Unlike other well-known European mountain tourist destinations, the Peak of the Balkans Trail did not have any hotels or ski lifts. It felt as though you were stepping into a hidden area in the back of the closet that the outside world had missed.

The Albanian Alps extend from northern Albania into southern Kosovo and northeastern Montenegro. They are known as “The Accursed Mountains,” but it’s still unknown how they came to bear such a name. Local legend says the devil escaped from hell and created the jagged, icy caverns. Some, however, believe a woman cursed the mountains when she and her children couldn’t find any water while traveling through them on a hot day. Others say that the mountains’ names were given by Slavic warriors because it was difficult to march through them.

Many travel writers and book authors have called Albania “Europe’s enigma” for a long time. But this usually misunderstood nation is using slow travel as a way to show visitors how a region may recover and grow.