Origins of a Saint: Mother Teresa Now St. Theresa of Calcutta (April 21 to May 4, 2017)
In Spring 2017 Kutrubes Travel offers a unique glimpse into sainthood with an exclusive tour, Origins of a Saint: Mother Teresa. Well known for her charitable deeds and service to the poor, this missionary-turned-global-icon was officially canonized by the Pope on September 4, 2016.
See where it all began with a visit to Mother Teresa’s birthplace, Skopje, Macedonia. Travel to Letnica, a village in the mountains of Kosovo where she often made pilgrimage as a child, and where at 17 years old she resolved to become a missionary and dedicate her life to charity. Witness the results of this fruitful calling at Tirana, Albania, where one of her hundreds of missions still cares for poor and orphaned children. At Prishtina, visit a cathedral overseen by a priest who has authored some 15 books on Mother Teresa and who knew her personally. Of course a visit to this region wouldn’t be complete without exploring monasteries, frescos, artifacts, phenomenal scenery, and even a family winery. This limited-departure tour will take place in April of 2017, soon after Mother Teresa’s canonization. Come discover an exceptional part of the world at a special time in Catholic, and human, history.
Pre Tour Programs available in Rome and Italy upon request.
The price for a party of 8 paying travelers is $3135.00 per person. Rates available for less or more than 8 travelers.
- Accommodation: 3 nights Tirana, 1 night Shkodra, 1 night Berat, 2 nights Ohrid, 2 nights Skopje, 2 nights Prizren, 1 night Prishtina
- Daily breakfast
- Dinners at hotels or local restaurants
- Sightseeing tours with licensed English-speaking guide
- Entrance fees
- Private transfers throughout the journey
Price Does Not Include:
- Airfare (unless otherwise arranged)
- Departure and custom fees
- Gratuities and individual daily expenses
- Additional beverages
- Travel insurance
- Trip cancellation
- Medical and luggage insurance are recommended for coverage against all unforeseen circumstances
Day 1: Arrive in Tirana (Albania)
Welcome to Albania! On arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Enjoy the afternoon and evening at leisure. Overnight in Tirana. (D)
Day 2: Tirana
After breakfast, you will have a guided sightseeing tour of Tirana. Visit the Mother Teresa Mission, where the Sisters of Mother Teresa care for about 50 people who are poor or handicapped. Then visit the St. Paul Catholic Church and the National Historical Museum. In the afternoon you will take a cable car excursion to Dajti Mountain. Later, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight in Tirana. (B, D)
Day 3: Tirana – Kruja – Durres – Tirana
Today you will travel to the historic town of Kruja. Rising 560 meters above sea level on the slopes of Sari Salitiku Mountain, this town enjoys majestic landscape views and a rich collection of historical and cultural artifacts. This was the home of Albania’s national hero, Skanderbeg, who successfully fought off the Turks for over 30 years. Visit the Old Castle, the Ethnographic Museum, the impressive Skanderbeg Museum, and the Turkish-style Old Bazaar. Continue to Durres for a visit to the Amphitheater and Archaeological Museum, before transferring back to Tirana for dinner. Overnight in Tirana. (B, D)
Day 4: Tirana – Shkodra
This morning, you will check out from your hotel and depart for Shkodra, the historical and cultural center of Northern Albania. Pause en route to visit the Memorial of Skanderbeg in Lezha. In the afternoon, visit the Shkodra Mother Teresa Mission, where the Sisters of Mother Teresa care for 17 poor and handicapped people. Other stops today will include the Basilica, Rozafa Castle, the Shkodra Museum, and Marubi Phototheque, plus dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight in Shkodra. (B, D)
Day 5: Shkodra – Berat
After breakfast, drive south to Berat, one of Albania’s oldest cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stop en route at family-owned Cobo Winery. Situated near the Osum River, Berat is the commercial center for the surrounding agricultural region in which tobacco, grapes, and various fruits are grown. Overshadowed to the east by Mount Tomorr (2400 meters), the town is built on an ancient Illyrian dwelling site which dates back to the 6th century BC. Visit the Citadel at the top of the hill, the Ethnographic Museum, and Onufri Museum, which houses some of the iconic 16th-century Albanian masterpieces of Onufri and Nicola. See the Bachelors’ Mosque, King Mosque, and the Helveti Tekke. Overnight in Berat. (B, D)
Day 6: Berat – Elbasan – Ohrid (Macedonia)
Today you will travel to Ohrid, Macedonia. You will stop on the way to visit the Mother Theresa Mission in Elbasan, which takes care of 19 poor and orphaned children, and see St. Maria Church, which is located inside a fortress. Crossing the Albania/Macedonia border, you will visit the Monastery of St. Naum. Its founder, Naum, was one of the disciples of Cyril and Methodius, forefathers of the Cyrillic alphabet; he died in 910 AD and was buried in the monastery. The monastery is most famous for its impressive 18th-century wood-carved iconostasis, its despotic icons painted by Constantine, its royal doors by painter Michael, and frescoes showing St. Naum’s miracles in the funeral chapel, painted by artist Trpo from 1799 to 1806.
