Albanian Country Feast

Today Lindsay and I were a little over 84K’s out of Vlore when a familiar cyclist appeared peddling towards us. Brian. He had cycled towards us after a night in Durres where the bus had dropped him off after a 13 hour trip from Athens. He turned around and we began cycling together again.

There weren’t a lot of accommodations within the 20 or so K’s ahead that we were comfortable riding before stopping for the day. We are inland now in farm country. We settled on an old three story hotel right on our bike route called Hotel B&B. The newer highway had bypassed this place years ago. Without a website, poor signage, and an aging concrete bridge to get here, customers had to be scarce. An older gent greeted us with shots of Raki after hustling our cycles into the bar area. We had no common language. We settled on 90 Euros for three rooms and let him cheat us on the exchange to Leks. He’s an energetic man quick with a grin and one who doesn’t take no for an answer. He offers to take us to a restaurant in his car after we settle in.

We searched out a restaurant nearby but he insists we must travel 15k to a better one. It turns out this one is in a national park he wanted to show us and is a very special treat locally to eat here. Not fancy at all, it has a rustic charm and top- notch service. There is no menu, they just keep bringing you food . And saying no more has no noticeable effect. Grilled sea bass, a fish called kuce and sautéed jumbo shrimp. Potatoes and fresh salad. Toasted bread. All prepared simply but so good. We were persuaded to absolutely gorge ourselves. The proprietor just kept loading our plates and saying “thank you.” Maybe the only English he knew. I have never ate so much fish at a sitting. I don’t want to ever again either but these hosts wanted to treat us royally. Then when our stomachs were bursting he brought out bowls of yogurt and honey. There was a half a jar of honey in my bowl alone. Enough to trigger some kind of diabetic reaction in any normal person. I had a polite few spoonfuls.

After leaving the restaurant, our hosts gave us a full on tour of the area including his son’s bakery, his own olive and fruit trees, vegetable gardens and small vineyard.

Our host has two BMW’s, a house in town, and a pretty sizable property. A real anomaly for someone with a small hotel that change has left behind. Someone that eats ravenously with his hands. Someone with a neglected dog chained to a metal stake on a concrete slab in the backyard who barks and whines with loneliness.

It’s easy to miss- read appearances within a different culture and a language barrier. Our host was very generous to us.

Our Albanian host. His name is Sazan..

12 thoughts on “Albanian Country Feast

  1. Sounds like such a great interesting experience, but I’m a sap—did he let you guys pet his dog? Or was it hands off?

    1. We didn’t try and weren’t encouraged to. Younger big long lanky dog. It was dissettling to me. I awoke around 3 am thinking about the dog who had wrapped himself around the post from circling. His owner made no attempt to untangle him. These things really bother me.

      1. Sounds amazing! Love the personal stories of people and places. A first hand insight!

      2. Thanks, Jeanne! Nice to hear from you. I’ve been keeping track of weather there. Jeez. We go to Montenegro tomorrow. Back on the Euro and off the Albanian Leks. Sazan FaceTimed us at 7 this morning. The old boy misses us! He’s the guy in my last blog. Hope your foot is healing! Buck

  2. Ah Buck yes different cultures. This guy lived through Enver Hoxha’s vicious dictatorship and may have had to do national service. We stayed at a farm on the other end of Albania, the farmer took us around his farm talking constantly (in Albanian), telling us about his (and it was) excellent farm. His daughter was the hostess and she spoke a bit of English. The farm, the house, Mercedes and the hospitality was fantastic. They were assisted by the EU, Swedish charity & a USA aid program. The daughter told us that her dad the farmer spent 2 years in national service living on 700g of bread a day if I remember rightly, and anything else they had to get themselves. AKA taking what they could get. It was a very mean regime in an isolated time. Enver Hoxha purported to be a true communist and made enemies of Mao Zedong, of Yugoslavia’s Tito & USSR & even North Korea. A lunatic for sure. As a dog owner & lover I recoiled at some terrible dog treatment in northern Greece & Albania. I think they were essential as warning from Hoxha’s secret police coming to take you son or whatever, to warn you of robbers. Its very sad but old habits die slowly. We got attacked by 5 – 60 kg Maremma dogs in Romania that were protecting their sheep. scared the living daylights out of me. Local mountain bikers carry very strong pepper spray in case they get attacked by these dogs. There is another way to protect yourselves from these dogs without the risk of spraying yourself or your mate if the wind is the wrong way. We got a length of 3/4″ or 1″ electrical conduit about 1.5m long. Then with 3 loosely done up zip ties held it onto the bikes along the top tube so that it stuck out in front of the bars where we could reach it. I found that by just pulling it out and waving it the dogs knew exactly what was about to happen and left us alone. Jeanette was never in the right frame of mind to do this, but did not really have to. Hopefully I am not relating too much bullshit Buck. I am still very envious of your trip.

    1. It’s fun to hear of different experiences. We were too early coming through Tirana to stop but thanks for the info anyway. Two more days in Albania.

  3. Wow. All of this report was good and interesting until the dog part. Sometimes, it’s cultural differences, sometimes it’s an asshole. I lived with a Guatemalan family for 6 weeks years ago. They had a young dog named Hunter (in English) who lived in their cement entryway/carport. His job was to guard the house. They fed and watered him, period. For 6 weeks, I attended and walked him daily. It broke my heart to leave him. One of the daughters said she’d take over when I left. Ha! I’m sure it didn’t happen. A sad memory that haunts me still.

    1. Hi Lee! Hope you two are someplace other than the North Shore. Tough spring there. We’ll be in Montenegro tomorrow if all goes well. Maybe take a day off, tho. We did see Sazan take the dog for a walk before we left. Then back on a short leash.

  4. Hi Buck,
    Good thing to know you three are together again! Brian, I once left my passport in a bathroom in Iceland; luckily it was picked up by a kinder soul than you encountered. I also had a passport stolen from me in my sleep, so it takes all kinds.
    Albania sounds amazing!

    1. Hi John! We’re in Shkoder tonight. Taking a day off tomorrow the into Montenegro the following day. Brian handled the passport problem about as well as could be done. He got a temporary one from the Embassy which should get him through this trip. I’ll have to hear the full story of your stolen passport while sleeping when I next see you. You must have lots of amazing travel stories I haven’t heard!

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