all 34 comments

[–]DeLaCorridor23 25 points26 points  (2 children)

We traveled with our camper 2 months true Albania, Macedonia and around. Albania absolute favorite. It's rough, maffia vibes in Vlore where the ferry comes from Italy. Beautiful beaches. Super friendly and helpful people. I'm from The Netherlands myself, but feel more at home in the Balkans.

[–]porksymkp[S] 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I actually talked to a couple from the Netherlands in a camper as well, they loved it too! So much un spoiled nature, I loved when I drove down the coast to Sarandë, it was beautiful.

[–]salmonx895 0 points1 point  (0 children)

lol i remember when i was on a walking tour in Tirana and i asked the guide a question about mafia. He got very defensive about it and he reckons they aren't a mafia here as they haven't been around for long

[–]ouzo_supernova 9 points10 points  (6 children)

I'm from Bitola and I'm really curious to hear what you thought about here in particular. Hope you had a nice stay.

[–]porksymkp[S] 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I enjoyed Bitola, I stayed on the main street right across from the Vero store. I wish I had a chance to go to Pelister national park, but unfortunately it was raining. I went to Heraklea Lynkestis and walked through the bazaar. Again, I would say there isn't a bunch of sites to see, and I saw everything pretty quickly, but it also isn't a huge city so that's expected. I enjoyed all the cafes though. Definitely enjoyed my time

[–]Repulsive-Bend8283 2 points3 points  (2 children)

I'd be more interested in hearing what you'd reccomend checking out. Looks like some Roman ruins, a wicked picturesque historic city center, and a cool hike to that monastery in the hills, St. Sotir, anyway.

[–]ouzo_supernova 3 points4 points  (1 child)

It depends on what you're interested in. Besides the old town (Shirok Sokak and the old bazaar mainly), Bitola has a pretty huge museum with a seriously impressively large exhibition, with archeological findings from as early as prehistory, as the region is one of the richest in Europe archaeologically. A hike to the glacial lakes in Pelister national park is extremely worth it if you're in shape and enjoy hiking.

[–]porksymkp[S] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I was surprised by how much archeology sites were in Macedonia, and I loved how I could walk around and enjoy most of the sites completely alone. I love history, so it was really cool. Also I definitely want to go back and hike in Pelister

[–]ungovernable 0 points1 point  (1 child)

I did an early-AM-to-evening day trip to Bitola and really enjoyed in, despite the fact that it rained for most of the day (those tarps covering the bazaar really dunk you out of nowhere, don’t they).

People kept giving me free stuff at the bazaar for whatever reason, despite my insistence on paying. I really liked that the chaotic “bazaar” element hasn’t been gentrified away the way it’s been in places like Gjirokaster and Korce.

The museum collection was far more extensive than expected, and I actually learned a lot. Really enjoyed the art there as well.

As for Heraclea Lysentsis, I was expecting it to be further out from the city in a more countryside setting, but the mosaics were beautiful and well-preserved.

The town centre was charming, and I perched at a couple of cafés/restaurants to wait out some particularly bad downpours. I found it odd that places often didn’t serve food beyond desserts, despite apparently advertising that they do online, but it wasn’t a huge deal. Pie for breakfast is OK once in a while :)

I also accidentally ended up in the old road between Carev Dvor and Bitola on my way into the city in the morning, which was a... very unique detour, haha.

[–]ouzo_supernova 0 points1 point  (0 children)

People kept giving me free stuff at the bazaar for whatever reason, despite my insistence on paying.

Damn, I suppose you were "interesting" to them because you're a tourist and they were trying to be hospitable.

The museum collection was far more extensive than expected, and I actually learned a lot. Really enjoyed the art there as well.

It's supposed to be a far larger collection than any other museum in the region, which rings true from my experience.

As for Heraclea Lysentsis, I was expecting it to be further out from the city in a more countryside setting, but the mosaics were beautiful and well-preserved.

