ALBANIA, SHKODRA: A BIKING TOUR TO URA E MESIT (MES BRIDGE)

um1 um2Enjoying the Indian summer, we spent a relaxed weekend in Lake Shkodra Resort (a perfect place to spend a few days and only 55 km or one hour driving from Podgorica!) with our friends from the Netherlands. The weather was sunny and it was a good opportunity to hire bicycles and make a biking tour to the famous Ottoman bridge Ura e Mesit, which is situated eight kilometers northeast from Shkodra – or 15 km from the Resort (photo 1).

At the reception we got a map and so we took off along the main road to Shkodra, passed the bridge and at the first roundabout, around 7 km north from Shkodra, we turned left (leaving the new Catholic church on our right side) in the direction of Gruemirë. The narrow asphalt road led us through small villages scattered in a fertile plain. After a while, we turned left and crossed the dry river bed of the Kir river (photo 2).There were no signposts at all, but passers-by were happy to show us the right direction. Many of them spoke a few words English and a young woman really touched us by her kind words: „Thank you for visiting our country!“

um3Although it was the first day of Kurban Bajram, some women were working on the land, collecting corn cobs. Sheep and goats were roaming around, which contributed to the picturesque atmosphere of the landscape. Accompanied by the voice of the imam from the village mosque uphill, we enjoyed the ride, encountering many people, women and children in festive clothing, who greeted us cordially. They were obviously in a good mood and happy to see foreign tourists in their village. Motorbikes were packed with complete families on it – in many cases two adults and two children – everybody was going somewhere to celebrate the Feast of Sacrifice.

um4After a biking tour of 15 km we reached the village of Mes. The famous Ottoman bridge – Ura e Mesit means „bridge in the middle“ – spans the Kir river and was built in around 1770 by Kara Mahmud Bushati, the local Ottoman pasha. Ura e Mesit is 108 m long, 3 m wide and it has 13 arches, of which the main span measures 22 m. It represents one of the longest and best preserved Ottoman bridges in the region. Ura e Mesit was built along the ancient trade road from Shkodra to Kosovo, which dates back to pre-Roman times. Much of the original route disappeared below the waters of the Drini valley dams, but here in Mes you can still see how important this bridge has been, although the route was only a few meters wide (photo 3).

um5If you want to make photos, cross the modern bridge that bypasses Ura e Mesit, so that you can admire the old bridge from all sides. The Kir river has always been clean, blue and transparent, but unfortunately, the solid waste problem is causing a lot of harm to the tourism value of this area. There is rubbish everywhere along the road, even near the bridge (photo 4).

If you are not a biking fan, you can also easily reach the Mes bridge from Shkodra. Although there are no regular furgons, you can rent a taxi for an hour or so, which will be sufficient to visit the bridge. But I believe that a biking tour is much more interesting, as it enables you to learn more about this part of  Albania, where you can still admire beautiful traditional costumes (photo 5), especially on holidays. And the fact that you are welcomed and greeted in such a cordial way by the population of this area will certainly compensate the piles of litter you can not avoid seeing along the route… Biking is so good for you! (photo 6)

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