Driving from Permet to Korça through the mountains takes around five hours on small roads. In the morning we stop at the Ottoman bridge with the thermal springs.
The Ottoman bridge of Permet and the thermal springs
Around 1800, the Ottoman bridge near Permet has been built by Ali Pasha, the mighty local administrator of the district of Epirus. On the “Reise Know How” for Albania, there are sheep on this bridge. No sheep here today.
The spring near the bridge is like an infinity pool. The water is said to be good for the skin, Ben says. No one here, except us and a couple from Germany. We have a swim in the lukewarm water.
There are more smaller ponds in the canyon. One of them is against rheumatism – Ben tells me that a priest who was bent from rheumatism got cured here.
We walk up to look into the canyon from above. Ben is worried that there is a hydropower project going on here that might endanger this beautiful spot with the ponds and the bridge.
Near the “infinity pond” we stop at a small coffee place. While the owner serves us coffee, he says: “I gave Tirana up for this place.” He also has a few guest rooms. Well yes, this is a beautiful spot with a lot of touristic potential, and I am happy that I can enjoy it without crowds of people. Ursula tells me that a year ago she was here over a weekend and the pond was full with joyful children enjoying a swim.
Continuing through the mountains
On the way to Korça, we now follow the river Vjosa going south.
When we reach the border with Greece, we turn left and travel through hills that remind me a bit of our Swiss Franches Montagnes. Behind the town Leskovic we overtake a farmer that walks along the side of the road. We look at one another, stop and take him with us. He was on the way to his tomato and pepper fields – about a two hours’ walk from his home. He dreams of growing his fields bigger and exporting his tomatoes. When we reach his fields, he insists on giving us tomatoes while his dogs and his son are welcoming us. Great hospitality.
A few kilometers later, a policeman stops us. Hm, what have we done wrong? It turns out that nothing is wrong. The policeman – having visited his family here in the moutnains – just looks for a way to travel back to Korça, where he works. He joins us in our car.
Lunch at Sotiro
Now, I am hungry. It is almost three o’clock. Ben knows a great place on the way, the farm Sotiro. The farm has rooms for about 30 people, a nice camping site with a large swimming pool, cows and horses – and a pond with trouts. This would be a great place to stay and hike in the surrounding hills.
I have a fresh trout, caught from the pond and perfectly spiced and grilled. Delicious.
Continuing to Korça
We continue our way to Korça. A large team of cyclists from Sweden – not young, they are in their sixties – climb up the turns of the road – sweating. They have started in Korça today. Very brave. Ben greets each of them: “Bravo, you are doing well.”
We need another break and have coffee at the Coloçare, a restaurant that is run by a cousin of our policeman. He admires the owner, because he has constructed and decorated the place all by himself. With a lot of phantasy, as for instance the bear with the guitar shows.
Again we enjoy the great Albanian hospitality. The owner of the restaurant prepares a yoghurt drink for us and serves us butter and bread.
Ben, the owner and the policeman exchange about politics. His son is studying in Italy right now, but will have to finish his studies in Tirana, because Italy is too expensive
In Korça – beautiful Leon and a delicious meal in the Taverna – THE recommended place in Korça
In Korça we stay in the comfy and pretty guest house Buijtina Leon, right behind the cathedral. Korça is a European city with a boulevard, a beautiful park, well arranged. The restaurants mostly serve fastfood – except the Taverna – tucked away in a small street. With the German couple, we share a delicious dinner. I have piglet. A regional Cabernet Sauvignon goes well with our meal and we forget the time, as Ben tells us the story of his life after the fall of the iron curtain.