Albania – A European Jewel

First of all, an apology to my Albanian friends – I missed your Independence Day! Yes, I know it was 28 November, and I had the date at the back of my mind, but somehow it slipped past. Well, belatedly, let me congratulate you and wish your beautiful country success and prosperity in the future.
But not so much prosperity that it loses its special character. What impressed me most on my brief visit to the country in 2010 was the spectacular natural beauty, Like New Zealand, Albania’s location a little off the main lines of tourism and modernisation gives it an opportunity to follow a slightly different path – where economic development goes hand in hand with a recognition of the need to protect the natural environment.
I want to share an article I came across recently where the writer is extolling the beauties of that  nature:
Cable car from Tirana to Mt Dajti
“Traveling through Albania is an exercise in reliving the past. Gone are the hordes of English-speaking tour guides and long lines for Lonely Planet-rated monuments. In their place are friendly but confused Albanians who hope visitors speak a little Italian, and unmarked hiking trails.
“The capital’s geographical and cultural center is Skanderbeg Square. It’s a handy place to orient yourself, as most of the city’s sights are nearby. The square itself is ringed with municipal and government buildings. In the middle of the square stands a large statue of national hero George Skanderbeg. An Albanian nobleman trained and commissioned by the Ottoman Empire, he facilitated Albanian independence and remains a key figure for the country’s nationalist movement.

“The best sight in Tirana, in fact, lies outside the city. Mount Dajti National Park is an easy cable car ride away. Dajti Expres operates the cars throughout the day and a round-trip ticket costs 700 lek. The escape from the city begins as soon as we board the cable car. Aside from the welcome blast of fresh air, the views of Tirana and the approaching mountain range are stunning. Climbing up the side of the mountain, it is surprising to see very little development. The mountain has a smattering of hotels and restaurants, but the majority of Dajti’s surface remains clear of the development that marks almost all of İstanbul. It’s unusual to see something so close to a major city remain so untouched. Read more . . .
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