The Human Geography of Valbona
Valbona is a relatively small valley, but it will still help you to know your way around.
The first, most important thing to know is that there are no real villages, or town centers. Traditional Northern Albanian culture and geography is centered around the family. Basically, one man goes off and builds a house, and has some sons. His sons build some houses around him, and that turns into a place with a name. Thus the whole of Valbona is identified on old archeology maps as “Selimaj”: This is because Selim Pretash, some 12 generations ago built a house here. His sons made more houses, and they became known as “Selimaj.” Today there are places known locally as Ismalaj, Metalliaj, Kukaj, etc. It won’t help you much. The most important thing to grasp is that civic life in Northern Albania is organized around groups of family homes. You won’t find shops, or main streets, or even really destinations, as such. You’ll just move from one family compound to another.
With that said, even we here need to refer to general areas. Thus Valbona Valley comprises 3 general regions: Dragobi, Valbone and Rrogam. In case Albanian grammar has already confused you, these are the objective cases of the names. The subjective names are: Dragobia, Valbona and Rrogami. You reading this are probably a foreigner so it’s good to know that Albanians don’t expect you to grasp this, but it’s useful to know there are two grammatical forms. When searching Accuweather, for example, you will find Valbona under the objective form of the name, ie: “Valbone.”