“Albania 🇦🇱 ~Cape of Rodon and Castle”

We left beautiful Boge, and we would head south, in search of Cape of Rodon and its Castle ruins.

As is the norm, while we would finally find the road to the Cape, but the challenge to find the road and hiking trail to the Castle was another thing. There was not one single sign along the way, and there were so many road choices. We would try many of them; mostly washed out and rutted. It was slow going for sure. We did ask a few people we saw around the area and it helped a little. (the language barrier) We finally found the parking lot, but if not for three nice young adults, who were also going to the ruins for some beach time, we would not have found the hiking path. They all spoke some English and we enjoyed visiting a bit.

It was a steep hike, mostly down. We definitely found some beautiful coast line on this stop. The castle was unique, being built as low as sea level, right at the tip of the cape. It must have been really something in its day.

View of one side of the cape
Many road choices
Where is this castle?
Beautiful coastline!
We only saw a few people enjoying a beach day

Cape of Rodon is a strip of land bordered by the Adriatic Sea in the east and the Lalezi bay in the south. It is the biggest cape in Albania and a “best kept-secret” place. Perhaps they want to keep it secret, and that may explain the lack of signage to find it.
The cape is untouched by the human hand and is situated under a rocky cliff in most areas with clay hills.
The legend
According to the locals, the history of the cape and its name is linked with an old legend which says that “Redon was the official God of the Illyrian state and its portrait got immortalized as paintings in temples and as a symbol on coins used by Illyrians during those times.” Another legend suggests that “Redon was the Illyrian Sea Deity,” according to the Illyrian mythology.
There she is!

The cape shelters old castle ruins, which is also known as “Scanderbeg’s Castle.” Scanderbeg’s name comes up often, around historical places in Albania. He was a well-liked and respected Albanian nobleman and military commander from the days of yore. According to the historians, the Skanderbeg’s Castle is believed to be built by Scanderbeg in the mid-14th century. After his death, the castle was administered by the country of the Holy See of the Vatican, in 1500. having been to the Holy See, near Rome, Italy, I find this historical fact quite interesting.
At one time, the castle was surrounded by four catholic monasteries, characterized by a Roman-Gothic architecture.
The castle by the sea was built by Skanderbeg between 1450 – 1452, in order to create a quick exit to the Adriatic Sea in case of an Ottoman invasion. Life existed inside this castle until 1467, when the Turks destroyed it. Fortunately, the Venetians rebuilt it after 1500, and since then, it has survived, though in ruin condition.
Cape of Rodon juts out from the coast into the Adriatic Sea and has some of the most beautiful views of where the water meets the land. The cape is a must-see sight that isn’t on the usual tourist paths.
The rocky Cape of Rodon is not easily reached, but is definitely worth the time. It’s a great day trip if you’re spending a day or more in the nearby seaside town of Fushe-Draci, where many people choose to stay. We did not choose to overnight in this village, be cause we had Berat as our next destination, so we got underway to make that town before dark.
The full hike to the cape takes about two hours, but the other option is to drive to a ruffed-out car park area and hike the decent to the ruins within a 45 minute timeframe. The roads leading to the cape are paved, but in poor shape, but in order to venture further you’ll have to walk because the roads soon become very rocky and steep.
The castle was built in order to increase protection against the Ottomans who had recently attacked Albania in the first Siege of Krujë. However, Visitors can wander around the castle’s outer walls which overlook the sea, and despite its beauty, being so close to the ocean, has caused the structure to corrode over time
View from the hike to the ruins
Not my photo, but an aerial view helps with perspective
The Church of St. Anthony, a monument built around the same period as the Castle; between 1450 – 1452, and is located near the Cape. Built in the Romanesque-Gothic architectural style, this church includes several beautiful frescoes and other interesting elements. Thanks to its position near the Cape and the sea, the panoramas surrounding the Church are really impressive. 
More old bunkers
There was this unique camping option, on a cliff area, overlooking the sea. It looked very clean, complete with outdoor toilet. No A/C, or electricity, plus one would need to pack in all your food and sleeping bags, and other necessities.
The Cape of Rondo can be found on this map, above the name Krujë . You can also See Berat, below, which is where we are, now.
Cape of Rondo close-up

We would drive from Boge, for a full day to do our sightseeing and end our evening in a place called Berat. After checking with three overpriced hotels, (literally empty of guests) we found one in our price range. 25 Euro with breakfast. We were in desperate need of showers and A/C. I was so tired, I skipped dinner, processed photos and got a good nights sleep.

