Albania Photography transportation travel

Albanian Road Trip – Part 3

Our rental car for the road trip in Albania was a Mitsubishi Space Star. It was one would call, nondescript. Between the zip ties holding the hubcaps on and the hammered out fenders, it fit right into the environment.

Before heading out of Sarandë we headed up into the hills to an old castle and a monastery. The neatest thing for me was as we looked south we could just see the edge of the Greek island next to the one we spent 3 months on last winter.

Looking south from Sarandë that is Corfu on the right and the island of Kefalonia is just visible in the distance. Our temporary home of Ithaca last year is just to the left of it.

After our five days in Sarandë we headed 20 minutes south to the holiday town of Ksamil. If we had known better, we would have taken the extra couple of days in Ksamil rather than Sarandë. Not that Sarandë is bad, it is just that Ksamil is more our preferred pace of living.

The thing to do in Ksamil is to go to the UNESCO site of Butrint. It is an amazing centre of activity going back thousands of years. The Great Basilica was originally built in the 6th century, then rebuilt in 1267. It is very impressive and features some impressive mosaic tiles.
When we came upon the Roman Forum ruins in Butrint I was immediately reminded of the Forum in Rome itself. One of the things the ancient Romans did very well was put their unique stamp on the areas they conquered.
The ancient theatre is beautiful. As is my model.
As this was such a strategic location over the ages it seems all the superpowers over the centuries left their mark. This Venetian Tower is the first thing you see when you enter the Park.
When the Ottomans ruled the area the ruler, Ali Pasha, built his own fortress just down the waterway from the Butrint castles. Today it can only be accessed by boat.

As we had done a fairly decent job investigating the coastal area of Albania we chose to take a more interior route back to Tirana to return our rental car. The Stone City of Gjirokaster was our first destination as we departed Ksamil. However, enroute we had to check out The Blue Eye.

As we walked into the Blue Eye site we were treated to some lovely scenery.
The Blue Eye is a natural spring that is a source of the Bistricë River. It is the largest spring in Albania and discharges 18,400 L/sec.

As we drove through the mountains toward Gjirokaster you can’t help but notice the number of quarries within sight of the highway. It quickly becomes obvious why Gjirokaster is known as the Stone City.

The colour as you view the Old Town from above is a bit drab, however when you realize the reason I found it quite impressive.
All the roofs in the Old Town are made of rock slabs. The one thing they do not need to be concerned about is hail damage.
We only spent one night in Gjirokaster, so obviously the castle was at the top of my list. As always, an impressive place. It was neat to see where the government had adapted the area where the small town used to be into an open area with a stage for an annual music festival.
As always, the view from the castle was fantastic.

From Gjirokaster we made our way north to Berat, The City of a Thousand Windows. We spent a couple of nights here and quite enjoyed it. This is a city I could easily spend a month just relaxing.

As you go through the centre of the Old Town you see where the city gets its nickname from.
The view as you look down the valley from Berat castle.

After spending a couple of nights in Berat enjoying good food, great raki, and a wonderful Air B&B we headed back to Tirana to drop off our rental car.

After hauling our luggage through a couple kilometres of downtown Tirana after dropping off the car, we were happy to see the bus station appear.

Our trip to the North Macedonia border was uneventful and provided us with a great opportunity to reflect on our time in this small corner of the Balkans. Albania is truly a country with great hope and opportunity. They have already overcome more challenges than anyone in North America can even hope to conceive. At no point did we ever feel unwelcome or resented. If you are ever thinking you would like to try travelling to a country that is a bit different from the norm, yet is safe and welcoming, I heartily suggest you give Albania a try. Will we ever return? I truly hope so. I believe there is some more raki I need to sample.

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.

2 comments on “Albanian Road Trip – Part 3

  1. Kevin Knight

    This stuff is so cool Peter. Always look forward to the pictures and your adventures!! Living vicariously thru u guys!! Hahah. Stay safe.

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