Albania was cut off from the rest of the world for almost half a century. It’s only relatively recently it has opened its doors to travellers – so how do you gain a real insight into this culture? The answer is simple: go rural.
You can’t get any more rural than staying at a working trout farm. For a country where the economy is predominantly agricultural, very few tourists venture off to the family-run farms and guesthouses within the villages – and they’re missing a trick.
Albania is beautiful. Huge snow-capped mountains, pretty rural villages and inviting beaches; the spectacular scenery is luring in the tourists, but the real highlight of this country is the warm and generous hospitality. You’ll only get that if you get out of the cities.
It’s best to arrive by bike. The farm is your finale, your reward for an uphill pedal to this secluded vantage point. With nothing but mountains, pine trees and streams of fresh mountain water surrounding the farm, you truly are in the middle of nowhere. The accommodation, naturally, consists of several cosy log cabins, each equipped with two twin bedrooms, a shared bathroom and electricity.
By now, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. But that’s okay, because Albanian cuisine delivers. Meals here consist of produce that is reared or sourced from local farmers, so the food you eat really doesn’t travel far by the time it’s reached your plate. There is also the added bonus of knowing that your money is contributing directly to the local economy.
The streams from the nearby mountains run through the farm to fill the trout pools, and perched above them is a rustic stone dining area. The food served here is typically Albanian; traditional, wholesome and organic. As you might’ve guessed, dinner is fresh from the streams. You can even join the owners and catch your own dinner, if you fancy it.
Portions of goats cheese, fresh salad, warm soft bread, tzatziki and delicious homemade chips are placed in the middle of the table in typical Albanian mezze style, and it wouldn’t be complete without a glass of the farm’s own wine. You can see the next vintage growing from where you stand, sipping.
Once you’ve finished eating your hearty dinner, you can sit and relax by the open roaring fire in the dining area with that glass of homemade wine or a bottle of Korça beer (Albania’s most popular). After an evening of dining, digesting and talking to the owners or your fellow travellers, it’s time to retire to your cabin. Be sure to take your torch with you though, it’s dark out there and you don’t want to fall into the trout pools. You can also look forward to a substantial farm breakfast in the morning; tea and coffee, freshly baked bread, eggs, homemade cheeses, jam and honey from the nearby bee hives.
So if you want to sample home-grown food, interact with local farmers and experience a self-sustainable culture, go to Albania!