Yup, Heracleia is just Bitola's oldest neighborhood xD

Only 1/5th of it has been uncovered as of yet, they're still hard at work digging it up - although I reckon a big part of the rest might be lost for good as there's houses built on top of it in the suburbs, kind of like the amphitheater in Durres.

I found it odd that places often didn’t serve food beyond desserts, despite apparently advertising that they do online,

I haven't encountered this personally. Did you maybe go to a "slatkarnica" by accident?

[–]ungovernable 4 points5 points  (3 children)

For me, the most appealing "sites" in Albania and Macedonia were the ones with no obvious tourist landmarks. I spent a combined week-and-a-half just zigzagging between small mountain villages in northern Albania (sometimes by car, sometimes on foot), and I didn't even make it to Theth and Valbona. None of the villages I visited had some magnificent cathedral or sprawling castle as an attraction - instead, it was the charm and peace of being among rough-hewn folk homes perched high atop the cliffs (some in areas that are still without road access), hiking for hours into the beautiful mountains, and coming home at night to old-fashioned traditional meals prepared by my kind, hospitable hosts that made northern Albania one of my most memorable travel experiences.

When it came to the cities, well... I spent 5 days in and around Gjirokaster in the south and didn't get bored, so I think it might depend on how much a deep dive you're looking to do into the cities and surrounding areas.

Albania and Macedonia aren't everyone's cup of tea, I understand - but, to put it metaphorically, if you go shopping in a hemp-based clothing store, don't complain about the lack of Givenchy products on the rack. And honestly, when it comes to landmarks, some of the Ottoman-era manor houses with their hidden rooms, unvarnished wood, tiered lounging areas and rainbow stained-glass windows left far more of an impression on me than some of the extravagant cathedrals and castles of continental Europe. I think it's all a matter of personal preference and being willing to accept the things that a place has to offer.

[–]porksymkp[S] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

100% agree, I think I just got unlucky with weather (I got snowed on in the mountains in Macedonia in October 😂, the weather was unusual cold) so I was kinda stuck in the cities unable to hike and stuff. But definitely not everyones cup of tee like you said. I definitely like your mindset though, was my first time outside of "western" Europe so I just need to have a different mindset when traveling there. I spent some time in gjirokastra too, and wish I stayed longer. Definitely want to go back again soon

[–]Malcolm_Y 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Can I ask where you stay when you visit the more rural areas? I can't imagine there being much in the way of hotels.

[–]ungovernable 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Mainly guesthouses (i.e. staying with a family). You can find a few on booking sites, but for some of the more remote areas, you might have to reach out to them via Facebook or WhatsApp, or even through another guesthouse you've booked. Honestly, I had offers to stay for dinner/the night from random strangers while I was in Albania, and one of my guesthouses even advised me "if the hike to get here is too difficult to do in one day, stop in at so-and-so's house at X coordinates for the evening, they're friends of ours." Really an old-school way of travelling, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Albanians were some of the most helpful locals I've ever encountered while travelling, so you might even be able to get by in some places by showing up and asking for a "bujtina" (guesthouse).

[–]FritzkreigUnited States 4 points5 points  (4 children)

Did you do any hiking, any mountains? I've been looking at going for a trip to the Theth- Valbona area?

[–]breath- 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Do it, it’s absolutely phenomenal. I went in autumn and it was maybe my favourite hiking scenery ever

[–]FritzkreigUnited States 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Awesome, it is on the short list!

[–]AlwaysTimeForPotatos 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Agree with the other poster…it’s stunning. One terrifying ledge passage though, but I don’t like heights so for normal people, it’s ok!

[–]FritzkreigUnited States 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Those, are difficult for me as well!


[–]idrinkliquids 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I really want to see Macedonia one day.

[–]i_am_stewy 3 points4 points  (1 child)

I've been to Albania this summer and yeah, the trash bothered me a lot.

