In Ruins (B)

Trip Start Jun 22, 2010
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38
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Trip End Oct 15, 2010


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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Following a peaceful sleep by the sea we embarked further south towards Berat, an ancient city housing yet another UNESCO world heritage site. Slow roads and potholes again I was getting quite use to the bumpy rides. We arrived around noon and went in search of a place to sleep. There are no campsites anywhere near the vicinity of Berat which meant only one thing – the luxury of a real bed.

We decided to stay at Hotel Mangalemi, highly recommended by Lonely Planet and at the bottom of the steep hill you have to walk up to get to the castle district. A quick stroll down the road we found a restaurant. There were no menus. But unlike Tirana, there were options dictated aloud by the waitress. However the only options I really understood were spaghetti and escalope. Dan had the spaghetti and I had the escalope. It was surprisingly delish.

With full tums we then decided to give ourselves a stitch by walking up the steep slope to the castle district. The castle district contains ancient ruins of a Byzantine citadel and yet more canons for Dan to straddle. People still live in the narrows streets and steps but like many Albanian ruins you get the sense you are the only people there. Again you are free to climb and wander wherever you want.

After about an hour we saw something we hadn't seen in weeks. Rain. It wasn’t too heavy so after a sheltered coffee at the only "bar" we made our way back towards the hotel. But not until we’d made a stop at the Ethnographic museum. Housed in an old authentic house the museum showcases historical artefacts and costume along with dressed rooms to give you a sense of what it was like to live in Albania hundreds of years ago. Sadly for us there were no national costumes for us to pose in this time.

We retreated back to the hotel and after a nap (Dan) & book reading (me) decided to have some dinner at the restaurant. I ordered roast “pigling meat” which I can only guess to be baby pork and Dan had some very tasty lamb.

The next day we awoke to yet more rain and we had a big drive on our hands. Again despite a mere 220km it was anticipated it was going to take us 5 hours to get to Sarande. With this weather I was sure it would be closer to 6. Outside of Berat we made a quick stop at Cobos winery, a famous Albania winery started in early 1900s that was forced to stop production in communist times. It reopened in the mid 1990s. We were given a tour by the owner, he spoke only Albanian and Italian. We told him we spoke no Italian. This did not perturb him from giving us a full tour in Italian. He did give hand gestures though to show what he meant e.g. this is where we bottle the wine etc etc. It was a nice looking place. We then embarked on the wine tasting part of the tour. First he offered us some white wine. It was very dry but quite nice. Next, out of nowhere or else I may have run back to the car and hid, came a bottle of raki. He poured a generous half wine glass serving as I frantically make gestures of “tiny tiny bit, little little”. It was potent. It was 40% alcohol volume. It was 10am.

Another swig of wine to wash down the raki and we leave with a few purchases and a burning sensation in my throat and stomach.

On the road towards Sarande the weather gets progressively worse. We had heard great things about the drive through the Llogora pass but as we drove through it is was so foggy that we could only see about 5 metres in front of us. A very slow trip indeed.

We finally made it to Sarande and decided to head to Ksamil for the night as it was closer to the site of the Butrint ruins. We found a pretty basic but cheap hotel for the night and went to their restaurant where the power kept cutting out. It was happening through the whole town.


The next morning we woke to brilliant sunshine. Hurrah! We had decided on an early start as we wanted to drive on to Greece that day and possibly to an island.

We arrived at the ruins site around 10am. There was no-one there. The Butrint ruins are - you guessed it – another UNESCO heritage site. It showcases the ruins of the ancient city of Butrint that was ruled by the Romans. A map highlights all the points of interest and it takes about 1-2 hours to walk around the whole site. We wandered over around the ruins of the theatre, baths, temples, citadel, gymnasium etc etc and there was not a person in sight. It was fantastic. In all the ponds of water there are little turtles that lie resting on the banks and then plop back into the water when you approach.  The baby turtles were very cute.

As we were up at the final stop - the castle and museum-  we saw tour buses arrive with loads of people. I keep trying to tell Dan that sometimes an early start is actually worth it.
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Comments

Karyn on

Ruins look amazing. I for one am glad you are heading for Greece and away from gun-toting Albanians.

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