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Tourism Information: Vlore, Albania

Probably some good places to start would be a nice summary of Vlore's history and pretty tourist pictures, a short encylopedic description of Vlore and its amenities or a concise summary of tourist possibilities in Albania.

While I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Vlora, Albania between 1995-7, I had the chance to experience the natural beauty of a port city less than 50 kilometers from Italy. The winters were mild, and the summers were hot as hell, but the beaches were beautiful, the cafes great fun, and the sidewalks were wide and full of people and excitement. The city is small (70,000), and the apartments not very nice to look at, but Uje Ftohte ("cold water") is a nicer, more relaxing place to be and only a 20 minute walk from the town.

Unfortunately, Vlora was ravaged three times: first by the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, second by the riots after Albania became free in the early 1990's and thirdly by the riots caused by fraudulent pyramid schemes in 1997. Fortunately, a great deal of aid has flowed into Albania since then (especially after the Kosovo conflict), democratic institutions have become stronger and living in Vlore has become a whole lot more peaceful.

Vlore is famous as a place for "tough guys," but actually it is a rather liberal place (compared to the rest of Albania), and it is a bit wealthier than other towns because of the city's ties to Italy. They have an active theatre, several great seafood restaurants along the coast and a great xhiro (or "stroll") along the beaches even at night. When we arrived in Albania, Peace Corps warned us about the conservative dress code around the country, but actually, more people in Vlore seemed to wear shorts than in many cities in America. Vlore has its surreal aspects: one beach had (at least when I was there) billiard tables on the beach, and once I saw two young girls who hit an old man on the shoulder before walking past him on the sidewalk ("It's for good luck," they told me). While I taught at the University of Vlore along the coast, my English students once crowded around the class window to peer at a school of dolphins. Vlore is definitely a maritime town.

I don't know what the university is like now, but the students there were some of the finest. They now have a tourism program at the university for developing tourism in Vlore. When I lived there, they had one or two ratty hotels and several fabulously expensive ones. I can only assume by now that individuals will be offering private rooms to rent for tourists. You will be impressed by the mikprites (hospitality) of all Albanians. When the Kosovo crisis caused many Kosovars to flee into Albania, Vlore families put up tens of thousands of Kosovars into their private houses. For people in other cultures, such a sacrifice might be hard to fathom, but for Albanians taking care of guests is a vital part of their cultural tradition.

I am including a few links to tourist information about Vlore. If you know of other good links for tourist information, please let me know. I'm still waiting for some of my business/tourism students at the University of Vlore to put up some good web pages about the city, but until then, this brief page will have to suffice.

One more thing. The Lonely Planet tourism books do a great disservice to Vlore. Their tour guides have basically contained the same information about Vlore for the last 5 years, but a lot has happened since then and their report is woefully out of date. Their Albania/Eastern Europe books give the impression that the only reason to go to Vlore is for the ferry to Italy. Well, there IS a ferry near the beach, but that's not the only thing. Beaches are within walking distance of the town, and it's relatively easy to find a ride along the Adriatic coast to Himare or other coastal towns . As nice as Vlore is, Albania also many other gems: Saranda, which borders with Greece, the lovely castle town of Kruje and the lovely town of Pogradec on the border with Macedonia.

I'd love to hear from former students and friends from this region (especially from Vlore!). You can write me at idiotprogrammer@ fastmailbox.net You can also read my weblogs (also found here ).