The natural scenery & history of the south of Albania. One fourth of Albania’s heartbeat.

My first time visiting the south of Albania was when my mother’s tribe were to do their annual trip down to the south of the country. In this article I will mention the cause for this yearly journey. Also, I will include some of the interesting locations in the south of Albania, attached with some beautiful pictures.

Today we are talking about the south of Albania. (This is an old map of the Balkans)

The purpose of this blog post is to express my great love towards this country with all its layers. Also, to bring about awareness to this forgotten land, and to be a humble voice which speaks about the greatness of this land’s nature, history, and culture.

To make it clear, my family are not originally Albanians. We have become Albanians in two occasions. Firstly, after joining southern Albania and northern Greece under the ottoman empire. Secondly, we became officially Albanians after fleeing our lands due to Greek authorities’ cleansing.

Northern Epirus, where my grandfather’s tribe is coming from.

My mother’s Father is coming from a group of tribes called Chameria. These tribes have lived in Epirus which is located in the northern part of Greece. South of Albania. They lived there ever since Epirus was established 370 BC. However, the Muslims in these tribes were either exterminated or expelled from their ancestral lands by the Greek government.

During the June 1944-March 1945 period, The Greek government have killed over 3000 young and old men, and probably have killed double that number of women and children. testimonies prove that women were abducted and raped, and that is of course without counting the missing. Moreover, more than 60 villages were razed to the ground, thousands of houses and places of worship were burned down or destroyed. Furthermore, 30.000 Albanian Muslims were violently expelled from the Chameria region who took refuge in the Republic of Albania. Due to lack of information and strict Greek control over the incidents, the information we have, are based on testimonies taken from the survivors. Online sources are either bias from either side, or is trying to minimize/maximize what actually happened. Due to that I tend to stick to the stories of which the elderly people in the family have told us.

My grandfather (May God let his soul rest in Heavens) from my mother side, was immigrated to Albania when he was 14 years old. Alongside, with his brothers and sisters from their lands in Greece. His mother died on the way, before entering Albania due to unknown reasons. They were kicked out and hunted down due to their different religion. Islam. To respect my Dear readers’ feelings, I will not include any horrible pictures. I wonder why almost no one talks about them neither spread propaganda about the horrifying events which took place against them. Even though they are Europeans. Just like anyone else who’s living nowadays in Paris, Nice, or Berlin!.

A survivor of Chameria’s tragedy lives to tell his story. http://chameriaorganization.org/chamerias-ethnic-cleansing-was-not-accidental-a-mass-grave-of-hundreds-is-hidden-under-sport-stadium/.

In the summer of 2011, my family has sent me to Albania, to stay with my uncle. In this period, I was to travel with the tribe’s convoy to the graves which are located in the South of Albania next to the border with Greece. This trip is dedicated to bringing more awareness to those victims and the causes which they have died for. Also, to come together and share a single voice against those who have stolen our lands and claimed it their own.

The journey covered many interesting sites and locations. Personally, I find the following locations the most interesting ones:

http://www.wondermondo.com/Countries/E/Albania/Vlore/SyriiKalter.htm for more information.

A water spring called, blue eye. This is, without a doubt, the most beautiful attraction in the south of Albania in my perspective. The water is so clean which is see-through like a glass of water, and cold like a glass of water before freezing temperature. At least, that’s what I felt. On a hot summer day, the nicest feeling a person could have is to come in contact with cold objects. when I visited this place, it was a really hot summer day. The cover of the green leafs prevented the sun light from burning our faces. The cold water made it just PERFECT. I personally was not able to stand for more than 30 seconds in the water without feeling my feet would freeze. so I preferred to enjoy some nice meals in a restaurant next to the spring. The spring’s actual depth is unknown, but divers were able to reach between 40–50 m.

Stone houses in Gjirokastër on top of the mountain. for more information https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gjirokast%C3%ABr

Gjirokastër, the museum city. The city of stone. This city is a well preserved ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate. Below is a nice video which will further take you into this beautiful city. Me personally, I was amazed by the castle on top of the city. The view from the bottom of the castle up is equally fascinating with the view from the top of the castle down.

In the right side, you can see that everything in the city is built from stones. Truly, it is a stone city. As in the left side, you can see the famous castle of Gjirokastër.
Saranda is a southern touristic city. Close to the border with Greece.

Jalë, is a beach city, on the Adriatic sea with much less mass tourism than other cities. Which I personally highly value. However, the event was going to take place next to the Albanian-Greek border and therefore we had to sleep in Saranda which is closer than Jalë. Saranda is an urban city. With a focus of mass tourism.

No one to be bothered by in Jalë’s “Private” beaches.
The water is coming from the mountains all the way to the sea.

Uji I ftoht (The cold water). This is a touristic attraction where we stopped to have some lunch. This place had one of the best fish dishes I have ever tasted. Also, here you can find some of the best honey in the country. but you have to be careful because a lot of sugar honey is being sold as authentic honey. Finally, it also has one of the coldest waters I’ve ever come across, Colder than the blue eye.

As for those who are interested in history, culture and old remains of the old empires. My two favorite locations are. Apollonia, and butrint.

Apollonia, was built 588 BCE, on the right bank of the Aous river. As it is the case with the rest of Albania, Apollonia has a rich history, and of course a really beautiful panorama. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollonia_(Illyria)

As for Butrint, It is a city which goes back in the 12th century BC as some claim. Also, It is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buthrotum

Finishing off by visiting the tribe’s graves and praying for the children who were victims of rage and hatred. Now it was time for me to return back to where my uncle lived in the middle of the country. I have seen some of the most beautiful cities and locations and was with some of the most beautiful people I will ever going to come across. I have for the first time got to know the history of my family. And was able to be proud of those men and women. Who have sacrificed and gave away everything for their religion and their faith. If God and their Albanian brothers and sisters didn’t stood by them, my mother’s family would have gone extinct by now.

It is no wonder that our Albanian brothers and sisters stood side by side with Chams in the face of the evil, and gave them home and shelter. History proves us that Albanians helped and gave shelters to numerous nations, not just the Chams. In my future blog posts I will mention some of these ethnicities, I can guarantee, that it will be a shock for some of my Dear readers to know the amount of people who were saved and sheltered by the Albanians throughout the history. How great used to be the Albanians, and still are, in spite of the cultural, political and economical fast and steady destruction which the country is facing ever since the communist came to power ruled with an iron fist by the dictator Enver Hoxha.

Stay tuned for the next episode, and another direction in this land of natural, cultural, and historical wonders.

Notes:

  • All pictures are taken from google.com
  • Due to lack of pictures and information online I was not able to attach any illustrative materials of the graves.