Polar bear at the Toronto Zoo, Canada.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Ottawa, Canada.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Reuniting with Max in Germany on October 1st.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

What an interesting day we had... and it ended with more excitement!

After having done that 17 km hike the day before, we were planning on a bit of a rest day. But we still didn't want to waste our last day in the area, so we decided to drive up to the mountain town of Dardha just to see the scenery. 

And we did make it to Dardha... but from there on, our plans of having a rest day fell apart!

Dardha is located at 1,200 meters (4,000 feet) altitude, so the road climbs steeply from Korca. It's a nicely paved narrow winding road all the way though, right to the top of the village where there is a perfect level parking area at GPS 40.519156, 20.824509 for a week of boondocking. I would NOT bring our motorhome into the village though. The roads are fairly steep, but it's only a short walk from the top.

There is so much hiking and exploring to be done in this area, we would have no problem spending a week up there in our motorhome.

Scenery in Dardha.

Almost all of the old homes have slate roofs.

The leaves are all out on the trees now.

Dardha Hotel.

Dardha actually gets a fair bit of snow in the winter and there is a small ski hill nearby. The town itself is really quiet during the week, and most of the houses don't seem to be occupied full time.


We went for a stroll around town. Found one hiking trail and decided to go for a short walk and came across some more Communist era bunkers. These ones were a little more interesting though.

There were six of these bunkers, and strangely the interiors had been all closed off.

Lots of writing at the entrances.

I translated some of the writing. It says things like "The head of the defense command party", and "Act calmly while carrying out combat operations".

Walking through town.

Dardha, Albania.


A fixer-upper.

From the town, we could see a dirt road leading down into the valley. Ruth said she wouldn't mind walking down that road a bit, (Remember, we were trying to have a rest day!) so we walked down that way. As we got just outside the town, we heard a voice up ahead and it was a guy about our age talking on his phone. He had two small bags of groceries with him.

We passed him just as he was finishing up his call, and we said hello in Albanian. He didn't speak any English, but we understood when he asked if we were English, and we explained that we were from Canada. 

I've said before that it's amazing how much you can communicate when you can't communicate!

Next thing you know, he's asking us to come with him for a coffee. We're always quick to accept an invite from a local, so we agreed. We figured if he's walking with his groceries, his house must be nearby.

Nope.

It turns out that he lives in the village of Sinica, which is 4 kms (2.5 miles) from Dardha!

But, we figured, what the heck... we needed the exercise!

Looking back at Dardha.

The road between Dardha and Sinica is 4x4 only.
He explained that the road was built by the Italian Fascists during WWII.

We found out that his name is Berte (Robert) and he's a retired police officer. 

Berte and Ruth walking to Sinica.

So we're walking along, and we come to a path leading off to the left. Berte puts his bags down, and motions for us to follow him. We figured this was a short cut to his house, but then wondered why he put his bags down. We climbed up the path and found ourselves at the base a small but really pretty waterfall.

Us, at a pretty waterfall.

Guaranteed we are the first Canadians to ever see this waterfall! And we wouldn't have seen it at all if we hadn't bumped into Berte, and accepted his invitation.

Just a horse, of course.

I think we see some buildings up ahead.

Entering the village of Sinica.

The village church was built in 1850.

So Berte took us on a little tour of the village. We learned that he went to school here as a child. There are perhaps 30 homes here now, but most are unoccupied and many are in a poor state of repair. It turns out that a lot of people from this area emigrated to the United States... places like Chicago and New York. In fact, he has a brother living in Syracuse!

It still amazes me that we learned all of this while not being able to properly communicate!

The village schoolhouse is being restored.

Bridge.

""With respect and gratitude for our teacher by former school students".

Berte, taking Ruth up into the school.

Even some old desks still in there.

It's a big job, but there were two young guys in there working.

Lots of empty homes.

Berte introduced us to a friend who is an IT instructor at the local university. His English was quite good, so he told told us more about the area. Apparently almost everybody in this village and the nearby village of Qyteza have moved to North America. The ones who remained are now trying to revive the village. They have fiber internet there now, and are building a small hotel and coffee shop. Of course that doesn't fix the roads to get there. As Berte says, Albania is beautiful, but the roads are not.

An Albanian guy named Adam Belushi moved from the village of Qyteza to the United States in the late 1940's. He had two sons named John and Jim. Maybe you've heard of them.

New roof, old roof.

The village church.


View from the church.



Berte led us through town to the little cafe where we sat and had a few drinks... all served at the same time. This is a very common thing... a small cup of Turkish style coffee, a shot of raki, and a local drink called Dhalla. It can best be described as a salty liquid yoghurt. A bit of an acquired taste. I thought it was okay, but I don't think Ruth was a fan!

Dhalla, raki, and Turkish coffee.

While we were sitting there, Ruth remembered that we needed some honey. Good local honey is quite expensive here in Albania, so we asked via Google translate if anyone in the village sold honey. Berte talked to the guy who owned the cafe, and his wife went running off. A while later, she came back with two small spoons and a little bowl of honey. At first, I thought they misunderstood... but that was just the sample!

A minute later, she set a big jar of honey in front of us. We think it's 1 kg (2.2 lbs). I hadn't asked how much it was going to cost, but when she said it was €13 (1,600 lek, $19 CAD, $15.80 USD) I was a little surprised. But I wasn't going to turn it down after she went to that much effort to get it. And, it's nice honey.

