Spending a few days surrounded by pristine nature, away from the routine, with no mobile phone signal or Internet, drinking fresh water from the stream, enjoying fresh products of shepherds’ huts, is without doubt a memorable experience. The journey of this adventure leads one to the guesthouses that still preserve the century-old traditions of highlander hospitality.
The destination for this summer is the locality of Zllanopojë, Roshkodol of the Accursed Mountains in Kosovo. Tourists mainly reach this far away spot on foot or by horses, as the guesthouses and shepherds’ huts of this area are part of the “Peaks of the Balkans” and “Via Dinarica” itineraries. During summertime, one may reach there also by 4X4, and the road to take, which starts in Deçan, is a miracle of wilderness not to be missed.
The journey from Deçan takes some 1.5 hours through unspoilt mountainous paths to reach “Lojza” guesthouse. For several years now, this guesthouse welcomes thousands of foreign tourists from the region and the world, who arrive here seeing adventure, learning about new cultures, and authentic experiences as travellers.
As soon as it appears, Guesthouse “Lojza” gives off strong vibes of welcoming. Built mainly with wood, the two-storey guesthouse provides all that is necessary for the tourists: comfortable beds, a traditional “men’s chamber” where they can spend time talking, fresh dairy products from the local shepherds, traditional food, and above all – a friendly atmosphere. The patio of the guesthouse is the ideal spot to freshen up after the several-hour hike to reach the place.
Zeki Ahmetgjekaj, the owner, spends at least six months a year here, welcoming guest from all over the worlds. He says that before the pandemic, there were up to a thousand visits and each left with the best impressions about the beauty, culture, and hospitality of Kosovo. More often than not, he receives mail in his residence in Peja city, where he spends winters. The mail brings him postcards and souvenirs from guests. “A Japanese tourist sent me a picture she made inspired by the guesthouse and the surrounding views,” says Zeki.
Coming from a background in gastronomy, and an enthusiast of nature and mountain vacations, several years ago Zeki decided to join the development of mountain tourism in Kosovo. Together with his spouse and sons, every May to October they manage the guesthouse, receiving tourists, and promoting Kosovo and the Accursed Mountains to the whole wide worlds as a destination not to be missed.
Life at Guesthouse “Lojza” is simple. Breakfast is served early, comprising of tasty and nutritious dishes, so that tourists get all the energy needed for the several-hours hike around the mountains: bread, eggs, cheese, jam, milk, all freshly and locally made. Zeki then prepares sandwiches for the tourists to take with them for the day. The rich dinner also unveils a range of traditional tastes: beans, meat, fli (layers of pancake-like dough with sour cream), various pies, yoghurt, and fresh salads.
“Here, we have no Internet, no mobile signal. It is just us and nature. We spend the time together. Foreign tourists like to learn how to prepare food like us and help me prepare breakfast or dinner. After dinner, we listen to music, we drink, play at archery here on the meadow.” This is how Zeki described a typical day at “Lojza”.
“Often, tourists ask to sleep outside, right here on this meadow in front of the guesthouse. They say they want to ‘enjoy sleeping at the million-start guesthouse’,” says Zeki.
Apart from providing rest and shelter for the tourists, guesthouses like “Lojza” which recently have sprung around the mountains of this area are also a driver for the local economy, especially for the shepherds’ huts and villagers, who sell their products or are employed by these guesthouses.
The summer of 2020 was most difficult for Guesthouse “Lojza”, as it was for the entire tourism sector worldwide. Because of the pandemics and disruption of travel, groups cancelled their bookings and there were only a few spontaneous travellers.
This year, Zeki hopes the situation improves. He used the time during which he had no guests to refurbish the guesthouse and add a new kitchen. “Last year, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, through the Promoting Private Sector Employment project, we built a kitchen so that we can provide even better conditions for the tourists,” says Zeki.
Noons on Guesthouse “Lojza” meadow are magical. The Accursed Mountains, looming over the guesthouse, the still and dense forest, the clear water stream create a perfect fairy tale picture and one would not be surprised if mountain fairies would climb down the rocks, playfully dancing. This is a perfect destination to spend a few, memorable days with family and friends.