Returning home to Albania


Raider Times photo / Helen Gjino

Korçë from the mountains.

Helen Gjino, Raider Times staff

For two weeks in July, I got the chance to visit my family in Korçë, Albania, for the first time in more than a decade.

The last time I was there, I was about 4 years old, so I barely remember anything. The only memory that stuck out to me was being able to see a mountain range from the outside of my grandma’s house. This time, I went out with family and friends every day that I was there, traveling to neighboring villages and spending time in the main square, and I got the chance to connect with family members who I’ve never even met before.

Raider Times photo / Helen Gjino
A street in Korçë.

While there, I took photos of the surrounding land because the town itself is in a very mountainous region of the country. It is also an incredibly small and not very advanced town, so it wasn’t hard to drive for about 20 minutes in order to visit another village or sit by a river away from the commotion of the main town. Because of how many mountains there are, roads were built to lead up and over many of them, which made it relatively easy to drive up one and view the whole town.

Raider Times photo / Helen Gjino
Cattle being led down a road in Voskopojë.

One thing that really made the vacation, though, was the food. I ate out practically every night, so there was always something new to try. Some things I had included oven-baked feta cheese (this one was popular at every lunch and dinner), authentic Greek gyros, grilled lamb, hand-crafted pies with different fillings (such as spinach and cheese and pumpkin), and I had two or three macchiatos a day because of how cheap and delicious they were. My grandma was kind enough to make me Turkish coffee in the morning along with my breakfast, too.

Going back there gave me a better sense of where my family comes from, and I definitely plan on going again, especially since my grandma made me promise to visit every year from now on.

Raider Times photo / Helen Gjino
The author (right) and a family friend, Kristel.

–Aug. 30,2019–