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South | Kudhës

Kudhës the steep hill side village

First Impressions

From the national road at Qeparo, there is a small turn-off that would be unnoticeable if you weren’t looking for it. The road is immediately narrow and unpaved, and for about 500 meters it remains unclear whether it is indeed a road, or just a long driveway. In fact, it is the road to Kudhës. Perhaps due in part to its unclear access point, the village of Kudhës is extremely well preserved, and feels like another world despite the fact that it is only six kilometers from the national road. That road is slow but worth the time. At the base of the village, one notices another, strikingly good road. Kudhës begins with a stripe of pavement that was built by the villagers from their personal savings. The culmination of that effort is a tightly winding line that slinks between olive plantations cut laterally and then back again. The road is narrow though, and a preference for a stroll through the village is a reasonable one. Similar to Lukovë and others, Kudhës is organized linearly following the crest of a ridge from the base of a valley to the flank of a mountain. Unlike those other villages though, one enters Kudhës from the bottom and travels up, not the other way around. Many will be tempted to drive to the top, and explore downward, which feels more natural. The line to the top is interrupted by a broad public square cut into the hillside, offering enormous views back to the sea, and inland where the mountain range seems to quickly multiply in height. At the very top of the hill, past even the last house, there is a natural spring tucked away in a dark, green crack in the side of the hill. A rest here provides a wonderful reward for the hike, and sets one up for a lovely descent back toward the vibrant village.

The People

Kudhës residents are known for their dedication to knowledge and education and many of them have been awarded impressive titles and manage significant institutions in Albania. The first Albanian school in the village was opened on December 19, 1921. In 1957, a seven-year school was built and by 1972, the year with the largest ever enrollment, there were 210 students enrolled and ten teachers. The first doctor from Kudhës was Mihal Cani. His son, Petro Cani, worked as a doctor in the National Liberation War, and was the first to perform an operation with a saw; in 1944, he was named “the father of Albanian surgery.” Much of this history of education took place without electricity. Kudhës was electrified for the first time on February 23, 1960. Electric light reached the middle of the village having originated at a hydropower plant in Qeparo and conveyed through Rrapi Pass.

Tradition & culture

Until the very end of the nineteenth century, me and women of this village wore linen and woolen clothing. The traditional attire of women included a long strip of cloth at the ankle, or nieth, a woolen jacket, woolen cardigan, colorful woolen socks, and a woolen waistband or sash. Their ornaments were usually silver: earrings, necklace, buckles, bracelets, and so on. Men wore silver ornaments as well: silver pocket clocks with chains known as qostek, vests embroidered with braids and gold, silver pipes with amber burners. Kudhës is known for its metal works for weaponry too.

The People - economic activity

The mountainous settlement of Kudhes, similar to Pilur, offers local agricultural and traditional products, which are also considered to be a relatively important strength for the community. Historically, the livelihoods of Kudhës’s inhabitants were geared toward animal husbandry due to the rugged terrain on which the village is situated. In 1956, it was counted that Kudhës maintained about 11,000 head of livestock, small and large, and 4,500 olive trees. Apart from livestock breeding, the extended olive groves and orchards are major strengths of this mountainous area, which offer an amazing panorama to the visitors as well. There is little commercial activities, but the village café is located right in the core of the town, in the Kudhes Plaza.

The roots - the history

There is no agreement on the origins of the name Kudhës. Most believe it to be based on a folk etymology linked to several place names in the immediate vicinity of the village, where traces of early settlements exist. Villages in the vicinity that predate Kudhës were Pajohori, Gjishtekuqe, Shënmëhille, and Shënpremte. Kudhës has several churches, the oldest of was built with community funds in the seventeenth century. A characteristic element in the church is the great bell made by the Society of Kudhës, who had emigrated and worked in Athens in 1903, as well as the smaller bell donated by Catherine of Russia, at the end of the eighteenth century.

The setting – Urban fabric

Kudhës lies in the southwest of the province of Himarë, six kilometers inland from the Ionian Sea, and 335 meters above sea level At the top of the village, at one dominating point from the north, there is a landform called the Pass of Kula (Qafa e Kulës), whence it is believed to have com named the village itself. The Institute of Archaeology has found a number of historical objects at Shafkëza, such as bronze axes and an iron lance from early antiquity. These objects are on display in the National History Museum in Tirana. These and many ceramic early findings confirm the presence of an ancient settlement. Centuries ago the settlement was also called “Kudhësi Perivoli,” implying that the old village had many vineyards—distinguished it from present-day Kudhës in size and location, though with no fewer vineyards. That fabric is characterized by stone constructions that follow a cobblestone path or traditional sokak and where in many cases dwellings are established through cylindrical vaults in order to ensure crossings. The shadow of the vineyards is a relief from one walking in this sokak but also a teaser to see and know more about the ‘life’ beyond the threshold – the inviting door.

Kudhës stream (Përroi i Kudhësit)

The stream of Molla flows nearby Piluri village and ends up on the river of Kudhës. Kudhës River or stream runs near Kudhës and then passes throug Qeparo field and ends into the sea with a delta shape. At the top of the village is a mossy fissure that has been tapped for at least a century as a source of fresh underground spring water. These water taps can be found in a number of locations throughout the south. A five-minute walk from the top of Kudhës, the spring makes for a wonderful hiking amenity. The landscape is very scenic. The municipality of Himara has different types of drinking water sources. Water sources include springs, karsts springs, groundwater, maritime freshwater springs and mineral springs. The first water supply system for the village of Kudhës, obtaining the water from the stream (Burimi i arrave) was constructed in 1967.

Kudhës village Plaza

One of the most wonderful consistencies among the old villages in the Himarë Province is the modestly scaled public plaza. These spaces form the core ofeach village—physically in the center, and socially present as community gathering points. Kudhës’s plaza has been recently renovated and is one of the most dramatic of them all. In the plaza there is a cluster of buildings that served community purposes during communism, as well as a small café. The plaza of Kudhës, unlike others in the area, is a sequence of many platforms that cascades down a hillside that is open to the sea far off in the distance.

The landscape - connecting villages

Many of the villages in the Kuç Valley are connected to one another by walking paths. One famous connection is between Kudhës and Qeparo. Historically, there was a great deal of familial overlap between these two villages, due to their proximity. In the age of the automobile that physical connection changed in nature, and to the tourist’s eye, the physical connection may not be obvious. Looking southwest from the town square to the hillside across, one can catch sight of the walking path, and even do the walk in a couple of hours. You will likely not meet anyone except a shepherd or two and his flock.

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