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An underrated natural wonder until recently, Belsh, with its renovated center and surrounding lakes, promises plenty of outdoor sports and beauty in the coming years.
If you find yourself without a plan on a pleasant weekend, you would do well to take some notes. Belsh, with an impressive total of 80 lakes surrounding it, is perhaps the most ideal – though still underrated – option for those who love being close to nature.
The road from Tirana to Belsh passes through Elbasan Perimeter Highway and continues on to the Cërrik Crossway. From there, it takes you no more than 30 minutes to arrive at the Dumrea plains. Since we are part of a tour organized by the Tourism and Investment Finance Fund, the first stop is the town of Belsh. Here, we get our first chance to look at the newly renovated city center.
Had we taken the words of the renowned Albanian writer Sami Frashëri into consideration, Belsh would have become Albania’s capital. According to Frashëri, the beautiful nature surrounding this small town and its typical characteristics would have made it an ideal and strategic central point. And, indeed, if one only imagines some institutional buildings lined up along the lake’s shore, reflected on its surface, it is easy to see how this place would have been quite the poetic capital.
Leaving Belsh behind, we head toward Seferan, where we stop at the romantically-named “Guesthouse of the Roses.” Sitting in the veranda, we taste delicious saffron tea and kulaç (a special kind of Albanian artisan bread) made with local olive oil. Surrounded by the crisp air and bountiful views of the lake, you realize how truly necessary a visit like this is! Indeed, the paysage forces you to take a much-needed moment to relax and be thankful.
Part of this beautiful view, granted by the guesthouse’s prime location, is Gradishta Cliff, otherwise known as Belsh Castle due to the ruins found there. Considered a fairly developed center since the 6th century B.C., the fortified city constructed during the subsequent two centuries belongs to the Parthini Illyrian tribe, s subgroup of the famous Taulantii. The tomb of an Illyrian prince (Prince of Belsh) found here once contained 70 or so ancient objects which nowadays are displayed at the Mamuz in Asparn, Austria.
We leave the guesthouse, climb on the tour van and head to Merhoja Lake, the outdoors mecca of the area, and not far from Seferan. We see canoers, kayakers, paddleboarders, and mini golfers, spontaneously scattered around the area yet surprisingly organized. For a moment, the scene resembles a painting. The loud splashes of young bathers bring us back to reality. Though it is October, the hot sun warms the lake’s water just enough to inspire some light swimming.
After an exhilirating experience with various outdoor sports, we return to Seferan. Here, at “Dumrea Pedal” center, visitors can rent new and safe bicycles to take on a small ride before lunch. Speaking of lunch, the options here are many. We had the option of choosing from an outdoor barbeque or the wonderful menu of “Zejtaria Restaurant” (in Albanian, zejtari refers to “craftsmanship”).
After lunch, we continue the exploration of the area, starting with Aphrodite’s statue, located near the restaurant. Close by, a badmington net and a few chairs invite you to play or to simply relax and admire the statue. According to archaeological evidence, Aphrodite was one of the area’s most important goddesses in antiquity, honored with terracotta vessels regularly placed on her shrine. Excavations in the area have unearthed various fragments of Aphrodite’s ceramic head. Today, her statue stands as a testament of Dumrea’s distant, antique past.
To perfectly conclude the beautiful excursion, the visitor can take a relaxing boat ride along Seferan Lake.
The gigantic yellow water lillies accentuate the reflective surface of the lake as well as the surrounding landscape. Everything is imbued with a sense of freshness and tranquility. Fully absorbed in the poetic landscape, we wonder if we are still in time for Frashëri’s words to come true.
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