Travel in Time – By Blerina AGO
I am Blerina and I come from Albania, a small European country in the Western Balkans. Europe has always been an amazing continent to travel just for the pleasure of it and that is how what we all now call the tourism business started.
Nearly 200 years ago, Lord Byron, one of the best travel writers of history, or the equivalent of today’s’ millennial hipster blogger, decided to take a risk and not only do the ‘’Grand Tour’’ but extend his travel to Albania hoping for an exotic adventure. Indeed he wasn’t disappointed. To him we were this enigmatic land of the eagles he had heard of from the Turkish Imperial court, but when he first set foot in the country he was surprised to find some of the most picturesque landscapes he had ever seen, majestic mountains, and the extraordinary character of men and women.
Two centuries have passed, but to your surprise Albania hasn’t changed that much. Is it a curse or maybe it is a blessing? I would definitely say it is a blessing, because we still have the same wilderness and mystery Lord Byron describes in his novels. People in remote villages are just as surprised to see visitors as they were back in those days, greeting them with the same guest rituals by opening their houses, treating them with the same honour and respect Albanian hospitality is so much praised for. That same centuries old motto which best describes Albanian hospitality ‘’Buke e kripe e zemer’’, literally means ‘’Bread, salt and a kind heart’’ and shows exactly the values of the Albanian spirit: all that I have which might not be much…I will share it with my guest who honoured my house with his presence.
We have been fortunate enough to have welcomed many tourists and travellers from around the world over the past 10 years; and every single time we ask them ‘’Why Albania?‘’ their candid response is somehow the same, ‘’It’s different, its diverse, it’s like time travelling’’.
Travellers that choose Albania as a destination are well-experienced travellers that have been around Europe and the world, have seen all the nuances of tourism but have chosen to be travellers and are addicted to having ‘’the experience’’. Just as Lord Byron, centuries later they have the same drive, they come to Albania because they want something different and also because they consider themselves different from mainstream tourists. They come to Albania because they want to switch off from the impeccable order of Switzerland or Finland, because they are tired of the metropolitan fast pace of London or Berlin and because they want to escape the endless tourist lines of Rome and Paris.
They keep coming back to Albania because, we make sure our visitors know how important they are to us, that they are our guests, our friends and that they can ask us anything – like why our men kiss while greeting each other, or politics and corruption, to how much we earn, or to why our grandma is force-feeding them – we are ‘’super-chill’’.…we don’t mind…we love chatting. They love to see how Muslims and Christians honour and marry each other and how the tiny country of a tiny lady, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, but just like her with a big enough heart, welcomed many Jews during WWII.
Albania is the last unexplored destination in Europe, offering almost everything nature, culture and heritage can offer, and just like the country’s many archaeological sites we want to be discovered carefully, bit by bit, while preserving what has been passed on to us. That is why we have chosen to develop adventure tourism responsibly, while having our visitors involved just as much in the preservation of our resources.
I want to present to you a short video of our latest initiative the Albanian Adventure Resort. It is a short story of transformation and what the future looks like in terms of recycling big, and by that I don’t mean just recycling non-degradable materials but I mean recycling old military buildings which represent a troubled time in the Albanian history, the time of isolation and dictatorship. The video describes the transformation of a military base that once represented defence and paranoia into an outdoor fun park, open to everyone, whose sole purpose is to bring people together through sports and nature and ultimately make them happy: