Driving over a pass into the next valley, we reached Gjirokastër on a perfectly sunny day. Great to explore this town with traditionally slate covered houses.

Descending into the valley
The old town of Gjirokastër is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described as “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate”. It is the birthplace of former Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha, and author Ismail Kadare. Above the town lies the large castle with a beautiful clock tower.
Castle with the clock tower 
Slate covered roofs of Gjirokastër
Well restored centre of the old town
The castle houses a military museum featuring captured artillery and memorabilia of the Communist resistance against German occupation, as well as a captured US Air Force plane to commemorate the Communist regime’s struggle against the imperialist western powers.
Fiat tank
Bell tower of the castle

The castle was used during the communist regime as a prison for political enemies, looking into the cells caused a strange feeling. I didn’t try to imagine what had happened here.

It was much nicer to walk through the old town with its beautiful houses built by families who owned large land in the valley and were rich enough to build large houses on the hillside. A couple of them could be visited, some old, some rebuilt, like the house of Enver Hoxha’s birth. Especially the inside with the low benches and tables showed the Ottoman style of living.

I had read that Qifqi is a local speciality, so we went to a little restaurant which had them on the menu. Qifqi are balls of rice, herbs and egg which are fried. We also had fried white cheese, which was delicious.

In the evening we were driving back to the coast because tomorrow we will be heading to the Llogara pass – more on the next post.

Parking for the Night

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