Continue to Bay of Bones Museum. On the southern coast of Gradiste Peninsula in the Bay of Bones sits a pile-dwelling overwater settlement which once spread over 2 acres. The Water Museum at Bay of Bones is an authentic reconstruction of a part of this settlement, which dated back to between 1200 and 700 BC. A Roman military fortification has also been reconstructed on the hill above the bay, showing the walls which once protected the Roman Empire from its enemies. Take a trip back in time as you visit these remarkable sites. Overnight in Ohrid. (B, D)
Day 7: Ohrid – UNESCO Heritage Site
After breakfast, you’ll have a guided sightseeing tour of the most famous Ohrid attractions. Starting with the impressive medieval Church of St. Sofia, make your way to Plaoshnik archaeological site for some unique Byzantine architecture, visit Tzar Samuel’s Fortress, and see the Ancient Theater which was built on the hills of Old Town Ohrid in the 3rd century BC. Head to one of the most beautiful spots in Ohrid to see St. Jovan Kaneo, a 13th-century church which successfully combines Byzantine and Armenian styles. Continue to the Old Bazaar, one of the liveliest spots in Ohrid, to browse handmade items, food products, clay goods, traditional musical instruments, and famous Macedonian embroidery. Later travel through Galichica National Park, complete with magnificent lake views, to the village of Kurbinovo.
Located near Lake Prespa, Kurbinovo i
s home to the Christian Orthodox Church of St. Georgi, whose painted frescoes are some of the most significant examples of 12th-century Byzantine style. The Byzantine Empire ruled this area after Tzar Samuil, the first Slavo-Macedonian Emperor, ruled and founded the first Slavo-Macedonian state. The church was decorated in 1191 by at least three painters, following the style of paintings at Nerezi (near Skopje) with an emphasis on waving lines and swirling figures. Portraits of popular saints include St. Cyril and Methodius, St. Clement of Ohrid, and St. Achilles of Larissa. After sightseeing you will be transferred back to your accommodation. Overnight in Ohrid. (B, D)
Day 8: Ohrid – Skopje (Mother Teresa’s Hometown)
After breakfast, transfer to Skopje. On your way through the National Park of Mavrovo, you will visit the Monastery of St. Jovan Bigorski (St. John the Baptist), founded in 1020. Inside the church you’ll find unique works such as The Miraculous Icon of St. John the Baptist, more than 12 centuries old, as well as the awe-inspiring wood-carved iconostasis which depicts biblical scenes. The monastery is rich in icons painted from the 16th to 20th centuries and is a synthesis of Byzantine, Renaissance, and Baroque influences.
After arrival in Skopje, you will have a walking sightseeing tour of the Macedonian capital. Visit the Old Rail Station, which was demolished by an earthquake in 1963 and now houses the City Museum of Skopje. Explore the history of Skopje, from the first recorded settlements around 3000 BC to the present. Then head to the Memorial House of Mother Theresa, which was opened in 2009 in the exact location where the old Catholic church Sacred Heart of Jesus used to stand. This is where Mother Theresa, born Gonxha Bojaxhiu, was baptized just one day after her birth, on the 27th of August, 1910; the place where she received her first communion; and where she found her inner peace after her father’s death.
Nearby is the lively pedestrian street Makedonija, full of coffee bars and restaurants, which leads to the main square with its many monuments to the rich history of Macedonia. See the 30-meter-high statue of Alexander the Great, and the famous Stone Bridge which was built in the 6th century and restored in the 15th; though it has undergone large repairs throughout the centuries, the bridge you see today still has the same form as over 500 years ago. Next visit Kale Fortress, the Church of St. Spas with its intricately carved walnut iconostasis, and the Museum of the Ilinden Uprising (1903). See the Old Turkish Bazaar and explore the monumental Ottoman architecture of the beautiful Mustafa Pasha Mosque. Visit the old Turkish baths, Kurshumli Han and Chifte Hammam, which now function as art galleries. Overnight in Skopje. (B, D)
Day 9: Skopje – Matka Canyon
Today you will visit St. Pantelejmon, a monastery which was erected by Alexis Comnenus in 1164 during the Byzantine rule of Macedonia under the Comnenus Dynasty. The frescoes in St. Pantelejmon date from the time of the construction of the church but there are others from the 15th, 16th, and 19th centuries. The monastery’s marble iconostasis, dating from the 12th century, suffered much damage but was reconstructed in 1932 and still retains some original fragments. Following conservation efforts in the 1950s, some 12th-century frescoes are now visible as well.
