Albania Photography travel

Albania Road Trip – Part 1

After enjoying the Albanian capital, Tirana, it was time to explore some of the countryside. I will admit I was a bit nervous as we picked up the rental car in central Tirana. The driving here appeared to be quite “freeform”. However, once we were rolling with Karen giving turn by turn guidance it wasn’t too bad. Other than the occasional jackass in a new blacked out Mercedes feeling he had to go as fast as possible in heavy traffic, I have found the drivers here to be very easy to drive with.

To give some orientation as to where we are travelling. That is the heel of Italy on the left, and the Greek island of Corfu at the bottom of the map.

From my preparation reading before we arrived I had become quite fascinated with the Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg. The statue you see of the fellow riding the horse in most articles that are written about Albania is him.

When Skanderbeg deserted the Ottoman Army with 300 fellow Albanians in 1443 they headed for Krujë Castle. It’s amazing location allowed Skanderbeg to resist the Ottoman Empire for the next 25 years.
When you walk around the remains of the castle grounds it becomes apparent how he was able to defeat multiple sieges and come away victorious. The topography here is not friendly to the attacker.
Since the castle was built in the 5th century it has had many occupants, but Skanderbeg is by far the most famous. Now it houses a museum to him and a number of exhibits to help you understand the history.

The thing you quickly learn is that although Albania is quite a small country, you don’t get anywhere fast. Between traffic in the towns and cities and incredibly rugged terrain and winding roads, one simply has to relax and get there when you get there.

It took nearly 45 minutes to wind the 3 kilometres out of Krujë. The up side of this is we got to take in the almost endless sidewalk markets. The photos of future developments are a looong way in the future for this area.
The next destination that day was the Cape of Rodon. It just looked like a neat place on the map, so we headed there. 300Lek (3 Euro) got us through the gate and we were able to drive in. It is a lovely little spot. The few fighting bunkers that are in the area simply add to the impressive mixture of history.
The church of Saint Anthony was founded in the 15th century by Skanderbeg’s sister. It was used by the Franciscan order until 1852 when it was destroyed by an earthquake. It was reconstructed in 2000.
It is a bit of a trip to get there, however it apparently is the place to get your wedding photos taken.
They did a beautiful job with the restoration inside.
As we were heading for our first nights accommodation in Durrës we stumbled upon Ishëm Castle just outside of the Cape of Rodon. This castle was built in 1572 by the Ottoman Empire to control peasant revolts and control unauthorized trade with the Venetian Republic. The photo at the top of this post is the view from Ishëm Castle. The view is stunningly impressive. It allowed control of the entire region.

After spending the night in Durrës we headed south to the ancient ruins of Apollonia near the city of Fier. This UNESCO site was originally founded in the 7th century BC. To put this city in historical perspective, the grandson of Julius Caesar was studying here at the time of Caesar’s death. He later went on to become Emperor.

The Illyrians were responsible for the first major growth of this area. The Illyrian Shield in the museum at Apollonia was reconstructed from nearly a thousand fragments found at the ruins. It is estimated to have come from the 4th century BC.
The quality of the ruins and the reconstruction that has been done at Apollonia is first rate.
When I saw the Triumphal Arc here I was immediately transported back to the first time I ever walked into the Forum in Rome. The power transmitted across the centuries was palatable to me.

I was going to include information right up to our arrival here in Sarandë, however, I prefer to keep my posts a bit shorter so I’m going to wrap this one up here. The thing about this region is the depth of the history that exists at every bend in the road. Whether from the 7th century BC to the 1990’s, not a lot of places have that much range of dynamic history. Until next time.

Welcome to our travel blog. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to say, "I'm out of here?" Well we did, and in 2013 we made it a reality. We sold or gave away all of our possessions other than what fit in our luggage and we set off on an endless adventure. Part of our goal is to share our experiences with others and hopefully provide some information, motivation, or just a moments escape. The general idea was to look for a place that would be ideal to settle down in. However in the meantime it is about experiencing life in different countries amongst different cultures and learning how to understand and appreciate each other. A large part of our time is spent housesitting which provides an excellent opportunity to experience more of the "normal" neighbourhoods as opposed to the tourist locales. Though we make sure to enjoy those as well. So through plenty of photographs and a running commentary come and share with us our life on the road.

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