This past weekend I traveled with another volunteer to Shishtavec, a small village in a high and inaccessible valley close to the border with Kosovo in the Kukes region of northern Albania. I don’t think any PCVs have been in that area before. After meeting the other volunteer in Kukes, we took the one daily furgon up to Novesoj (right next to Shishtavec) – two hours on a bumpy windy dirt road with 30 people and a lot of dry goods packed in a van meant for 15.
When we got to town, the English teacher of the village (who we had met on the bus) took us for coffee. After we convinced him that we really did want to camp out and politely turned down his request that we stay the night at his house, he then in true Albanian fashion took two hours out of his day to lead us out of town through the wonderful old stone buildings (the village was so clean!) up into the hills to a lake, because it was the best place he knew to camp. The hospitality in this country is famous for a reason.
When we arrived at the lake the sun was low in the sky. It is one of the most beautiful places I have been in Albania – birch trees and firs and golden fields peppered with thatched roofed stone homes all underneath the shadow of blue mountains. The two of us camped out in a small forest next to the lake and met a man who lives nearby – he offered us freshly caught fish (caught while we watched) and wild mushrooms for dinner…
The only ride back to Kukes was at 6 am, so we had to wake up in the dark to hike back down the hill…but it was worth it for the view of the stars. Thanks to the new road between Tirana and Kukes (the best in the country…opened last summer) I was back home before noon in my own bed for a much needed nap.
All in all it was a short and wonderful trip that restored my faith in both humanity and nature after a few stressful weeks in Lezhe.