This morning, we rise to another beautiful summer day. Coffee is hitting the spot, and getting me rev-ed up! We are in central, Southern Albania, and in another historical town. We will explore this really cool area of Berat, before making our way to our next stop of Gjirokaster by the end of the day.

By now, we have determined our favorite parts of Albania are the high North, and the Central, to lower region. We just did not find Tirana (capital) or Durres very interesting, though it gets mentioned for tourism quite a bit.

“Albania 🇦🇱 ~True Story”

True Story. A first-hand account from where we are currently at; in Albania 🇦🇱 

Here in Albania, we had the pleasure of staying on a farm with a local family, in the high North: Albanian Alps. The daughter of the family speaks pretty good English, and I was able to ask her questions, about a story her father told us yesterday, while driving us to Theth National Park. His English was broken, but I got the gestures of his story, which must have been triggered after seeing an old bunker in the mountains, left over from the war.

I spoke with his daughter this morning and got permission to share her fathers story. She was able to fill in the missing pieces I could not understand, fully, yesterday, from her father.

When this man was a young 18 year old, he and a friend tried to escape the tyranny communistic rule which had taken over his beloved country, in the NOT so distant past. While hiking through the harsh and rugged Alps, on the run in the Albanian Alps, they were spotted by a women (obvious a rat against her own fellow countrmen) and she reported them to the dictating authorities. During their capture, the young man’s friend was killed, and this man was beat to the point of brain damage leg injuries, and the breaking of his teeth.

This man was then imprisoned for 18 years, and endured more torture than anyone can imagine, till the fall of communism, when he was finally released from the prison camp.

As testimony to this mans strong will and strength, he went on to marry, and build a beautiful family of four children; all hard workers, along with the mother and him. They have created a beautiful Homestay, which they can be and obvious are very proud of. 

We were so honored to spend four nights with this lovely family on their property, eat amazing wholesome farm-grown foods, and observe the life of Boge Village around us.

We will never forget our time here, or the truth of a horrendous story about innocent lives, ruined by socialism and communism.

Flag of Albania 🇦🇱
Flag of Communism

“Albania 🇦🇱 ~Scenic Drive and Theth National Park”

Our second attempt to make it all the way to Theth National Park was a success. We left early in the morning, by 7AM, and were back in Boge Village by noon.

The road is not good, and we made a very good choice to turned it around, yesterday, in our rental car. Come to find out, right after we left, a truck and worker accidentally went over the cliff, but fortunately the driver was okay. We saw the truck, and it was not okay. In addition to that, we passed a car, parked off to the side of the road; almost to the entrance of the park, with its oil pan split.

It was the right call to hire a driver and ride in a 4×4. Due to the road construction and its condition, we were tossed around inside the truck for the majority of the time. When we got back to our little abode, we both took naps. We were exhausted. We got some nice photos and really loved the river waters; clear, cold and turquoise. The park itself needs some beautification done, before it will be a showpiece, but the investment right now is on the road improvement, and I’m sure the rest will follow.

If you look very close, you can see a tiny village in the valley. This is Boge
This is a monument of some sort, going over the pass. I will look for some info about it. Its about England
One of a few waterfalls we could see. There are many trails for those who are interested in Alpine hiking. We were happy to drive a few off-roads to see what we could see
We arrive in Theth National Park. It was a bit of a ghost town, sans a few hikers
Camping in the north is very popular. Locals pack up their families and gear to enjoy nature
Theth River
We saw many free-range horses
Theth National Park
The Theth Valley is hidden natural mountainous paradise in the heart of the Albanian Alps; also called the Accursed Mountains (Bjeshkët e Namuna), and includes the protected area of the Thethi National Park which covers almost 6,500 acres..
The Theth Valley is the starting point for all treks to the highest peaks of the Albanian Alps and passes in the majestic region, which leads to Montenegro in the North, Kosovo in the East and the city of Shkodra in the West. It takes five hours to reach the Theth National Park from the Albanian capital Tirana, and from the country’s second-largest city, Shkoder, it is two hours away by car.

