Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Natural Beauty of Southern Albania

Last week we had the opportunity to explore a little bit of southern Albania and see ALL of it's beauty!! 

 The drive from Vlora to Saranda was windy through the mountains, but I love these little villages nestled into the mountainside.

 We explored Syri i Kalter (or the Blue Eye) just outside of Saranda.  Divers have explored the pool to about 165 feet deep, but it is still unsure just how deep the hole actually is.  They are unable to dive any further because of the pressure of the water that flows from the pool is so strong.

The colors of Syri i Kalter reminded me of the hot springs from Yellowstone.  However, instead of being searing hot, this pool is a chilly 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dinner was on the lake that is fed by the Blue Eye.  Reni, Ellie, and I enjoyed listening to the chorus of frogs that filled the area.

Our drive to Gjirokastra was stunning.  The mountains rose high and the sun poured in through the valley as we came up to the city. 

The sunset was unreal in Gjirokastra.  We only stayed one night, but I would definitely love to spend a full day or two here.  The castle was the largest I've seen in Albania!  

We had a LONG drive from Gjirokastra to Korça, and the road was rough!  However, we found out about a local hot spring just outside of the city of Permet.  

The waters are said to have healing qualities, but I think we just enjoyed the warm water, beautiful scenery behind us, and a chance to take a break from the car!

Like I said, the drive from Gjirokastra to Korça was so long with a really rough road!  But the views were so worth it... 

…like REALLY worth it. 

But I'm still convinced that it doesn't matter how incredible of a place that you're in, what matters the most is the people that you get to experience it with.

Monday, May 12, 2014

An Albanian Scavenger Hunt

Before leaving for Albania, we had an awesome going away party with some of our friends who joined us for coffee and dessert.  Each of us had a journal where our friends took time throughout the evening to write their own little entires to us.  This was wonderful to read throughout my time here in Albania, as most people wrote encouraging words that I could reflect on throughout the past few months.  However, one entry was titled: The Most Dangerous Game.  :)  After a quick Google search, my friends Seth and Erin gave me a few tasks to complete before returning to the States!

1. High-five a stranger (another culturally acceptable gesture may be substituted)
So I guess I'm off to a bad start, because I never really high-fived any strangers… However, I did KISS a lot of strangers! It's the common greeting in Albania to kiss each cheek of the women when you're saying hello.  So I definitely participated in that on an everyday basis!  In fact, it's such a common thing now, I have a feeling I may automatically do that when I get home to the States, which could definitely surprise a few people.  :)

2. Get a T-shirt of the Albanian flag

The Albanian flag is on almost every single souvenir you could want!  I decided not to buy a T-shirt, but I did pick up multiple other souvenirs that have the double headed eagle on it!  You can definitely say that Albanians are very patriotic!

3. Get a picture of yourself on-stage at the Ancient Amphitheater of Butrint

4. Don't get arrested doing this, maybe?
Check.  :)

5. Don't get involved in a blood feud (this is a Gimme.)
No worries here!

6. Learn an Albanian fold song AND SING IT TO US.  I'd prefer an epic.
This is an Albanian children's song that we often heard while working at the orphanage in Tirana.

 7. Learn how to make a delicious local food (gjellë?)

Instead of gjellë, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make one of my favorite desserts: baklava!! This is my dear friend Eda and the baklava she made us for New Years. She and her mother taught Anna and I how to make it ourselves!  Now we can't wait to try it when we're back home!

Seth, I hope this satisfies all of the scavenger hunt requirements!!  :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Creative Outlet

I'm a terrible photographer…it's a fact.  But it's great that I'm surrounded by them!  My mom and sister both love it and try to encourage me as well.  I get consistent reminders from them to make sure I 'm actually using the camera they gave me before coming to Albania. (And yes you two, I am.)  And I don't even have to go on about Cydil and Anna who take some of the most gorgeous pictures I have seen!  :)

Being a decent photographer would definitely come in handy as a traveler, but I'm a painter.  If you want to know the places that meant a lot to me, take a look at what I've painted.  Maybe taking a picture would be a little easier at times, but I love the intentional act of creating a painting.

What's your creative outlet?  And yes, I actually took these photos myself.  :)