So close yet so far away — here is a glimpse of summer fun in Albania!

Albania is located only 45 miles from Italy, and has history dating back to the 4th century B.C., but it is not well known by Westerners even today. Despite its natural beauty, and recent attempts to lure tourists, a metaphoric dark cloud hangs over Albania, and few foreigners seem eager to visit to discover its charms.

Over the centuries, the land and people have been subject to massive turmoil in politics, economics, wars and culture clashes. After the fall of communism, many native Albanians fled to other countries (notably Italy and Germany) to seek jobs and better living conditions. Yet each summer, hundreds and thousands return to bask in the natural beauty and comforting culture of their homeland.

For this project, photographer Franky Verdickt traveled to popular seaside destinations near the coastal cities of Durrës and Lake Ohrid to document the summertime vacations of Albanians and Kosovars (ethnic Albanians).

Verdickt writes:

“These photos were made in August 2016 around Durrës, Divjaka, Dhermi, Himarë and Pogradec (lake Ohrid). Since I wanted to make the images ‘shiny and full of sun’ I worked together with an assistant, holding my flash. Many of the images are portraits so I had to ask permission of the people being photographed, which allowed me to get to know the people a little better, reinforcing my belief that Albanians are charming, hospitable and friendly people. This series can be seen as a view of the Albanian middle class coming back home, spending holidays in the sun.”

Gëzuar! (Cheers!)

— LensCulture