This blog is in no way a travel blog. I started this blog while I spent nearly a month in the beautiful city, Vlorë, on the coast of Albania. Much of Albania is filled with old abandoned buildings covered with the air of a forgotten era. Concrete skeleton like houses with the guts never filled with drywall, wires, and people stand next to fully lived in homes. Homes where the fresh laundry flows in the breeze and the lot is full with olive trees, greens, and vegetables gardens. The homes inside are furnished and decorated quite elegantly juxtaposing the graffitied unfinished buildings outside. It’s a dystopian photographer’s paradise. For me, in the country to visit family, at times it felt inappropriate to document all the high and low points that were evident around me. Therefore, I snuck in the photos I could.
Vlorë, on the other hand, is a different scene than other parts of the country. As is Berat and Tirana; the capital. Vlorë, or Vlora (as the locals call it), is a mountainous seaside city with old European charm and newly designed hot spots. Produce stands line every other block sporting leeks as long as my leg, flawless strawberries, and fresh garlic bulbs still attached to the stalk. Fishermen displaying their catches of the day, standing with wet scaly hands, stay busy discussing prices and pounds. As a parent, one of my favourite features of Vlorë is their establishments that are a mix of restaurant or cafe with a soft play area. Adults can sit sipping their cappuccinos uninterrupted while their children play safely being watched by an employee designated to the play area. The coffee is great. The food is great, and the ability to have an actual conversation without interruption is priceless.
All age groups can thrive here in Vlorë. The elderly dress up in their finest suit jackets, loafers, and fedoras. Men playing dominos and widows wearing the traditional black at all times. Women friends, both elderly and young, stroll hand in hand or arms linked together gossiping and planning their day. Fun can be found everywhere from open skateboard parks along the sea to the many basketball courts. The multiple carnival rides, popcorn carts, and cotton candy vendors makes it a childhood dream. Or you could simply go to the many open empty courtyards we call “block parks” because of the multilevelled blocks that line the border of the parks. Children can be found climbing on the smooth concrete blocks, singing skipping rope, screaming kicking a ball, or playing pretend. Adults can be found at these parks too; reading on a block, knitting, chatting, or just having a smoke. This city is truly a place for community.
Residents do not need a car to live in this beautiful beachy place. All that is needed is in walking distance. If you must go further there are busses that come around every 15 minutes or so. Rush hour in Vlorë is a delight compared to my home, Orlando. There are actually NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS, which sound like a nightmare, but I believe people pay better attention while driving in Vlore. Between the huge amounts of pedestrians and the constant weaving motion of the roundabouts; drivers are always watching the road never their phone.
There is a laid back small town feel amidst all the apartment buildings and businesses. No one is in a rush. Everyone is polite. The views are heavenly. Most people speak Albanian AND English, making it great for Expats. More people need to know about Europe’s hidden gem that is Vlorë, Albania. Go explore for yourself and find yourself falling in love with Vlorë.