We have been very fortunate to have all three of our children visit us in Albania. Elizabeth, her husband, Ben and their four children arrived the last week of June to spend a week with us. Some of the grandchildren stayed with us at our apartment and the rest of the family stayed at an apartment a short walk away. As is typical in Albania, the price to rent the two bedroom apartment for a week was very reasonable.
It was a 10 hour overnight flight from Johannesburg to Rome. This is how the kids felt after landing in Rome and waiting for the hour long flight to Tirana.
So exciting for the Chervenak Family to see Tirana on the departure board at the Rome airport.
Jacob just could not keep his eyes open any longer and fell asleep on the taxi ride from the airport to our apartment.
I absolutely LOVED walking down the sidewalk in front of our apartment, showing our four grandchildren where we live.
Eating a bit of lunch across the street from our apartment on a super hot day.
Grandaddy and Uncle Josh have just returned from a trip to southern Albania and everyone is happy to greet them.
Whenever someone comes to visit us in Albania the first dinner we take them to is at a zgara. A zgara is a restaurant specializing in traditional Albanian food particularly various grilled meats. It is very inexpensive to eat at a zgara. The menu also includes foods like tzatziki, grilled vegetables and some yummy bread called simites. Juliet looks like she is ready to enjoy some dinner!
Because I am who I am, I cannot help myself when it comes to planning. My family always teases me about making so many plans but it works for me. These were my sketched out possible plans for our week together.
The next day while I went to work, Randy took the Chervs to Djati Mountain. Here they are walking to the city center to catch the bus to the cable cars and then up the mountain.
Taking the cable car up, up, up…
All kinds of interesting things to do at the top of Djati Mountain.
Later that day we took a city bus to the park to play.
We met some of my students and their parents at the park so the kids could play together.
The next day I took the Chervs on a tour of the school plus the kids had some time to play in my classroom that is mostly cleaned up since it is the end of the school year.
The family is now on a bus up to Kruja to visit the castle and the bazaar. I love not dealing with car ownership while living abroad: no insurance, car maintenance, registration, gas bills, car payments, etc. It is a nice change to be dependent on walking and public transportation and not a car.
A windy day at the castle for Bennett (age 5), Jacob (age 9), Ella (age 6) and Juliet (age 2).
After the castle it is always fun to explore the bazaar for some souvenir shopping.
After enjoying Chinese food with Dana for dinner we stopped for ice cream at Ciocclatitaliani, yum!
Next up was a carousel ride. I think we may have been spoiling the grandchildren but since we only get to see them for 12 days this year, spoiling is what we do. 🙂
Running through the fountains at Skanderbeg Square followed by light up balloons is always fun!
Elizabeth and Ben made a big effort to get to Albania with their children to visit us. We love and appreciate them so much!!
Elizabeth worked for President Bush when he was in the White House so I had to take this picture. There is a street named after him in Tirana because President Bush was the first and only American president to visit Albania.
Josh and I took Elizabeth and Ben on the free walking tour of Tirana and then stopped by here so they could taste the raki and experience this communist themed coffee shop.
The five adults went out for dinner sans children one night. Edlira and a friend of hers kindly agreed to watch the kids. Thank you, Edlira and Klaudina! The kids had such fun with both of you!
Bennett and I have just bought tickets for the family to enter the castle in Berat where we will spend the night. Berat is a two hour drive from Tirana.
We stayed at the Guest House Kris where we had stayed the previous October. Charming, inexpensive and they serve a delicious breakfast the following morning.
Touring the castle grounds.
We hired a tour guide to help us understand the history of the castle. As part of the tour we were able to enter two of the churches that included original frescos. Amazing!
That night we climbed up through some narrow cobbled roads to eat a delicious, abundant dinner at Lili’s, an excellent restaurant recommendation from a friend.
Berat, the city of 1000 windows…
Breakfast at the castle the following morning before we get in our rental cars and drive another two hours to the Albanian beach town of Vlore.
We have arrived in Vlore and are waiting for our pizza before heading to the beach. Can you see the beach behind us, across the street?
Beach time! Most of the beaches in Albania have small pebbles instead of sand. There are a few beaches that have sand but that is because sand has been trucked in. Vlore is located where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet. If you follow the Adriatic Sea north then you would end up near Venice, Italy. If you follow the Ionian Sea south then you end up in the Mediterranean Sea.
The hotel we stayed in had a rooftop pool which we enjoyed after the beach. Can you see the sea in the background?
Delicious seafood dinner next to the sea at sunset, beautiful!
On the way home from Vlore to Tirana we stopped in the ancient Greek city of Apollina. Can you spot three children at the top of the ampitheater?
Just a boy running on the road Caesar Augustus walked on…
Lighting a candle and saying a prayer at the beautiful St. Mary Orthodox Church in Apollina.
The following day we are at the Tirana airport preparing to fly to Vienna. It is Jacob’s 9th birthday so he was able to buy one more souvenir at the airport gift shop.
It was wonderful to have the Chervenak Family visit for a week. Seeing Albania through our grandchildren’s eyes was different, exhausting but most of all lots of fun. We loved it!
The nine of us left Albania and headed to Vienna for a wedding which I will update you on soon.
We are home now and I am working to catch up on this blog. When seeing some of my friends they have asked about how to respond to my blog without making it public. I think there is a way to do it through the blog but I am not sure how. Anyways, if you want to send a message to me please feel free to use my personal email firstname.lastname@example.org