Published On: Mon, Jul 17th, 2017

Channel Lord Byron on Horseback Through the Rugged Wilderness of Albania

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Photo: Auron Tare

Following in Lord Byron’s footsteps through the unspoiled Albanian countryside (Photo: Auron Tare)

“Land of Albania! Let me bend mine eyes on thee, thou rugged nurse of savage men.”

Those were Lord George Gordon Byron’s words in his famous poem, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” in which Byron chronicled the ragtag journey that he and his friend, the diarist and future politician John Cam Hobhouse, took through the mountainous regions of southern Albania in 1809 on their way to visit the despot Ali Pasha.

The romantic’s romantic, notorious in his own time, a rake, a traveler, a man’s man, a woman’s man, Byron was the quintessential adventurer. Even today, his name evokes a sense of wonder and disbelief, danger, and excitement.

Byron and Hobhouse were two thrill-seeking young men in their early 20s, looking for adventure as they crossed the border of Greece into Albania, a country many at the time considered an illiterate backwater of the Ottoman Empire, ruled by a cruel despot and overtaken by savage tribes.

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The poet’s journey revealed a very different Albania. He found fiercely independent countrymen and a camaraderie that appealed greatly to his romantic ideals of both travel and adventure.

The poet in all of us has dreamed about being a little bit Byron. Now you can.

Today, Byron fans can follow in his Albania footsteps, or rather his hoof prints, on a six-day horseback tour through the mountains of the Vjosë Valley, led by one of the most knowledgable individuals about Byron whom you have ever encountered.

The Byron adventure begins near the Greco-Albanian border along the old caravan route linking the villages of Southern Albania with the former Grecian capital, Ioannina. The horses you will ride are locally bred Albanian horses. Strong and stocky, they are agile in difficult terrain and have a lively temperament. Be kind to them, and they will be your loyal companion throughout the trek.

Related: An Inside Look at the World’s Longest, Most Dangerous Horse Race

The trip doesn’t require that you are an expert rider. People of all riding levels are welcome.

The Byron journey is also a “greatest hits” of the Albanian countryside. This is a trip for travelers rather than tourists, folks who want to get off the beaten path of the beaches and capital to see towns that have remained largely unchanged since Byron visited them. During the course of the six-day horse trek, visitors stop in the Ottoman town of Gjirokastër, where the cobblestone streets climb high to Gjirokastër castle, first built during the Byzantine period and expanded during the reign of Ali Pasha. The local mythology holds that in the 15th century, Princess Argjiro and her child leapt to their deaths from the castle walls rather than be captured by the invading Ottomans.

 

 

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