Sun was up and of course I found myself wishing it wasn’t Friday night just a couple of hours ago. I had enjoyed the hell out of my night though; friends, theatre, social/political convos, and beer- who can ask for more!? It was 7 in the morning and I needed to rush out of my bed, shower, pack, and leave. Off to the rafting trip at the Osumi River over the weekend By-My-Self, or as my friend Fjolla likes to label this type of experience as “traveling independently”. I have to admit, the most creative terms always come over some drinks. Hangover and alone- way to impress the world!
There I was, nervous and super excited standing in front of the New Born sign — one question, though: where was everyone else? This was about to sound like a real solo trip to me. I was carrying a big backpack, so hopefully someone joining
the same trip would notice me – they had to! And, there she came, the lady with the list and wait…do I see other people approaching us? These other two girls were part of the trip also. “Yes, yes, and yes! I’m tagging along and we are having coffee together; it’s already decided and I do feel sorry for you two and the fact that you will have to deal with my silly face for the entire weekend. We are already friends, but you don’t know it, yet…” This inner monologue was another thing they didn’t know about. Thank heaven they didn’t, they’d think I was a creeper if they did. As we walked toward the coffee shop, I decided to keep on smiling and think of small-talk-questions. I had to initiate some chatting and “I can do this” was what I kept on emphasizing to myself. I can talk to a tree for hours if I was given the challenge to (really, though.) People who do like adventurous trips like this should be cool and they will, most likely, like me — fingers crossed, especially on the second one. Being a little cocky this morning, now am I!?
A tiny bus and 13 people in it ready to ride for approximately 740 km and spend two whole days together. Looking nerd-ish and anti- social, it was time to take out my book, oh my precious book! My trip companion if this group is what I call Bajata. However, things turned out to be different; a couple of kilometers into the road and we were already chatting. They all seem to have some pretty interesting jobs, and as usual, there is someone who has studied English just like me- something to relate to, only to realize later on that this was just a minor thing. So many other things helped us bond with each other and, of course, we did the most traditional Albanian thing that there was to do: talk about people that we all knew. A special thanks goes to Facebook for that — the mutual friends and all that. I’m surprised we didn’t turn out to be even blood related, we do live in Kosova after all.
Our first stop was for lunch in Durres. Consequently to the fact that we were eating on a restaurant at the beach, most of us ordered seafood, and we all commented on how delicious it was — this could have been for the mere fact that we were starving by that point. What became a very favorite part of this trip, was the fact that we didn’t look at each other’s plates wishing we had ordered the same thing, we were happy to share it. For someone who likes food just as I do, this was an amazing thing to do. I got to eat from six different plates and man was I happy!
Back on the road and off to one of most beautiful cities of Albania, the city of 1001 windows — a unique place with antiquated architecture. The fortress of Berat, or what we call Kalaja, was what amazed us all. It doesn’t only have a very strategic place, it also has the most spectacular view. According to our guide, its origin dated back to the 4th century, but most of it was built in the 13th century. Different historical facets could be distinguished by the way it was built.
There are many Byzantine churches and a couple of Mosques dating from the Ottoman Era. We found it very interesting how the fortress is still inhabited. Their living conditions had gotten better since their acceptance in UNESCO in 2008. They even have WiFi up there now. Yep, WiFi. I could only imagine what those of the Ottoman Empire would say today… “Hey, man, what filter should I use for my selfie?”And miraculously the flowing waves of the WiFi signal didn’t stop there: they, too, were lighting up our phones with messages at the wooden cabins up on the hill where we spent the night.I could hear the wood cracking and the wind blowing- not an ideal place for a girl to sleep on her own. A little creepy I must say but the picturesque view made up for it. Also, I was very tired so as soon as my cheek touched the pillow, I was already asleep.
The morning came and so did the day when we were suppose to raft. Ready and excited, but also cold and a little nervous- nothing a homemade Rakia shot cannot ease out. Rafting in the flow of the Osumi River that was being fed by the rain has been an exhilarating experience- I would have not been able to make it if it wasn’t for this awesome team that I had. We never stopped laughing and we co-operated with one another wonderfully- and yes, I mean you, too, Besnik.
We got complimented by our instructor, too (he probably says that to everyone, but we were happy to hear it anyway), he struck me as a real pro. The other team, though, they seemed to have had quite a different experience. Something to talk about and crack-up over on our way back. However, on the honor of the story, we announced a hero among us. Holla to Liridona for saving her drowning rafting instructor. (Kidding, but not really.) Now if you ever get bored from your job, you know what to do, girl!
Finally, we got back to Prishtina and, thanks to our very welcoming and friendly culture, I did not get to read my book- a book-lover that got caught up by good company, interesting talks (including a mini wine lesson- I am definitely trying that Italian wine!), and the adrenaline-rushing things we did. This was the rafting trip, but as Granit said “The rafting felt like the extra benefit we got, the city itself has left a special feeling in me”.