Gjirokastra – undercover Albania

I have been coming to Albania for ten years, always in winter, and always for a few days. I’ve also liked the place, but like never became love. Well as I enter my second week living in Tirana, I am starting to think this might be the most underestimated country in Europe! So, I was rather excited about a work day out to the town of Gjirokastra!

How do you get from Tirana to Gjirokastra?

A great question! There are buses to Gjirokastra that take about 5 hours, or a drive will take just over 3. Was not a huge fan of the 5.30 am start!!!!!!

The drive through was somewhat pleasant, and Albania in the summer truly is a beautiful place, full of mountains greenery, and even a natural spring that we stopped in for a break, and free water.


The main thing to see any reason to go to Gjirokastra is Gjirokastra Castle, a very impressive affair as castles go, and (according to the director at least) perfect for our Pioneer Media film project! Seeing the castle, and the surroundings really drove home how great it is to be back in Europe, and the things I miss in Asia.

All be told I can take or leave a castle, but Gjirokastra Town was interested in for a whole other reason. Gjirokastra was the birthplace of a certain communist leader called Enver Hoxha, and much like Batac in the Philippines, and other places with dictatorial sons they still hold quite a reverence for me. In the old town of Gjirokastra, there are pebbled streets, and lots of shops selling all manner of Hoxha related crap – ironically next to Mother Teresa crap, who was also kinda Albanian. Again ironically Hoxha refused to Mother Teresa back to Albania during his lifetime.

He has house red stars on the front of it, but sadly we only managed a quick drive past the house of Enver Hoxha, but I will be back to explore more!

The old town of Gjirokastra is also full of lots of cool hotels and restaurants, and we settled down for a hearty Albanian lunch! They had sarma on the menu, but I made my usual mistake and went for frogs legs. Frogs legs are a lot of work for not enough meat. You live and learn.

Overall a massive fan of Gjirokastra! And at 3 hours is way worth a visit from Tirana.

The journey back though, that’s a whole other story……

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