The second day in Valbona Valley started off with a hike in the surrounding mountains. I use the word hike loosely for this purpose, as we walked only about 40 minutes. Though the hike wasn’t long, it offered secluded views of the valley, filled with wildflowers and sheep. Our hiking guide was also the hotel owner, and our refreshment stops were at houses and restaurants all touted as ‘cousins’.
During the walk, our guide talked about his friends, and how many of them had left the valley, and the surrounding area chasing what they consider the “American dream”. He laughed and said, “They don’t know it’s a scam”. In that moment, and in many after, I can’t help but think he’s right. His daily life certainly doesn’t have the commuting and cubicles of most people I know.
In the afternoon we walked to lunch, and continued our game of bunker bingo. It’s rumored that 700,000 bunkers (1 for every 4 people) were constructed in Albania during the war. Our guide said that number is exaggerated, and it may be closer to only 500,000. Either way, bunker bingo wasn’t a difficult game.
The next morning we boarded the bus for our 2 hour journey into Kosovo. The aesthetic in Kosovo was immediately different with the presence of NATO troops. Before completing our journey to Peja, we stopped at the Dečani monastery, which is Serbian
Orthodox. It is the largest medieval Serbian monastery, and is guarded by tanks, and troops, as ethnic Albanians have attached this, and other Serbian structures. To enter we hand over our passports and have to ensure our legs are covered. I am the only person in our group without appropriate pants, so for around 50 cents I purchase the mesh toga which preserves my modesty, as well as a dashing fashion venture.
The monastery is beautiful, but like many ancient religious structures, forbids photography, but luckily the internet exists, so you can check out pictures here!
With our passports collected, we were back in the van and headed to Peja!