, rivers and lakes. He returned to it again in 2016. He tried to get to know the places he visited twenty years ago, but the country has changed a lot.

Photo: archive of Luboš Vránek

At that time, a fifteen-kilometer beach with beautiful pine groves stretched from Drač. Cars drove on the beaches because it was easier than driving on broken roads. Today, instead of groves, hundreds of hotels with forests of umbrellas and sunbeds line the coast,” explains the traveler, who has returned to Albania four more times in recent years.

On repeated trips, he mainly admires the beautiful colors of the local rocks. “I like the Dolomites, and Albania actually has similar mountains. They are smaller, but they are also made of limestone,” notes the author of the book The Rough Beauty of Albania.

Cheap rakija instead of coffee

The mountain terrains there are challenging. The traveler experienced a real adventure during his first visit to the Albanian Alps. He and his wife Michaela set off on a route through the village of Velipojë. When it started to rain and the wind picked up, they headed in the wrong direction. They were supposed to turn back, but instead attempted a difficult descent during a thunderstorm. As a result, the ground beneath Vránek was torn away and a sixty-meter drop opened up beneath it. Fortunately, a branch stopped the fall.

Exhausted, they returned to the car. They wanted to refresh themselves with coffee at the local bar, but they only had rakija on offer. “We were convinced and ordered a shot, but I didn’t expect such a lamp. We got straight kids.” Lovers of mountain tourism were also pleasantly surprised by the low price, equivalent to about 12 crowns per glass. “I told myself that life would be good here,” recalls Luboš Vránek.

A beauty with a bad reputation

Twelve years ago, the traveler Petr Horký wrote a book aptly titled Albania Beauty with a Bad Reputation. The Czechs have a country linked to the disappearance of three students in a remote mountain area around the village of Theth in northern Albania. It happened in 2001.

According to Luboš Vránek, the situation at the time was problematic, it was still relatively short after the war, there were still a lot of armed people in the area, and the students from Bohemia may have underestimated this fact. But the disappearance is still not satisfactorily explained. Currently, the talk is more about the ubiquitous disorder, sometimes Vránek hears rumors about mafias or blood feuds. At the moment, however, the threat in the Albanian mountains is more bears, of which there are said to be over a thousand, wolves and sometimes even wild dogs.

Albanian Riviera

A few years ago, tourists neglected the country with its breathtaking mountains and beaches, but recently there has been a turnaround and more and more tourists are starting to visit Albania looking for the ideal beach holiday. Some have even found opportunities to invest in real estate in this country, which has led to a significant increase in demand for apartments.

Photo: archive of Luboš Vránek

“The northern part of Albania is cheaper. The Riviera, on the other hand, is significantly more expensive, perhaps reaching the level of Croatia in terms of price,” calculates Vránek. “The most popular area now is Ksamil. When I was there five years ago, it was a village. They were just building a camp there, and today it is a hotel paradise.” People are attracted by the three islets and the clear water, but during the season, according to an experienced traveler, it is “head on head”: “Those who know, go to the Riviera in June or September,” thinks Vránek. According to him, the cleanliness of the beaches and the quality of services are improving year by year, but waste management still does not work very well.

When asked how to best enjoy Albania, the traveler gives a flowery answer: “Refresh yourself in the turquoise rivers and lakes, sleep under the sun, swim in the sea. Ancient monuments will offer a touch of ancient history, in the mountains you will enjoy breathtaking panoramas and climbing between rock towers deep canyons. And don’t forget to try the excellent Mediterranean cuisine.” Albania can surprise not only with its beauty. Who would have thought that you can treat yourself to delicious frog legs in one of the restaurants in Gjirokastër?

Luboš Vránek

Photo author: archive of Luboš Vránek

Luboš Vránek

Luboš Vránek is a graphic artist, photographer and traveler. He visited Albania several times, people’s great interest in information and tips about the country in the south-east of Europe inspired him to write the book The Rough Beauty of Albania. In his travelogue, he tells about his visits to Albania over a period of 8 years.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Albania beautiful country world traveler debunks myths Balkan pearl bad reputation

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