Yesterday we took a ride to Velipoja…stunning! We decided to take a Sunday afternoon ride outside the city. Velipoja is situated on the estuary of the River Buna (the only navigable river of Albania), where it flows into the Adriatic Sea while making border with Montenegro. The Commune (i.e. the administrative unit) of Velipoja has a population of around 10,000, spread over several small settlements, the largest of which is the town of Velipoja itself. Typically not a wealthy area, and like the rest of the country subject to much emigration, Velipoja has recently begun to expand as a tourist resort, favored especially by the inhabitants of Shkodër, the chief city of northern Albania.
I have to admit I miss the beach and needed to reconnect to the sea, so we thought “let’s go to Velipoja”. It’s only about half an hour outside of Shkoder and an easy ride. The weather was perfect and the roads fairly clear as it was early afternoon, a time where everyone was either lunching or napping. We took the highway and turned on the road to Velipoja. We went through a few rural towns which were still reminiscent of the earlier years, if you know what I mean, however half way into our trip we came upon a beautiful clearing with gorgeous mountain views and hills resembling Tuscany. As we made our way I kept wondering where the water was. After a while we turned heading towards the center of the city and there it was, the sea! and what a sight it was.
We heard about a new resort that is being built on a site just outside of the main “drag” and headed that way. The Grand Europa Resort sits on primary beachfront property and what they are building is on a grand scale. We met with the engineer, Bardh, and he took us to the top floor of one of the five story apartment buildings. These photos are the result of the spectacular view from the top, it reminded me of LaJolla, CA, another spectacular place on this earth.
Getting to the site was a bit of a challenge as we weren’t sure where it was situated. We stopped a lady by the grocery store and she, as all Albanians we encountered, was more than glad to “show us the way”. She took us about 10 minutes through muddy, potholed back roads until we reached the construction site. She was more than happy to have brought us there, and I can’t tell you enough what a pleasure it has been to encounter such friendly, smiling people ALL the time. It amazes me for all that the Albanian people have lived through and suffered how their enthusiasm for life, friendliness and overall attitude towards strangers is unwavering. I am not saying this just because I am Albanian, but because it is the truth. I don’t think you would find more friendly, outgoing, hardworking and helpful people anywhere!
On our way home Vince stopped to take these stunning views of the mountains, but of course photos do not do this country justice, especially in and around Shkoder. This area in the north is the least promoted in the country and to me the most beautiful in all of Albania, and I for one am going to do everything possible to get the word out to anyone who will listen to “COME AND VISIT, SEE FOR YOURSELVES“, I know that you will not be disappointed. Shkoder has so much to offer; stunning lake and rivers, gorgeous mountain views, a great walking city, friendliest people on earth, great food, relaxing atmosphere and more. It’s not the metropolitan city that Tirana is, nor the Riviera of the South, but it is located in the most spectacular part of the country, it has everything that the rest of the country has to offer and more, stunning views!! If nothing else one must come just to see the absolutely magnificent mountains. The city is nestled in the valley and surrounded by them, everywhere you look there they are, beautiful and majestic. Velipoje is just another sparkling gem surrounding the diamond that is Shkoder!