Oct 22, 2012

Mount Dajti, Albania, Saturday, 20 and Sunday 21 October 2012

Saturday Karim and I planned to go to Dajti National Park, Albania, located 26 km to the east of Tirana. You can go up to 1230m above sea level in under 15 minutes, the Austrian-built Dajti Express cable car or Teleferiku. So Saturday we happily boarded a taxi for the Dajti Express, but unfortunately it was closed for repair. A lot of families and a bus from Kosovo also arrived together with us to try the Dajti Express, but as us they were in vain, and no information on their home page. Instead we took a walk among the villages on the mountain side. As we were informed that the Dajti Express would be working Sunday, we tried again, but not so surprisingly with the same negative result.

Durrës, Albania, Friday, 19 October 2012

Friday, 19 October is day off in Albania, and Karim fra Grontmij, on a short visit to our project, and I went to Durrës - the most important seaport in Albania and the second larges city after Tirana. We went north of the town, where there are very few hotels and tourists compared to south of Durres
Although all our Albanian friends warned us heavily, we took the train to Durres. The trip was pleasant, but rather slow
The Roman amphitheater in Durres
Most of the small bunkers from the communist times has disappeared, some of them has been dumped in the sea
The landscape
There were quite a few small bars along the cost, but all were closed
We had a very nice swim from this beach
We meet several animals on our way - 1
We meet several animals on our way - 2
We meet several animals on our way - 3
We meet several animals on our way - 4

Oct 8, 2012

From Thethi, 30 September 2012

To get from Thethi to Tirana we had to take the minibus to Skhroder, and another bus from there to Tirana.
Our guide had made an agreement with the driver that he should pick us up at 1 p.m. But we waited and waited for more than 1½ hours before the minibus arrived, and when it eventually arrived it seemed to be fully occupied. But after some rearrangements we got our seats.
Soon after we stropped to pick up another 3 passengers, and then another 3 passengers, so we in the end were 24 persons in a bus with 13 seats.
After driving uphill for nearly an hour we reached the mountain pass where we had a short break.

Oct 5, 2012

Thethi, 30 September 2012

Theth remains remote. It is most easily accessible by a 25 km unmade road from the village of Boga which is impassible during the winter months and is not generally suitable at any time of the year for motor vehicles without off-road capabilities.
The mountain village of Thethi (or Theth when in a sentence with a preposition as in "to", "in" or "from Theth") lies in the valley of the Lumi i Shalës, the Shala river in the Malësia e Madhe mountains in the north of Albania. The "Accursed Mountains" as they are sometimes called, tower high above the Shala Valley, with snow clinging to their summits even in midsummer. Here is one of Europe's most remote areas where the age-old traditions of the Kanun, the code of 15th-century prince Leka Dukagjini still survives.
Surrounded by high peaks and dominated by the immense vertical rock wall of mesmerising Mt. Arapit (the Matterhorn of Albania), traditional wooden-roofed farmsteads are scattered throughout the valley.
Theth boasts one of the very few remaining "lock-in towers", an historical form of protection for families that were "in blood". The Lock-in tower has been restored. Theth's "Kulla e ngujemit", the lock-in tower is where the men of a feuding family could take refuge for months or even years. It could easily be defended with its high walls and only slits for windows. The men would survive on livestock kept on the ground floor and food brought by the family's women, who were never targeted. Although those kullas are no longer used, the tribal culture associated with them still lingers, in spite of the four decades of harsh communist rule when the regime tried to stamp out tribal practices.
In the Kanun law "besa", something akin to word of honor or sacred promise was absolutely paramount and violations could lead to reprisals and blood feuds that could last for generations.
When the murderers were sitting in the lock-in tower they could enjoy this nice view.
Blood feuds were virtually extinguished during the communist times, however, the lawlessness of the 1990's saw a rather sharp rise in the number of killings. The New York Times has a series of articles about the Kanun, Lekë Dukagjini, and the blood feuds.
Although the Kanun (traditional Albanian law) remains influential, Theth has not suffered from the recent (post-Communist) reappearance of the blood feud which has troubled other areas of Northern Albania.
The famous Grunas waterfall in the valley
Lumi i Shalës, the Shala river
' There is now a school in the village where youngsters are learning English. This is a part of the Balkans Peace Park Project which is creating a trans-national, cross-border park in the adjoining mountain areas of Kosovo, Montenegro and northern Albania as a symbol of peace and cooperation. The three children in our host family were very good in English.
Our hostess is working with the maize harvest while her husband is smoking cigarettes

Oct 4, 2012

From Valbona to Thethi Valley, 29 September 2012

The mountain pass which separates Thethi from Rrogami is only passable on foot. It is a challenging hike over a poorly marked trail. Parts of the trail are a bit sparse. The hike is spectacular, claimed to be one of the best in the world. The trail is actually a part of a (several?) thousand years old trading route from Kosovo to Shkodra. The trail begins at the very end of the village of Rrogam. The trail is rather light, and seems to disappear at some points. On our way we experienced stunning scenery and grand vistas, a unique and difficult way of life, and traditional Albanian houses and villagers.
In the morning a boy came to the homestay with his mule to carry our luggage
And one more boy with his white horse intended to carry tired Danish consultants
We are on our way to the pass
The Village of Rrogami
Still no use for the white horse
A break in the woods – many breaks were needed
View of the Valbona Valley from a position near the pass
Another break near the pass
View of the Valbona Valley from a position near the pass
After ascending 900 meter we reached the Valbona Pass (1948 m), and started descending towards Thethi (750m).
View of the Valbona Valley at the pass
View of the Thethi Valley at the pass – there are big differences in the vegetation between the two valleys due to the impact on northerly winds in the Valbona Valley. In Thethi Valley the woods are much denser and dominated by deciduous forest while in Valbona the forest is dominated by coniferous trees.
We had our lunch at another nicely situated café - probably without a building permit
Another break
A nice mushroom: The parasol mushroom, Stor Parasolhat (Macrolepiota procera)?
Full moon over Thethi