Continue to Matka Canyon, located near Skopje. This vast canyon is a protected natural reserve and home to several medieval monasteries, amazing caves, and a wide variety of wildlife. This outstanding work of nature, with sides 1000 meters high and step notches of over 250 meters, was created by vertical erosions of the Treska River during the area’s long geological history. Remains of many ancient and medieval settlements and fortresses and a great number of well-preserved medieval churches and monasteries have been discovered here. Some of the most important include the 14th-century St. Andrea Monastery, the 13th-14th century church St. Nikola Šiševski, and the medieval town of Matka with its 14th-century churches, St. Nedela and St. Bogorodica. Take a boat trip to visit Vrelo Cave, listed as one of the top 77 natural sites in the world in the “New 7 Wonders of Nature” project. The exact depth of the cave is still unknown and an international team is exploring the cave; according to speleologists’ assessments thus far, Vrelo’s depth is probably about 330 meters, making it the deepest underwater cave in the world. Overnight in Skopje. (B, D)
Day 10: Skopje – Letnica Village – Prizren (Kosovo)
This morning, check out of your hotel and travel to the village of Letnica, nestled in the mountains of Kosovo near the Macedonian border. Mother Teresa’s long relationship with this village began in her childhood, when she made pilgrimages here with her parents. It was here in 1928, when she was 17, that the future Mother Teresa decided to become a missionary and dedicate her life to charity. The current church at Letnica, which has been renovated four times because of earthquakes and war, stands impressively tall with white bell towers protruding amongst the hilltops. The iconography inside the church is highly feminine, dedicated to “Our Lady” Mary. A feminine theme also marks the highlight event of the year: the Feast of the Assumption, held on August 15th, when tens of thousands of people make a pilgrimage to the village for the auspicious celebration of Mary’s rise into the heavens. Mother Teresa’s final visit to this village was in 1983. Later transfer to Prizren, where you will check into your accommodation for the next two nights. Overnight in Prizren. (B, D)
Day 11: Prizren – Pec
This morning, you will travel to the city of Pec to visit the World Heritage-Listed Patriarchate of Pec. Nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains and forests, this Byzantine-style Serbian Orthodox monastery dates back to the 12th century and is considered to be the center of the Serbian Church. Founded by Saint Sava, one of the most prominent figures in Serbian history, the monastery is a significant artistic representative of the Balkans, showing a complete timeline of medieval wall painting styles and frescoes from the 13th to the 18th century. You will see monastic treasures, such as manuscripts and silverware, and marble sarcophagi of archbishops and patriarchs adorned with ornate sculptures. Continue to Decani Monastery, one of the best-preserved Serbian monasteries of Byzantine and Romanesque styles. Established in 1327, this is the largest medieval church in the Balkans and is a designated World Heritage Site. It also features over 1,000 compositions and several thousand portraits of religious characters, making it the largest preserved gallery of Serbian medieval art. Later, transfer back to Prizren for a short sightseeing tour. Overnight in Prizren. (B, D)
Day 12: Prizren – Prishtina
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and transfer to Prishtina. Visit the newly built Cathedral of Blessed Mother Teresa, an impressive structure fronted by statuary, flanked by white columns, and lined with bright stained-glass windows along its upper length which depict the Catholic history of Kosovo throughout the ages. The cathedral is overseen by Father Don Lush Gjergji, who has been a priest since 1973 and has authored some 15 books on Mother Teresa, whom he knew personally.
Visit the Battle of Kosovo Monument (also known as Kosovo Polje), which commemorates the battle against the Ottomans in 1369 and includes a memorial to Sulltan Murati II, who was killed in this battle. See the World Heritage-Listed Gracanica Monastery, which represents the height of Serbian Byzantine tradition with a touch of Renaissance, adorned with well-preserved frescoes that date back to 1321. With its five domes, precious
decorative elements, and lavish interiors depicting the life of Jesus, this monastery is considered a first-class architectural achievement of its era. More than 20 nuns live and work on the premises, dedicating their lives to monastic obedience as well as to icon painting, agriculture, and sewing. Overnight in Prishtina. (B, D)
Day 13: Departure Day
After you’ve had breakfast and checked out of your hotel, you will be transferred to the airport. (B)