TIRANA, August 6
Rrajca (or Rrajce) is a village in Librazhd, Elbasan county. It is part of the Shebenik-Jabllanica National Park. Rrajca is one of the biggest villages of Librazhd, with approximately 12.000 inhabitants and is made up of some mini-villages: Kovanik, Rrajce-Fushe, Rrajce-Sutaj, Rrajce-Skenderbej, and Rrajce-Bardhaj. Rrajca is known for the tradition, ethnography and the special gastronomy of the area.
Rrajca is perfect for one-day tourism, or if you plan to stay a few days you could hang out at the host families’ houses of the village. As in all the national park areas, there haven’t been investments in inns or hotels yet, so one of the other choices while staying there is camping too. The hospitality of the local villagers is known, as it is in many rural zones of Albania, with their traditional cooking. Some of the locals there have reconstructed their houses, to withdraw many tourists who come to enjoy the natural beauty of the village.
Rrajca has a hard-working population that preserves and inherits the traditions and customs of the village, generation after generation. The families of this village are Bogdani, Halili, Karaj, Vasku, Rira, Hallidri, Collaku, Coka, Beqo, Hana, Alla, Kuku, Tarushi, Balla, etc. Many inhabitants from Rrajce have moved to either other cities, such as Prenjas, or Tirana, or as far as Argentina before the Independence of Albania, but the contact with them was lost somehow.
The protected area of Rrajca is part of the Shebenik-Jabllanic National Park. This area as a mountainous central province, afterward it is regionalized as a southeastern part of the territory of Albania. The mountains and hills of this area have almost the same height above the sea level, which are interrupted from some streams and lagoons. This has made the terrain in this village to be very sharp. The protected area of Rrajce which is declared part of the World Heritage Site of UNESCO has a total surface of 4700 ha.
The protected area includes the Shebenik mountain, and a part of the Jabllanice- Belice mountain, which are interrupted from the river or stream that connects the waters of these mountains. These waters when they come together, become part of the Bushtrica stream, that flows into the Shkumbin river. The highest peak of the area is in Reshpa mountain, 2262 meters above the sea level. According to the geological studies, the protected area is part of the tectonic area Gramoz-Mirdite. The main rocks are made of the coil, that are part of the Shebenik mountain, that is on the left-hand side of the Bushtrica stream, and the limestone. Whereas, the sedimentary rocks of the Jabllanica mountain, are on the right-hand side of this stream, or in the east of the area. In small amounts, you could find alluvial deposits.
In this area, there are two types of land. The brown forest land, that makes up 82% of the surface, whereas the brown amber land takes 18% of the surface. The brown forest land is deep and made up by the trees of beech, pine, fir, and mesquite. Whilst, the brown amber land is shallow and made up by the trees of oak, and bushes where it is grown the red and black juniper. In this mountainous are found also the mountain tea, sage, laurel, cassia, lily, etc. In the Kovanik lagoon, it is grown also the wild rose, rose hips, blackberry, as well as the dried fruit tree.
Climate and the hydro system of the village
The protected area is part of the Mediterranean mountain climate zone. The winds that dominate here come from the north and north-east of the country. The average annual temperatures vary from the lowest, in the wintertime -20 degrees Celsius, to the highest, in the summertime 7-10 degrees Celsius. The annual amount of rainfall varies between 1300-1800 mm, whereas the thickness of the snow goes on average up to 2 meters, rarely up to 3 meters. The protected natural area is in the reservoir of the Bushtrica river, which within the area has a length of 18.5 km. In the gravel of the river, because of the erosion of the land, it is found the vegetation of rattan and willow, etc. What makes special this river is the presence of the clean and fresh waters, creating the perfect habitat for the growth of trout, and otter. However, both of these species are near extinction in this area. The main streams that flow into the Bushtrica river, are Morava, Kunji, Peshku, Artini, Skalava, and Shuri i Zi.
The glacial shapes, where Rrajca is located, are in the northern and eastern slope of the Shebenik mountain, where the complex of the glacier circles of Rrajca are found. In this glacial circle are 4 lakes, which are a natural attraction for visitors. These lakes have a length of 100 meters, and a width of 80 meters. They are found 2200 meters above sea level. To reach these glacial lakes, you should take the route Prrenjas-Rrajce, and afterward, the walk from the village to the lakes is done on foot. In this area, there are 8 lakes in the eastern slope of Shebenik mountain. They are lakes placed at the bottom of a glacial complex, divided from each other by moronic deposits.
The depth of the lakes is a few meters, they have cold and clear waters. During the wintertime, the lakes freeze on the surface, creating a very strong layer of ice, until the melting starts in the spring. These lakes have a rare natural beauty. Three lakes that hold the name of Rrajce, have the biggest surface and they are located on the eastern slope of Shebenik mountain.
The big line
The big line as the inhabitants of Rrajce call it, is built around 1840. On the front, starts what it is called the line of fish, and where it is noted the seniority and the mastery of construction.
The typical craftworks of the village are the wool socks for women, knitted with spears, before being dyed carefully from the old women. Another element, are opinga(mooccasin) made of cow leather, which again they were made by the women of the village. This shows that the handicrafts have always been developed in Rrajce or Kotrican as it was called in ancient times, by the Illyrians.
But Rrajce is known also for the men convention, where a place nowadays in the village is known by the name Sutaj convention, where the men gathered and ‘burnt their resentments’. The special massive forest, the beautiful glacial lakes, traditions, and customs of the inhabitants of the village, the traditional gastronomy and the possibility to practice the mountain sports, have turned this village in a very attractive spot for local and foreign visitors.
Source/Shoqataegnatia.al, Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit/ Wikimedia Commons