The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 10: Korca to Gjirokaster, Albania

balkansOur second day in Albania was a very long travel day but we managed to do some fun thing along the way. We started out with visiting  a site in Korca before heading off on our long drive through the mountains.

The mountains were interesting to see, and we saw some amazing views along the way. We saw bunkers left over from the cold war as well as many areas containing boxes for bee keepers. The roads we drove along were definitely not up to the standards back at home in any way. Fo the most part they were narrow and in very poor shape (some sections of the road were made up of dirt & rock) although a little better than I had expected. There wasn’t much of a guard rail and if you got too close to the edge, it could be a very far drop to the bottom. All along the way there were memorials to victims that had lost their lives along the road.


IMG_5833Our destination was Gjirokaster,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Albania “inscribed as rare examples of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period.”

Here are some of the things we did:

  • Korca Brewery tour
  • Erseke animal market
  • An interesting lunch in the mountains
  • Gjirokaster Castle

IMG_5799Kim and I have been on many brewery tours so when we heard that we could visit Korca, the oldest and one of the largest brewers in Albania we had to stop by. We headed over to the brewery just before leaving the city, hoping that we could do a quick tour.

We were able to do a tour right when we arrived and it took about 30 minutes. (This isn’t like a U.S. brewery with organized tours at set times.) The guide showed us around and was very informative. The brewery was beautiful (one of the original owners was Italian) inside and we were told that most of the equipment was very new. We were even shown how they monitor all of the stages of the brewing process by computer. The brewery had lots of space and didn’t see as cramped as other breweries we’ve visited in the past.

One of the highlights of our visit was getting to taste the beer. One of the brewers got us each a glass and then started filling them up from a line directly connected to the brewing machinery.

The beer was extremely cold and decent. It wasn’t my favorite but it didn’t taste too bad either (just what I wanted at 9:30am).

IMG_5821While driving through the mountains we passed through the town of Erseke. Our driver mentioned that they had a small animal market so I asked if we could stop by. I was the only one to get out of the car to check out the market. Animals like horses, goats, sheep and cow were tied to a tree or to each other. I didn’t see any sales or bidding but I did see a very old scale in the middle of the market.  I also saw the cow in the make-shift trailer above getting hit with a little stick since it wouldn’t turn the direction the owner wanted it to.

IMG_5843While driving through the mountain we stopped at a restaurant for a traditional lunch. During the trip we didn’t see too many other cars so I was surprised to see so many people at the restaurant.

The menu had some interesting items listed with little information about them so I thought I’d go with something that sounded safe. I ordered lamb from the grill and it definitely wasn’t what I had in mind.

I expected to get grilled meat similar to shish kebab but the lamb that came out was a bit more natural looking. All of the meat was on the bone with much of it surrounded by fat. There was also some other nasty bits included which I believe were organs (maybe the kidney or liver).

Before eating any of the meat, I had to clean off the fat. The first bite I took was very chewy and tough. As I dug through the pile of meat and cleaned off some more it, I found some very tasty pieces . Overall I  didn’t love the food. There was too much work involved for little pay off in terms of having a tasty, enjoyable meal.

IMG_5863When we arrived in Gjirokaster, the first thing we noticed was the castle which is high up in the hills. The castle looked amazing from far away so we had to check it out in person. We stopped by the castle late in the day so we didn’t have a lot of time left with sunlight and it got dark out pretty fast. 

When we entered the castle, we first checked out a display of old military weapons. The weapons were some sort of rocket launcher or mortar shooting device. There were very nice views of the city from up top. The main attraction seemed to be an old American fighter plate which was in horrible condition. We stopped by the plane and took a bunch of pictures and then headed out since it was getting too dark to see anything.

Make sure to keep checking back to find out more about our trip to the Balkans.

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