Pogradec and Korça nostalgia

Last September, I had the priviledge to visit Pogradec and Korca. I have been wanting to visit the South Eastern part of Albania for a long time, and I finally got the chance to pass by some of its main landmarks.

First, we headed for Pogradec. You start heading towards Elbasan, through an amazing scenery of the mountains, yet very dangerous drive with all the sudden turns and the scary cliffs.

I don’t recall most of the magnificent views, but there is one in particular that stuck to my mind. Close to Pogradec, the rail road crosses some hills through a suspended red bridge. It looks quite old with all the rust it has, but I bet the view must be spectacular.

After almost 2 hours and a half we finally reached lake Ohrid, which Albania shares with Macedonia. And the colour of the lake is just amazing! It is very light blue, and with the mountaineous backdrop, a walk on its Cornish is a treat.

We were lucky cause it is said that a couple of years ago the sewage of the city ended up in the lake, making it a sore to the eyes (and noses!), but Thank God this problem was solved. Plus, there were some new city planning going on, and improvements were on their way. I’m sure in a couple of years, Pogradec will be a highlight on the travellers map, or maybe it already is, and just because we came in the end of the season we saw only Albanians, don’t know for sure…

Heading back to Tirana, I had to pass by Korca, the cultured city of Albania. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to see and experience it fully, we had only a couple of hours to check it out. I passed by the first Albanian school (built in 1881), the first mosque, the famous orthodox church, and the first (and only) oriental museum in Albania.

Talking about mosques, it pains me that there aren’t many surviving historical mosques here in Albania due to the ultra communist era, and the ones that survived the historical massacre, not much has been written on their story, style, or any notable related stories. That’s why I was interested in visiting Albania’s first mosque, Mirahor mosque /Xhamia e Iliaz Bei Mirahorit. Built in 1484 by Iljaz Hoxha, an Albanian born in Korça who served in the Ottoman army, and earned the title Mirahor Evel (Head General of Chevalry), and afterwards he was awarded the Sandjak (administrative division) of Korçë.

Walking around the mosque, we saw a sign with an X over some lips. On a first glance, we thought that it was meant for tourists to maintain decency and not to lock lips in the vicinity of the holy place. But after translating the texts (Mos Puthni murin! Zoti nuk e lejon adhurimin e murit apo gurit!), which was translated via google into (Do not kiss the wall! God does not allow the worship of the wall or stone!). Absolutely right!

Finally we took a quick tour in Bratko museum. It was funny that on the door of  the museum there is a paper saying that if you want to enter, just call the guard on ….. . But before we start dialing the number, crossing our fingers that the guy would know a little bit of English or Italian, the guard / guide popped up, and left us on our own to be the sole visitors of this museum featuring the private collection of the Albanian-American Dhimitër Boria (1903-1990). Boria emigrated from Albania when he was 17, attending art school in Detroit before working in Hollywood in an early animation studio and as silhouette artist, and later on worked as a photographer for the US Army and the UN, which enabled him to travel the world and collect some interesting pieces, especially from Asia. If this museum was in some other country, I don’t think I would have paid much attention to it, but the curiosity of an Oriental Artifacts Museum in Albania was simply irresistible.

Here are some photos, I hope you will like it

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