The Culinary Reinvention of Albania

Food, drinks and travel are so much related to each other of course. Few are the things that will illustrate the nature and the history around a nation like its dishes, its drinks, its farming methods, its serving patterns and all the cultural elements that go with it (prayers, ceremonies, beliefs, superstitions etc).

Where we come from, food has been a blessing, food has been a curse. Food is what our step-grandparents would swear on. Although at the borders of the Mediterranean, bathed by magic pure azure waters of mountain rivers and lakes, blessed with four distinct seasons and generous sunshine, food has never been easy for our ancestors. Salt was exchanged to gold. Wines were forbidden by religions. Production became a heresy from politics.

But history keeps going and in this part of the World we tend to produce more than we can consume (history right!?)! And the day has come when Albania is back to the big family of the European and Mediterranean free societies and although things are not always easy, freedom is such as to allow us to grow, modernize, advance and change rapidly. That was most of what many of us, ran after for the first 10 or 20 years after the fall of Stalin-ism. But for so many great reasons (and tourism is one of the important), we also have the possibility and the intelligence to look back at the ways our grandparents used to approach it. With so much success. Sustainability!? We rarely think of it but without thinking of it or in the very difficult chances to over-modernize, very likely we can rank among champions, specially when it comes to food production.

At Albanian Trip we decided to keep working on our idea of telling about Albania through food and drinks! “Does Albania produce any wine” is often a question when we militate in international travel events! Well in this part of the World, wine was used at least 2400 years ago and for practical reasons.

We did choose to offer a tour (9 days, 8 nights) that will most likely have slight changes in accordance to the seasons but which will run for most of the year.

Here is what it’s going to look like:

                 The Reinvention of the Albanian Cuisine and Wines

Day 1 – Arrive Tirana Airport. Drive to Patok. Meal with fishermen catch of the day. Boat ride around the Lagoon of Patok to see nature and communist bunker leftovers.

Drive to Mrizi I Zanave in Lezha. Dinner, wine, raki and overnight.

Day 2 – After breakfast a coffee and a talk with local shepherds.

Drive to Zogaj on the Shkodra Lake. Cooking class and meal with locally caught and cooked carpe. The Shkodra tradition of Carpe totally changes general perception that carpe is a cheap and not interesting fish. Visit of the local women carpet cooperative.  Drive to Shkodra. Visits and overnight in central hotel.

Day 3 – After breakfast we drive to central Albania. Visit of Bunker Farm and meal with products of the season. Drive to Tirana. Visits of the downtown.

Dinner at Mullixhiu restaurant. Overnight in Tirana.

Day 4 – Explore Tirana all day long. We visit the Albanian Memorabilia Family Collection and enjoy a Mom made Turkish coffee and a little bit of season fruit jam. Bunk’Art 1 at the feet of the Dajti Mountain will add for a bit of Communist paranoia history. Lunch in a countryside restaurant. Evening exploring Tirana’s downtown. Dinner in a small family restaurant in the New Bazaar. Overnight in Tirana.

Day 5 – Drive to south. Stop in Elbasan. Cooking class of the Elbasan cuisine with Naim Bashmili (the most famous chef of the area).

Continue to Berat via the region of the Lakes of Belshi. Visit the Castle. Dinner and overnight in Berat (UNESCO).

Day 6 – Breakfast in a nearby local restaurant with typical products (head, cheeks, brain,tongue, pilaf etc). Would you be brave enough for this!?

Wine tasting at Cobo’s winery. All presented by the family.

Continue to the region of Vlora. Meal with the catch of the day from the Baci cooperative of fishermen. Overnight in Rradhima by the sea.

Day 7 – Morning hike to old Tragjas. Visit the ruins of the old village (vandalized by the nazi during WW2 and left just as it was on that very day when the attack happened). Meet with Dhurata and Sofo. Cooking with them in the smoking room and their humble kitchen. Lunch with the family.

Drive to Qeparo. Meal with local products and raki. Overnight Qeparo.

Day 8 – Drive to Butrint to visit the most famous archeological site of Albania and maybe the whole region. Mussels served in a small family restaurant in the village of Ksamil.

Drive to Gjirokastra. Visit of the Skenduli House. Dinner with local specialties. Overnight in Gjirokastra.

Day 9 – Drive towards the airport with a stop in a small beach restaurant in the region of the bay of Durres for lunch. Arrive airport. Departure back home.

We shall be happy to propose this as a private tour of course and as usual.

The dates we are proposing for the coming seasons for group tours that will start at 5 participants and will not exceed 12 are:

November 17th 2022

January 08th 2023

February 14th 2023

March 17th 2023

April 11th 2023

May 02nd 2023

May 22nd 2023

June 11th 2023

June 24th 2023

July 02nd 2023

August 27th 2023

September 17th 2023

October 08th 2023

October 22nd 2023

November 08th 2023

Starting from 1449.9 euros/person in double room with all accommodation, transfers, entrance fees and of course meals and tasting of drinks (wine tasting, glass of wine, local beer, raki and soft drink per meal, coffee or mountain tea). Please note this price will apply per group participation of at least 7 members. Different prices may apply for different seasons.

All pictures in this page courtesy of Chris Allnut

Here’s what Camilla Bell-Davies from the Financial Times thought of this tour!