Sorry we have not posted since our Easter trip to Italy but the week after we got back our first guest arrived from Canada! Dan’s dad, Doug, arrived late on Friday, April 29th after a grueling flight over. He was only here for one week so we tried to cram in as much as possible. His first day here we let him sleep in a little(trying to get over that jet lag asap), enjoyed mimosa’s and brunch out on the patio, went for a “macchiato” coffee, and that evening we enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant.
Sunday, May 1st was a holiday to celebrate International Workers Day(similar to labour day in Canada) and we were invited to an Albanian picnic on the island of Zvërneci. Doug got to try his first “raki”, aka the local firewater, and saw his first goat carved. Along with the main course of goat, we enjoyed byrek, qofta, salads, eel, local wine and tollumba for dessert. After the Albanian picnic, we drove to a cliff side restaurant for coffee, which had some amazing views of the sea.
On Monday, Dan took us out to the oil field in Gorisht. We drove through Drashoviçe to see the Communist monument and up to Gorisht where we stopped to have a macchiato(keep in mind you cannot get American coffee here). We then drove to the oil field through amazing winding and bumpy roads with some serious elevation gain. Afterwards, we stopped in Pochem for a local beer from Korça and then onto the historical site of Byllis, which dates back to the 4th century(I will post more details about Byllis and another archaeological site Apollonia later). After touring the 30 ha of ancient ruins we enjoyed another traditional style lunch – Qengji (lamb) with potatoes and salad. From there we drove to Peshkepi to see Ilia’s small plot of land and visit his family for dinner. Along the drive we saw some local wildlife including chickens, roosters, turkeys, a snake and a tortoise, as well as the occasional donkey cart. Once we arrived at Ilia’s, we had Turkish style coffee and raki as an aperitif, followed by another amazing dinner of freshly cooked byrek, salads, homemade bread, liver and rice, potatoes, and fresh cheese.
During the Albanian picnic, Doug had mentioned liking to visit a school and it just so happened that Lilian works at a school here in Vlora. So on Tuesday, May 2nd Dan went to work while Doug and I went to visit a private school. We met with a couple English-speaking teachers and also the principal. We toured the school viewing the kids artwork and we visited a couple of elementary school classes. Our last visit was to a more senior class where the students asked Doug many questions about Canada. They seemed to love practicing their English and had many questions including “What is your favourite football team? Barcelona or Madrid?”. It was a great experience-one neither of us will forget.
Wednesday and Thursday Dan had to work so Doug and I spent the days walking into town and shopping in the Pazar markets. Unfortunately the weather just wasn’t cooperating with us but we made the best of it anyways! On Wednesday we went to the Israeli pastry shop and then visited Independence Square and the mosque in the centre of town. That evening after work we went up to Kanina castle to try to catch some views however we ended up in the middle of a political rally and then a rainstorm! It’s always an adventure.
On Thursday morning we went to the Pazar and picked up some fresh fruits and vegetables for dinner. That afternoon Doug and I took the “furgon”(ie local mini bus) to Fier to meet up with Dan and visit the ancient city “Apollonia”. On the way home we stopped at the Fish Shop and picked up some kalamari and shrimp to barbeque for dinner.
On Friday, Dan took the day off work and we enjoyed Doug’s last day in Vlora. We walked down to Sunset Beach for our daily macchiato(P.S. I don’t think Doug really liked the espresso coffee…by this point he had created his own filtration system for making American coffee at home). Then the boys walked into town to do some last-minute shopping and in the afternoon enjoyed some beers out on the patio. We enjoyed our last dinner out at a local restaurant and the next morning we made the drive to Tirana to drop Doug off at the airport.
To say the least, we had an amazing time with our first honoured guest and will have many great memories of his visit! If I could guess what Doug’s impressions were I would say that he didn’t like the strong coffee, was amazed by the road and driving conditions, and was touched by the hospitality of the people. We were very happy to have some company from home and do hope more will visit soon.