Theth National Park features several mountain peaks over 8,202 feet in height. Through the Theth National Park runs the Theth River with a plentiful supply of mountain trout. The Grunas waterfall is particularly worth visiting. The mountain slopes are very steep due to changes in temperature and snow precipitation that are present in most part of the year, which helped in the formation of various jags.
Theth Valley was formed by glacial movements with its specially impressive and breathtaking northern part. Those hostile climatic conditions throughout the years created the steep mountains and the distinct gorgeous views, but also challenging hiking routes. There are many oak trees and a variety of animals in the park. The most astonishing parts of the Theth National Park are the rugged peak of Radoines (8431 feet), Arapit (7273 feet), Paplukës (8395 feet), Alisë (8110 feet), along with others.
Theth is a tourist, climbing, hiking and alpinist region and the most important tourist center of the northern Albania. Within the territory of Theth National Park and its surroundings there are about 170 caves and semi caves, of which ten caves are of international category. The most beautiful and most important caves of the Theth National Park are the cave of Rratheve and Harapi.
My best bud
A beautiful view of a box canyon. In the rainy season and with the run-off waters from the snow, this narrow slit of river raises to be twice the height
One of over 173,000 bunkers with were built in Albania during the rule of Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania as one of the most isolationist Stalinists from the end of World War II until his death in 1985. The bunkers were built as small strongholds to protect against possible invasion from foreign powers.
The concrete bunkers of Albania are a ubiquitous sight in the country, with an average of 5.7 bunkers every 14.7 square miles.
Starting as a Soviet ally, Hoxha declared the USSR to be revisionist and anti-Marxist after the death of Stalin, and soon all of the Warsaw Pact nations ended their allegiance with Albania. Hoxha then took China as Albania’s ally, which only lasted until 1977, after which he tried to make the country self-sufficient.
During his control of the country, Hoxha banned religion, foreign travel, and often used his secret police to stop any dissent. Our driver, who we hired to take us to the park today, spent 18 years in an A an Albanian prison under this regime. He, along with others were released with the fall of communism, by the early 90’s. What a horrible experience that must have been.

Almost a quarter of the budget went to the military, much of it spent on building bunkers. The prototype for the bunkers was built in the 1950s, with the chief engineer assuring Hoxha that it would withstand a full assault from a tank. Hoxha decided to test it, with the engineer inside, and when he emerged unscathed from the attack mass production began.
Fearing an invasion from his former Soviet allies or NATO, Hoxha had enough concrete and steel bunkers built to stop an army of millions. They grew like sinister gray mushrooms from the mountains to the coastline, sprouting up in neighborhoods, fields, playgrounds, cemeteries, and on beaches.

They created a permanent sense of paranoia for Albanians who encountered their sniper windows at every turn; but the enemy never came. Decades after the end of Hoxha’s totalitarian regime, the bunkers still scar the landscape. While a few have been turned into hotels or homes by creative Albanians, most are abandoned and overtaken by weeds, only occupied by the desperate in search of shelter. They clutter Albania’s hilly landscape, dotting nearly every view in the small country’s 11,100 square miles.
The years of communist isolation followed by uncontrolled capitalism have left Albania one of Europe’s poorest countries. Each bunker costs about 800 euro to destroy, and there is roughly one bunker per every four Albanians. In 2009, T-59s, a Chinese version of a Soviet-era tank, were rolled onto the Albanian beaches to destroy some of the bunkers that were threatening the safety of the people they were built to protect. Several people had drowned in the whirlpools created by streams around the bunkers, and the concrete was eroding and cracking from the ocean waves. Even with their removal, they are a tiny percentage of the bunkers that watch over the country as it attempts to move out from the shadow of Enver Hoxha.
The Grunas Waterfall is a popular hike; straight up the mountain for about three hours on a good day

We are feeling very filled up in our Alpine Mountain experience. It is exceptionally beautiful, but tomorrow we will take off and make our way, slowly back to the southern region, where we have a few other scenic stops to make, before we return the rental car and prepare for our departure to Macedonia on the 17th of July. (if the border there remains open)

Some construction photos
Our hired driver for the day. He is the owner of the homestay, with his wife. They are a family of at least six. His day job is in the road construction. He took the day off to drive for us. He did a great job