Albanian Antagonists

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Gjerg and Tom debating fiercely at a political meeting in Thethi valley, northern Albania.

The socialist party won the elections a couple of weeks later and Gjerg Harusha (to the left) had to step down from his local power position.

Working the land in Thethi valley

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An estimated 60% of Albanian economy depends on agriculture. This is Europe June 10, 2013.

Picture shot at Thethi National Park in northern Albania

(More of this.. category “Albania” or

Where the eagles fly 2

We had experienced three fantastic days in Thethi with adventures and surprises more than we could expect but we were open for more.  Heading back to Tirana partly by walking the 16 kilometers over the impressive mountains to Valbona valley was a very tempting idea..

The doubt presented itself the night before our supposed crossing via three Polish alpinists that arrived the opposite direction from the same trail.

They looked exhausted and haunted. The man was injured in the foot and described three dangerous sections with very steep snow-sections.

Yesterdays post explains what made us go anyway:

Led by Marash, our local guide we set off June 11 at around ten in the morning . Thethi valley has an altitude of more than 800m and in about 4-5 hours we would climb another 1000 meters before reaching the summit and then start to descend towards Valbona.

The climb was breathtaking both physically and esthetically but not dangerous…. so far!

In these sparsely populated parts of Albania the habitat is ideal for bear, wolf, mountain goat and of course the national bird the eagle.. as a surprise for me also for the schakal… I could definitely feel the presence of one during the entire walk.

An hour or so before the top we took a break and admired the mountain cliffs around us…. suddenly I saw them.. two eagles, majestically gliding around in the sky at about 300 meters distance . My long lens was clearly not long enough for a decent picture but it´s an eagle in one of the images.

After a short sleep we reached the top between the two valleys (panorama pic).

The descend resulted much more difficult especially with our not so professional equipment.

Several very steep snow-cowered passages demanded complete concentration. Luckily Marash knew the best places to put our feet and without his experience it would have been hard to get to Valbona. But after almost 9 hours we were installed at our destination in a guesthouse eating a well deserved dinner.

Thank you Erisa Cakalli and Marash. I would say you were ideal walking-companions..

Where the eagles fly..

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Looking at the picture it might seem like a walk in the park.. and actually it was in the beginning, this is Thethi National Park in northern Albania,  after a couple of hours though, the snowy precipices at altitudes close to 2000m, started to challenge us!!!

We had been playing with the idea of returning to Albania’s capital Tirana via a 16km walk over the mountains from Thethi to Valbona valley

It´s a tough trail and neither me or Erisa, my Albanian friend have got a lot of experience in mountaineering..

Furthermore the night before our adventure we received a warning sign that almost made us change our minds!  Three Polish alpinists arrived from the same path exhausted, injured and with pale faces. They told us about the very difficult conditions up there….

What made us finally decide to climb anyway was the confident face of Marash, our local guide who had made the route many times.

I´ll post the rest of the photos from this mountain crossing tomorrow. Picture above taken June 11.

(Se also:

Tom versus Gjergj

Tomorrow June 23, Albania goes to election. The corruption is a big problem in the country and one of the main issues debated by the parties. Many says that it´s just words.. they are merely aiming for the power.

Last week me and my Albanian friend Erisa visited the isolated Thethi valley in the mountains of northern Albania

The owner of the guesthouse “Ded”  insisted that I should attend the election campaign meeting that was taking place in our temporary home next day.

Ded was apparently very proud to be hosting the meeting with such distinguished guests. the preparations went on all night long with the unpacking of large amounts of beer and raki.  Three sheeps were slaughtered to serve as main food ingredient for the guests.

Several hundreds of the locals were invited to listen to the socialist deputy from Shkoder, Tom Doshi. The deputy himself had paid all the expenses and he can afford it!

Someone whispered in my ear that he suddenly and surprisingly somehow had gained a substantial fortune. The money invested in casinos, construction company’s, TV channels etc has made him one of Albania’s richest men.

The politician and his company arrived in a Range Rover welcomed somewhat like a semi-god.

As being the only foreigner Ded introduced me to the deputy who mumbled something about respect and invited me and Erisa (she is also a good translator) to sit by his side at the VIP table in the main building.

This gave me a unique possibility to live some Albanian political game closeup and to experience the hot political discussion that took place when the local leader of the democratic party (the party of actual president Sali Berisha)) Gjergj Harusha turned to Tom Doshi and started to argue.

Deputy Tom Doshi is the man in white shirt and Gjergj Harusha wears a brownish coat.

 A search on google  “Tom Doshi” resulted in many hits, this is one:

Thethi valley, a forgotten world


Isolated from the rest of the country during six months each year, due to the snow, the  locals of Thethi valley have to do some serious planning for their survival. There is no shop and no electricity available, so do not forget to buy your own toothpaste before you cross the mighty mountains surrounding Thethi.

Time seem to have frozen in this part of northern Albania. The land is cultivated by hand  or behind the horse.

Some decades ago a large part of the male population died by the 500-year-old “kanun” family feud tradition implemented by Lek Dukagjin. The last blood revenge according to a village woman, happened five years ago!

Luckily these dark age customs lately seem to have been reduced considerably and as a guest it is hard to find a place where you will be treated in a better way.