David`s been here! And he loves Albania!

November 2, 2020 || views

Interview from Flora Xhemani Baba

He has visited 77 other countries around the world but fell in love with Albania. He said so! Throughout the long list, Albania immediately took a place in the “Top Five” and, at the top of the best things it found in us, was food. And we believe him, because during the two weeks of his stay in Albania, the places he highlighted the most were the farms with natural and organic food and the canteens. And besides, from this two-week experience arose a close relationship with his traveling companion, with whom they founded a very special venture; a turtle farm, the only one of its kind in Albania. But who is David Hoffmann @davidsbeenhere

the boy from Miami, who traveled in the midst of the pandemic to a small and unknown place, just because there were no restrictions and fell in love with his beauties?

He revealed a lot to us in the following interview:

When you heard about Albania first?

I first heard about Albania a long, long time ago. I learned a lot about it early in my career, during my first trip to the Balkans in 2008. During that trip, I visited Montenegro and went to Virpazar, which is close to the northern Albanian border. I learned that there are a lot of misconceptions about the country, but I also knew that a lot of Albanian people spoke Italian, which was great for me since I’m almost completely fluent in the language.

When was your first trip to Albania and how long?

I’ve explored a few places very close to Albania in the past, but my first trip to Albania was in August of 2020. I spent 14 days on the ground and went on an incredible road trip that took me around virtually the entire country. The only main spots I missed were Valbona and Lake Koman. It was such a unique, diverse, and life-changing experience and I’m so excited to go back.

What did you like more once in Albania?

I loved every single bite I ate in Albania. The farm-to-table food experience I had in Albania was easily the most incredible I’ve ever experienced. Practically every place I visited—whether it was a restaurant, a hotel, a guesthouse—gets fresh meat and produce from a local farm. It’s unbelievable and you can really taste the quality in the food. And the agrotourism farms in Albania are second to none. I ate some of the most amazing food of my life there. And, of course, I love the Albanian people. Everyone was so kind and warm and embraced me with open arms. It’s hard to beat the hospitality you’ll find in the Balkans!

How many other countries you have visit until now and where is Albania on your list?

Albania is the 78th country I’ve visited in my life, but in terms of experiences, it’s definitely in my top five. That includes beautiful and interesting places to visit, the hospitality, the food, the history, the culture. As I mentioned earlier, the country is so diverse. You have beaches, farms, mountains, lakes, rivers…and then you have everything from wine to raki to Ottoman bridges. There’s something for everyone in Albania, regardless of what type of traveler they are.

Why you love our country?

The main reason why I love Albania is because it has everything a traveler could want. If you like exploring the outdoors, there’s hiking in the mountains, there are beautiful forests and waterfalls. If you’re more into food, man are you in for a treat! You have everything from fresh produce to incredible seafood to hearty mountain dishes that are rich in lamb and pork, and we can’t forget Albanian wine and all the different types of raki. And if history is your jam, there are so many castles, medieval sites, Ottoman bridges, and ancient ruins throughout the country. And it’s super affordable to explore!

A lot of foreign ex-tourists have decided to live in Albania definitely. What about you?

Well, I have two young daughters who I decided to raise at home in Miami so they can be around their grandparents and cousins, but I will definitely own some business properties in Albania at some point. So, I won’t live there, but I’ll be back for sure. After just one visit, it’s easy to see why so many foreigners decide to live there. The hospitality is outstanding, and as I said earlier, it’s such an affordable place to live.

According to you as a common tourist, what is the worst thing you have noted?

Honestly, I didn’t have any bad experiences in Albania. Everything was perfect, so I can’t really pick a “worst” thing. I can’t say that about every place I’ve visited! Albania was really special and every experience I had was amazing in its own way.

The best one?

The best thing I noticed was the hospitality. Everywhere I went, from the north, to the central part of the country, to the south, everyone embraced me with open arms. They were all so kind and always made me feel right at home. The people in Albania are wonderful and they really like when foreigners enjoy their country.

What`s this new project of the turtles?

I’m so excited to talk about this! So, for the second half of my Albanian trip, my guide was Erjan Guxha from Travel Media EU. He and I hit it off immediately and by the end of my trip, we were like brothers. On my last day in Albania, he took me to his family’s farm outside of Tirana and we brainstormed the idea of Turtle Farm Albania, the first tortoise sanctuary in the country. We saw that lots of Hermann’s tortoises cross busy roads in Albania. Some of them don’t make it out alive, and a lot of them get injured, so we decided to create a sanctuary where Albanian tortoises will have a safe place to live, far away from cars and busy roads. So, we rescue tortoises from roads all over Albania and bring them to the farm.

We offer our guests tortoise-feeding experiences, as well as authentic Albanian farm-to-table experiences where people can pick their own grapes and vegetables, enjoy raki and wine and coffee, have lunch, and even have an amazing sunset dinner outside on our grounds. Anyone who wants to book a visit can reach out to us on Instagram at @turtle_farm_albania. Just give us 24 hours’ notice and we’ll arrange whatever experience you want for you!

Why turtles and not any other animal?

Good question! Tortoises have been a part of my life ever since I was a young boy. They’re some of the most ancient animals on the planet and date back to the time of the dinosaurs. They’re also easy pets to keep. They just need water, food, sunlight, and a safe environment. I have several of them at home in Miami. My entire family loves them. Having them is a great way to teach my daughters to respect all living creatures. So, I’ve always been infatuated with them. I even have a tortoise shell tattoo on my shoulder! I moved so many tortoises out of the middle of the road during my trip, and after seeing the ones that didn’t make it, I knew I had to do something to try to save as many as I can.

It is going to be a business in the future or will remain forever a mission?

It’s a sanctuary and a mission, but it’s also a business. Obviously, our number one goal is to maintain the safety and security of the animals we rescue, and to give them a home. But we also provide a unique experience for locals and tourists, and we sell our own products, like homemade raki, wine, jams, and locally-made pottery and tortoise figurines. But our main thing is showing people why these animals need to be cherished, saved, and never harmed.

Useful links to see more about David`s acitivities: