A (long) day in Albania – Part 3

And so, after two months from last post about Albania I am going to write the last chapter of this story. I am sitting on the bed with Princess and I am happy, were two months of intensive work, travel, a lot of different activities and is only now that I find the time to write and I am realizing how much I missed this activity .. in which is clear that I am still a novice.

Returning to the facts, we had left in Koman, without ferry and with the idea (unscheduled as always)to go to Tirana. Left the valley, and its horrible trail, a road fairly well maintained drove us to the capital, we were already quite tired but reach the center was relatively easy.

Passing by car from Skanderbeg Square we were immediately fascinated, a huge space, according to Wikipedia 5 hectares, with wide streets, lawns, flowers, dedicated to the Albanian National Hero Giorgio Castriota. Leaving the car at the first parking available we walked, and here, at the same venue, the thing we liked most:

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This is the mosaic “The Albanians”, created in the eighties, from various artists, it represent the Albanian people history, still impresses me how a picture so beautiful could sum up the history of a country.

Tirana is a mixture of different architectures, the pyramid is impressive, built in 1987 as a mausoleum of the dictator Enver Hoxha, and then turned into a cultural center. Many time demolition was planned, but it’s still there, and I personally like it, I like to see young people who chatting around it, close to the word “Mos Me Harroni” that in Albanian means “To Not Forget”, a piece of history, good or bad, is always a piece of history.

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After a short walk, we got hungry, you will have already guessed by reading other articles, we’re both foodies, and that in all of our stories you will find something to eat. Recommended by our Lonely Planet we visited the restaurant Oda, in a side street not far from the center, after having turned around a few times, we found the entrance, a nice lady made us sit in one of the small rooms, furnished in Albanian style. We had great time, the furniture were not the only traditional thing, the food there really surprised us, we strongly recommend to visit this place, we tried several dishes doing our best and challenging the elasticity of our stomachs !! Me and Principessa look forward to come back!

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Sunset is coming and we decided to leave the city, destination Lake Ohrid, Macedonia. Leave Tirana was not easy, a few directions, no detailed map of the city and a traffic devastating. We drove along a mountain road, without even a light, I tried to follow the local cars, driving better than me, or so it seemed. At about 22:00, tired, we arrived at the border and we made our first entry in Macedonia, after having finished the formalities of the case, and politely rejected the offer of the border official who wanted to rent us a house, we reach Ohrid, where we stayed for two days, lovely place, but that’s another story …

And so the 5th day of our trip is over, we drove a lot, took ferries, rented a small boat, met a lot of people, ate ate ate, visited cities, swam, met animals and slept little, only the first taste of a trip that we will never forget.

A glass of wine…. at Valtellina

I am making a pause in the series of posts about our trip from Bergamo to Istanbul to tell you about our Sunday at “Mobergno in Cantina” (http://morbegnoincantina.it/), promising that soon we will publish the third, and final, part of the post about Albania (part 1, part 2).

Probably many of you already know the event, but I think it is important to share some aspects. For about 3 weekends in September and October you can visit a number of wineries (true cellars, underground) between Morbegno and towns across the valley , called “costiera dei Cech”, and make a series of tastings of wines from Valtellina and typical products of the area.

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More or less two weeks in advance me and Principessa made a detailed plan, we saw it was impossible to book a hotel, all sold out of course, and so in order to avoid driving after drinking we chose to use the train Milan-Tirano with stop at the station of Morbegno; we called Hedi and Luana and planned to leave with the train of 10:20 AM (arriving at destination in less than two hours) and come back with the train of 9:20 PM. Obviously nothing went according the plan, but for people who have read our other post, this will not be a news.

So our friend Hedi slept in our apartment in Milan and Luana reached us by train from Bergamo in the morning, having to wait for the bed that the legendary Giampiero presented us for the guest room (for the happiness of Hedi who the night before suffered on the uncomfortable sofa bed in the living room) we decided to go with the train of 12:20, good choice because we reached Mobergno just right for the opening of the cellars.

The train ride is great, for those who have never traveled this railroad, recommend it, also just to take a relaxing trip, the part before Lecco retraces part of the towns mentioned by Manzoni (one of fathers of the Italian language, author of “I promessi sposi”). After Lecco you will be amazed, the train hurtling close to the lake, in a series of tunnels and breathtaking views, climbing up to Colico, and then in wide Valtellina.

Tickets can be bought in front of the train station, but we were wise to buy online the Red Trail, avoiding a long cue, we went to dedicated desk for online reservation and in a few minutes we got the glass with a special holder to put around the neck.

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Morbegno is a very nice town, especially during this season, where the colors of autumn, the smell of wood and the smoke from the chimneys give it a charm all its own. The history of Morbegno is virtually unknown until the early Middle Ages, and then characterized by a series of wars, massacres, occupations, between Milan, Swiss, French, Spanish, the Church and then the plague (the same Narrated by Manzoni in the same book), the Austrian rule, and in 1845 the annexation to Italy.

After a short walk to the center began our tour with the cellar number one, Nico Barbee, the one with the white and sparkling wines. I tell the truth, not as an expert, but as a man who appreciates the wine, nothing special, but great food, in all the wineries we enjoyed the excellent Bisciola, a sweet bread with dried fruit, fantastic Bitto cheese typical of the area and bresaola, salami popular in the valley. We also bought a Slinzega, kind of sausage, which is still in our refrigerator. If you are over there you have to eat: Pizzoccheri (buckwheat pasta with cheese, herbs, potatoes and other vegetables), Taragna (polenta with cheese typical), Sciatt (balls of wheat and local cheese fries) and Taroz.

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I really enjoyed this tour, after the Whites we started with the Reds: Valtellina Superiore, Sassella, Grumello, Valgella, Inferno, to finish with reserves and Sforzato. I personally love Valtellina and its wines, I believe that the mountain gives to the Nebbiolo grapes a distinctive taste and, even for those who are beginners with wine, the route will be interesting, the sommeliers from AIS (Italian Sommelier Association) are friendly and will explain you in easy way the characteristics of these wines and answer your questions, even the most naive, both in Italian and in English. If you’ve never tasted it is the right time to take a trip to the cellars, or if you prefer, go to the supermarket or wine shop or on the Internet and order a few bottles. If you will accompany the meat or a risotto with a full-bodied wine from Valtellina success is assured.

The day finished rapidly, due to a logistic problem me and Princess anticipated our return to Milan, without being able to visit all the wineries. Not bad anyway, at home we prepared a nice sauce for pasta with onion, tomato and parsley, later Luana and Hedi joined us, and we had a fantastic evening.

I will not bore you with tons of information, Valtellina is a fantastic place, the food is great, unspoiled nature, easy to reach, you can make a lot of activities, including hiking and skiing … What are you still doing at the computer, prepare the suitcase!

Reading Tips:

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valtellina_superiore_Grumello

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valtellina_superiore_Sassella

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valtellina_superiore_Inferno

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valtellina