“Ah, you’re going to Shkodra?” A fellow traveller asked us as we compared travel plans. “Are you staying at Mi Casa Es Tu Casa?”
Despite the fact that it only opened six months ago, Mi Casa Es Tu Casa hostel is already synonymous with a stay in the Albanian city of Shkodra.
It’s easy to see why travellers are so happy with it: the homely atmosphere and comfortable hang-out areas mean that many people find it hard to leave.
We followed the directions we’d been given along one of Shkodra’s main streets, and sooner than we expected came across a sign pointing down a short driveway to a brightly painted garage gate. A press of the buzzer let us into the yard, which had space for bikes, tents, and the owners’ van, and we made our way inside past a cozy outdoor lounge equipped with couches, tables and a kitten.
We were welcomed by Juli, a friend of the owners Giogio and Alma, who was taking over the running of the hostel while they headed back to Italy for a few weeks. He showed us around the interior: downstairs there was a large kitchen where breakfast is served every morning, a lounge, a reception with bar and couches, an eight-bed dorm, and a private room with a raised double bed. Upstairs is another, six-bed, dorm with a private room that’s accessed through the dorm, as well as a ridiculous number of toilets and showers.
The set-up was nice, but what really mattered was the atmosphere. The staff worked hard to make sure guests felt at home, and even whipped up a mid-afternoon meal for the 12 of us who were around at the time. Everyone seemed to feel relaxed, and we spent a lot of time sitting around chatting with the other guests, or wandering around the city with them in search of the elusive Restaurant Ana. (Note: we didn’t find it because it’s not called Ana.)
Since guests have to buzz to enter the property, it’s very secure, but I would have liked to have been able to lock our bedroom door too. Towels were also lacking to dry your hands in the abundant bathrooms, but linens were provided and the beds and pillows were both comfortable.
We had to leave after just two days in Shkodra; plans and reservations called us on. But I perfectly understood those who’d decided not to go, and were really making Mi Casa Es Tu Casa home for a while.