Ruth had been to use the facilities, and she said that when I go I should take my camera. Huh?

There are all kinds of funny sayings written in English!



Too funny.

Berte, Ruth, Kevin.

Kevin, Ruth, Berte.

Nice people. We really enjoyed our afternoon.

But, we still had a 4 km (2.5 miles) uphill hike to get back to the car!

Ruth, filling up the water bottle.

Scenery along the way.

Almost there.

We got in the car and drove back to Korca. What a great day we had. But the excitement wasn't over yet.


Beautiful views in the mountains. What a great drive.

We ended up doing about 10 kms (6 miles) and once again it was about 4:30pm by the time we got home!

Late in the evening, we had just climbed in to bed. I was still reading, but I think Ruth had just closed her eyes. All of a sudden the room started shaking. The cupboard doors were rattling, and things were swaying. It lasted 10 to 15 seconds, and of course all you can think about during that time is how long is it going to last? And how much worse is it going to get?

And then things settled down.

I got on the phone, and nowadays it doesn't take very long for the information to start pouring in. Sure enough, it was a 4.8 earthquake centered only 24 kms (15 miles) from us. No damage, but lots of reports from people who felt it.

Exciting stuff to finish off the day.

Today is moving day. In fact, we have already moved which is why I am a little late posting this. Full story tomorrow!

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And in Canada...


18 comments:

  1. Oh wow, what a day! How wonderful to run into such a friendly guy, even if it did mean that your rest day was an active one. And an earthquake...glad it wasn't worse! I loved the bathroom graffiti, and the info about the Belushis.

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    1. It was such a great day and although we weren't planning on such an active day we had absolutely no regrets for those extra kilometres that we put on. It was such a wonder encounter with Berte and having him show us his village and the pride that he has in it was fantastic see.

      We are glad it wasn't worse as well, we can certainly do without that kind of excitement, especially when you are in an apartment building!

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  2. Amazing how small the world actually is. Meeting Friendly People who are willing to be courteous. Not like the big North American Cities.
    Glad the Earthquake wasn't too bad.
    Be Safe and Enjoy your next location.

    It's about time.

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    1. We are finding the people in Albania are so friendly but we have found that to be the case most places that we travel. I think that every country that we have visited we have had some amazing experiences with the locals, even in North America. Mind you, we don't spend much time in big cities to start off with so normally these great encounters are in smaller cities, towns and in the countryside. :-)

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  3. Replies
    1. Yep, it sure was! It is days like this that remind us of why we love traveling, especially in different countries where we can learn more about the country, it's people and their culture. :-)

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  4. What fun! An adventure and great people... Churches, scenery, not much more to ask for! That honey should last awhile 😀

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    1. It was a great day, we definitely couldn't have ask for a much better one. :-)

      Hopefully the honey will last for a while. We use it in the lemon and ginger tea that I make and on our oatmeal mixed with granola and topped with yogurt and a bit of honey for our breakfast.

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  5. Wow an earthquake, did it shake there? I'm to lazy to look there! I just had hip surgery, and healing well ! Take care,and I will do the same! Rawn Stone

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    1. Yes, it definitely shook here, that's how we knew that we were having an earthquake. Luckily it didn't last long and that there was no damage but it did have us wondering if it might get worse or not. We definitely don't need that kind of excitement in our lives.

      Glad to hear that you hip surgery went well and we hope you have a speedy recovery.

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    2. Thanks Ruth! There is I lots of swelling, but nothing I can't handle! Mr tough guy, not! Take care, Rawn

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    3. Good to hear that your are doing well.

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  6. Hi. I was looking thru the sidebar on It's About Time and your headline caught my attention. So this was my first time reading your blog. Your blog is now diffently on my list. Beautiful photos and interesting people!

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    1. Welcome aboard Elva, and thank you for joining us. We hope that you will enjoy our adventures. :-)

      Thank you also for taking the time to comment, we really appreciate it. :-)

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  7. Loved the tale of your day... Sad to see so much many gone..
    Garry

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    1. So glad that you enjoyed this adventure of ours. We had a great day and learned more about the area, and had lots of fun trying to communicate with Berte.

      It is sad to see that so many have gone. We don't think that it was recent though, we think that most of the ones that left, left back when the country was under the communist regime so that they could find themselves better lives at the time. We love what the remaining residents of the village are doing though, with trying to rebuild the old houses and building in hopes of bringing some tourism to their area. Being so far from anywhere though, they will definitely be looking more towards the lovers of nature as there is a ton of hiking that can be done in the area and of course just enjoying the peace and quiet and the friendly locals. We certainly wouldn't have an issue staying there for a while. :-)

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  8. You sure do have fun and exciting times. I'm an earthquake nut and there's been a LOT of earthquakes in that area. Most are in the 2.0 but lately they've been jumping to 4 and 5. Stay safe.

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    1. We sure do! Kevin always promised me life would never be boring if I married him and so far he has been totally correct, lol!

      Yes, there have been quite a few tremors/earthquakes, the small ones aren't even felt but we sure felt that bigger one. Still I think we felt the one in Turkey more and we were a little further away from the epicentre.

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