We made our way from Kalpaki (Greece) towards Kakavia, the border town with Albania, in the morning.
We had earlier read on the internet that EUR10 per person tax on entry is chargeable for driving into Albania. On exit a further EUR2/day each will be levied. So, we were ready with some small change. However, the Albanian border police checked our passport, recorded Our Sorento registration details and within minutes cleared us without asking for any payment.
We stopped a few metres away to check that our passport are all in order before leaving the border post – mum’s passport was not stamped. We walked the short distance back to the border police and got it stamped.
We also bought third party insurance for 15 days (EUR40) and exchanged some Euros for the local currency, Albanian Lek, before making our way onto highway SH4 to Gjirokaster.
The roads were good all the way to Gjirokaster and the sceneries were even better – brown mountains on our left and right as we drove through the flat land in between.
We quickly noticed that houses and villages were built mostly on hill slopes overlooking the piece of flat land used for agriculture.
Ancient ottoman bridge over River Drino void of water near Gjirokaster town.
GJIROKASTER OLD TOWN
We reached Gjirokaster at about 1pm and spent the rest of the day walking around the old town. Albanians we met on our walk were friendlier than the Greeks. They usually said hello and asked where we were from. Those who spoke English told us where to go for the best views of the town or where the places of interests are.
The old town of Gjirokaster had been inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2005 as “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate.”
Bazaar area of the old town
The bazaar area at night.
Here we are walking up the steep slopes of the main street in the old town.
Walking through the narrow walkway of the hillside village.
Mum and dad walking on cobbled streets to a view point pointed out by a local we met.
Here is the view of the old town. Most of the houses at the old town are traditional houses with stone roof. These houses are unique and the stone roof is not seen much elsewhere.
Closer look at the stone roof.
View of the traditional houses on the hill slope. Some can go up to 5 stories high and house everything from the stable in the lower levels to the living quarters in the upper floors.
Artwork on a window of a very old shop.
Another piece of artwork on the glass panel of the door.
We spent some time visiting Gjirokaster castle situated on a hill in the middle of the old town. Entrance fee was 200Lek for the castle and a further 200Lek for the museum.
The castle houses old German and Italian artilleries. As we were making our way out, the lady at the entrance office came out and gave us a booklet on the places of interest throughout Albania. Very nice of her.
Short pit stop and photo session on the long walk up to Gjirokaster castle.
Entrance to the castle that dates back to the 13th century.
The layout of the castle
Mum and dad reading information on the German and Italian artilleries on display.
A little cottage in the castle. Arched walkway in the west wing of the castle.
This tank is a trophy from WWII, captured in Porto Palermo. It is a Fiat and only 243 tanks of similar model was produced in Italy. This 2 men crew tank is powered by coal.
Ali Pasha Tepelene armament collection – These armaments were produced by the British, some were purchased and others given as diplomatic gifts to Ali Pasha. According to historians, in February 1809, the British government gifted Ali Pasha an equipment full with whiz bangs, a new weapon of that time. Ali Pasha took care to have a modern arsenal of cannons, and with this idea, he constructed a small foundry to produce his own weapons in Ioannina. It is estimated that the castle had around 80 cannons during Ali Pasha’s reign.
American Spy Plane? There are two hypotheses on how this U.S. Air Force Lockheed T-33 reconnaissance plane was forced landed in 1957. One, the plane was landed by the Albanian military force and the other due to a engine failure. Regardless, the plane was put on display back then to demonstrate the power of the Albanian military.
The castle market – The seven arches on the right have been used as shops selling hand made products produced by craftsmen of that time. Some of the spaces were cellars to store food.
National Folk Festival Stage. The national folk festival is the biggest event highlighting Albanian folk culture and traditional costumes. The event, attended by folk groups from across Albania, neighbouring countries and members of the Diaspora community, was first held in 1968 and once every 5 years since.
The clock tower built by Ali Pasha Tepelene. In the olden days, it was said that the bells of the tower could be heard as far as Ioannina in Greece. The clock was damaged in WWI and restored in 1968.
Gjirokaster castle–View of the old town and bazaar from the citadel
Pork chops and salad with drinks for tea.
DINNER AT RESTAURANT GJOCA
Gjoca is a small family restaurant serving traditional home cooked meals. Here’s the owner putting in our order. His wife cooks the meals.
Dad and the Albanian flag
Family shot before we eat our dinner
Savory pastry (filo pastry) known locally as “Burek”. We are having the one with the spinach filling for dinner. There is also cheese or mince meat filling.
“Speca mbushura me djath” or Grilled peppers stuffed with cheese
Quifqi or fried rice cakes in the making.
Quifqi or fried rice cakes. Quite yummy and very filling.
“Berxolla derri” or Pork chop
A piece of home made baklava for dessert