A Visit to Bual: The Magical Village and the Cultural Monument-turned-Traditional Guesthouse in Përmet
Përmet might not
have the coast that so many other Albanian cities are blessed with, but it more
than makes up for it with its majestic atmosphere, friendly locals, and
It often happens that when everyone recommends that you visit a particular place, your expectations grow so much that you may end up disappointed. This was not the case with Bual Village in Përmet. After hearing so many people rave about it, we at IntoAlbania decided to go for a visit. We came out raging Përmet believers. Read on for our experience.
everything, but the sea”
On our way to
Përmet, we stop to ask for directions. These stops quickly turn into pleasant
conversations with locals, becoming an unanticipated wonderful part of the
trip. Përmet people are famous for their gentle manners and love of the good
life so this comes as no surprise. At its entrance, the town greets us with a
funny welcome sign that says: “We have everything, but the sea” (“Përveç
detit, kemi gjithçka tjetër.”) As we unwillingly depart the town a day
later, we all agree that it is the most accurate slogan we have ever come
across. It had so much that the sea did not even cross our minds.
The road to Bual
The road to Bual is
in itself a spectacular experience. The tranquil landscape until the turn at
Lekli Bridge, in Tepelena, seems like the physical manifestation of a peaceful
inhale. As we continue, we become aware that we are diving head-first into the
most stunning landscape around: the Trebeshinë-Dhëmbel-Nemerçke mountain range
caressed by the quiet flow of Vjosa River. Did someone photoshop us here? No.
Though we have to pinch ourselves, we are becoming aware that this is real.
Toward the end, the road is unpaved but not harmful at all to any vehicle. We
just drive straight through until the road ends and magically find ourselves in
Places of worship
There is a clear
connection to the divine here in Bual Village, made clear by the many places of
worship scattered in a relatively small surface area. At the very entrance of
the village, stands the ancient Church of St. Ilias, thought to have been constructed
between the 13th and 14th centuries. Another, smaller
church has also survived the test of time thanks to the care of the locals.
Beyond Vjosa River, across from Bual, in Alipostivan Village, there is the
Tekke of Baba Aliu. In Kosina Village, stands yet another church, that of St.
Mary, built around the 12th-13th century period.
Traditional Guesthouse Përmet
Let’s focus on the 120-year-old house, a
cultural monument of the first category which Kristaq and Flora, a
husband-and-wife team, managed to save from demolition. In the last two years,
they turned it into a place of warmth and beauty, that welcomes visitors from
around the globe.
As soon as you enter the front yard and meet
the couple, you have the impression of returning to see old friends. Flora
shows us the three guestrooms and the surrounding landscape and, then, leaves
to make coffee which is served with walnut gliko (gourmet fruit
preserves, a specialty of Përmet).
Kristaq, or Kiço, as we immediately come to
call him, tells us the story of the village. The couple has grown accustomed to
the curiosity concerning their unusual move from the city to the rural area.
Journalists especially have shown great interest in this story of reverse
migration, as is evidenced by the rush of several Italian journalists from RAI
Italia who made a documentary about Kiço’s story.
Following the initial exchanges, they suggest we take a short walk to visit the “the fountain of the Italian,” a primitive construction of the war period, made by an Italian soldier. Its location is a strategic spot from which to view the entire Vjosa valley, the villages on the other side, up to Këlcyra Gorge.
The walk lasts a while. Upon our return, to our great surprise, we find a beautifully arranged table of Flora’s homemade food right under the mulberry branch. The delicious dinner is accompanied by locally made red wine and brandy. The moonlit sky and the peaceful view in front of us is the appropriate exclamation point at the end of a full and wonderful day. The only thing that outdoes it is the terrace breakfast spread under the morning sun the next day
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