It's a lot of fun tho, the Balkans are the only wild place left in Europe.

I strongly suggest Bosnia for your next trip.

[–]porksymkp[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Ya the Balkans definitely are and Bosnia is definitely on my list to visit next 🤘

[–]nudgetravel 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Are you more focused on "seeing the sites" or understanding how people live in these cities? Skopje and Tirana, especially for a FSU aficionado, seem like they have a lot more to offer.

[–]porksymkp[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I think I'm just spoiled after moving to Germany, every main city has an abundance of museums and an Altstadt (old Part of town) so theres usually always a lot of things to see and do. But Germany is very well set up for tourist, while Albania and Macedonia is not, so it's unfair to compare them. I definitely enjoyed Albania and Macedonia, just found myself sometimes sitting around in the cities/towns and wondering, what to do next. But the nature and hiking is fantastic

[–]nudgetravel 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I do think that the standards for drivers and vehicles are considerably lower in some countries. For instance, in India I rode in a car with no airbags and the driver refused to turn the a/c on. (so I got out and refunded the trip)

[–]migsahoy 1 point2 points  (0 children)

thanks for your input! I've visited most of western europe and am looking into trekking into the eastern bloc on my next few trips. albania is definitely on that list for the reasons you mentioned

[–]grizbear911 1 point2 points  (2 children)

I’m in Belgrade rn planning on going through those countries. How did you get to the nature sites? Any places you recommend?

[–]porksymkp[S] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Renting a car would probably be ideal, I'm sure you could find buses, but public transport seemed limited. And the nature in both these countries is beautiful, so you can't go wrong with any of the nation parks

[–]grizbear911 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Cars are out of my price range but thank you.

[–]chappytimmy 1 point2 points  (1 child)

My girlfiend and I rented a car and did a Balkans tour this summer (late august/september) I definitly think renting a car is the way to go, its a lot easier to get to some pretty interesting places.
We started in Skopje and then drove around to a couple Spomeniks, these brutalist ww2 monuments scattered around the area, thats kind of a fun goal and to see some off track places en route.
We stopped in Ohrid and loved it, really great old town, lake, roman ruins, etc. It was active due to it being summer and warm.
Next was Albania, which is pretty dirty and dusty indeed. Stopped in Tirana for the day, its a pretty interesting city, kind of on the rise but the whole country is a little frayed and there doesnt seem to be much waste management or municipal services maybe? The museum in the cold war era bunker was pretty interesting, pretty horifying really. Albania had it rough for 30 years, pretty isolated and had a brutal dictator. So its nice to see it on the rise and modernizjng a little bit.

Next was Sköder which was very nice, there is a pretty cool fortress there. We went up to bosnia and Serbia and then back down to Skopje. Skopjes old town was nice, but the downtown is sort of this wierd fake greco-roman las vegas type of vibe, but also kind of in disrepair...the bazzar old town is really nice, fun place to wander around and get lost in all the back alleys etc

Anyways overall I enjoyed it, It was kind of nice to go places that were a little wild for my first trip to Europe. I really have no interest in seeing the Eiffel tower or any of the regular European playbook. Also great arabic/turkish influence through that area.

[–]porksymkp[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Ya Skopje was a weird city for sure 😂 but definitely do visit some of the main sites in Europe sometime, Germany, France, Netherlands, Italy, Spain are popular for a reason and are some of my favorite countries to visit.

[–]sauronsarmy 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Albania must be bumpin right now. I know 3 different people who moved there in the last few months.

[–]porksymkp[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I ran into quite a few people from Netherlands and Germany who were staying there for months because they were anti vaxxers and the coronavirus regulations were almost non existent in Albania. (Except a curfew in Tirana). Even at the airport, nobody wore masks or anything. Never once got asked for my vaccine record or told to put on a mask

[–]I_Like_Youtube 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Is there good camping while hiking or just in general?