At the end of May our younger son, Josh, came to spend a month in Albania with us. He is fortunate to be able to work remotely which helped make this trip possible. It has been wonderful having him stay with us!
Yay, Josh has arrived in Albania! I was working when Josh got here so I could not go to the airport to greet our son.
On one of Josh’s first days here he came over to school so I could give him a tour and have him meet my students. The kids loved talking with him and peppering him with questions.
I took a personal day off work so we could take a three day weekend and visit Meteora, Greece. As you know from a previous post, I had already been there, loved it and was anxious for Randy and Josh to experience this beautiful part of the world. We stopped in Pogradec, Albania for dinner on the way. Pogradec is on a large lake (Lake Orhid) with a nice beach and boardwalk full of shops and restaurants.
The next morning we were awoken by an earthquake!!! We were spending the night in Korce, Albania which is 19 km from the epicenter of the earthquake. At about 6:30AM our beds started shaking and there was a loud train-like sound. It seemed like it lasted forever but it was probably only a minute or so. There were several aftershocks throughout the morning with an especially strong one that measured at 5.2 also. We were eating breakfast at the time, when the lights started swinging, the refrigerator full of glass bottled drinks started clattering, one door slammed shut and another swung open. It was all a bit unsettling. We never saw any severe damage but we were told that several homes collapsed closer to the epicenter of the earthquake.
The first monastery we visited was St. Stephen’s which is a nunnery where only a handful of nuns live. Unlike the other monasteries, there were no steps to climb to visit here.
That evening we went on a sunset tour which was breathtaking!
The following morning we went on a four hour hiking tour that included viewing a monastery that was tucked into the side of a mountain.
That afternoon Josh and I visited three more monasteries. Our favorite was St. Nicholas because we saw several monks there. Also, we thought this monastery had an especially spiritual tone to it.
St. Barbara’s monastery is a nunnery. There are 36 nuns who live here, more than live in any of the other monasteries. You can really tell that women live here because of all the gorgeous flower gardens, it has a different feel to it.
This is Holy Trinity Monastery. The rope net is how people accessed the monastery until the 1920’s when steps were carved into the sides of the mountains to get to the top. People or supplies were put in the net and then were pulled to the top. We climbed 200-350 steps to visit each of these monasteries.
The next morning we visited Varlaam, the sixth and final monastery. This monastery is named after the first monk to have lived amongst the rocks in 1350.
While visiting Meteora we stayed in a charming little village called Kalambaka. This was the view from our AirBnB.
On our drive back to Tirana we took a slight detour so we could visit the Bay of Bones in the country of North Macedonia. This also allowed Josh to get another stamp in his passport.
Another nice meal with Edlira and Aldo so that Josh could meet our Albanian friends.
While we were eating dinner with Aldo and Edlira, Edlira pointed out that a famous Albanian singer (Jonida Maliqi) was eating dinner at the next table. Josh then asked for a picture and she very graciously said yes.
I wanted Josh to experience an Albanian bus tour so we took a day trip to Holta’s Canyon, about an hour’s drive outside of Tirana.
As you can see we walked through this gorgeous canyon that had water throughout it. Sometimes the water came up to our ankles, sometimes the water came up to our waists or shoulders which means we held our backpacks on our heads. There was one place where we even had to swim for a short distance. Also, there were parts of the canyon that had warm thermal waters to swim in. It was really fun and such a different experience! Randy was not with us for this weekend because he had flown back to the States to attend our son, David’s, graduation from his general surgery residency program. Yay, David!
The following weekend we drove two hours to Berat, spent the night at a charming hotel called Castle Park and then went on a rafting trip through the Canyon of Osumi the following day. The rafting was low key and relaxing with a stop at a waterfall to get wet.
Back in Tirana, we went to this very cool, interesting coffee shop that has the theme of communism. There were several items in the shop from that time period. The shop serves several different types of raki which is an Albanian liquor similar to Italian grappa. I do not care for the taste at all, way too strong!
Josh really fell in love with Albania, especially the outdoors, nature part of this country. He took two trips to the Albanian Alps in the north on his own. Then he and Randy took a trip to the south on the Albanian Rivera where they scuba dived on an Italian hospital ship that was sunk by the Nazis in 1944.
Right now Randy, Josh and I are in Belfast, Northern Ireland visiting Daniel and LeeAnn who stayed with us through the Irish Children’s Program many years ago. I will write a post about our visit in Belfast sometime soon. We arrive back in the States on July 13th. After being abroad for 11 months I am ready to be home for a few weeks to visit family and friends and to be in our own home for awhile.