There are places in Albania that seem frozen in time.
We’d left Tirana, the country’s congested and forward-looking capital, and steered south. South towards Vlorë, first, along the Adriatic Sea, and then the Ionian, which seemed to flow seamlessly into each other. Then higher, and higher still, up a nerve-wracking, treacherous, and winding, barrier-free road, which twisted and turned madly up towards the peak of the mountain, Llogara.
Halfway to the top, we see a rocky memorial that’s been boldly chiseled with Albania’s 2 headed eagle and the year 1920. It hints of rebel uprisings, aggression, and victory.
The restaurant hidden behind the fearless slab doesn’t seem real. It’s perched defiantly on the edge of the mountain, shrouded in mist, constructed of uneven rocks and feels lifted straight out of darker, more medieval times.
The water, obscured by clouds now far below us, in a straight drop down from the mountain’s precipices, feels somehow safer and more dependable.
And now, with the mellow light of the late afternoon sun streaming in through the windows, with the salty smell and clear beauty of the Ionian Sea far behind us, we sip on a cold Birra Tirana, and choose a meal from a menu made up mostly of meat.
Entrails, lamb, or goat. Accompanied by a simple country salad of tomato, feta, onion and cucumber, the all important basket of crusty bread and thick, garlicky salc kosi, Albania’s version of tzatziki. It’s roasted goat kid for me. A first. It’s absolutely delicious and incredibly fresh.
But wait a minute. Didn’t I see some goats running around before we entered the restaurant? In our current surroundings, I’m almost 100% convinced that the animal was selected, caught and slaughtered when I ordered my meal. It couldn’t be.
Have you ever visited somewhere that felt stopped in time? Where was it and what did you do?