New Year's Eve on the Waterfront
Trip Start Dec 27, 2011
11Trip End Jan 05, 2012
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Where I stayed
What I did
We are a day behind, officially, according to our itinerary. We were supposed to hit Apollonia yesterday but we didn’t make it. Oh well. The shower has hot water so that is good but the water is coming out of a wand which I didn’t bother to check the position before I turned on the water so was hit full in the face with cold water first thing. Brrrr. My daughter ended up with the same problem. Here is her take on the hotel:
"I also had the same problem. I ended up getting water all over the bathroom because the wand wasn’t positioned correctly. I had actually looked to check that the shower head was positioned correctly and figured it would come out of there but the water came out of both – hence the water everywhere
My husband & I got up in our 18C room, never got warmer than that, about 64F., and went downstairs to breakfast. It didn’t look very promising but a lady motioned us into the restaurant where there was a table set with the “buffet”. We sat down to see if we would be served coffee but the lady disappeared. We went to the buffet table. There were 2 cooked eggs on a plate (they knew there were three of us there), and the eggs were cold. There were a couple of hard boiled eggs, there wasn’t much fruit or vegetables, no yoghurt, and I think there was no coffee and not much in the way of bread or pastries either. Probably the worst breakfast we had at any hotel on the tour. (OH, except for New Year’s Day). That plus the surliness of the front desk and their unwillingness to change our room and the fact that it is supposedly a 4 star hotel and we had to park two floors below the hotel and carry our bags out to the car this morning
We were downstairs ready to go at 10 which is the time Klodi gave us. At 10:15, I called his number and he obviously was still in bed. He was quite startled and said he’d be right down. It still took him another 15 minutes to make it to the lobby.
We haul out with our suitcases but I was lucky and Klodi took mine down the stairs. Into the van. Our daughter has relinquished the front seat to me so I can take photos but she and I are both taking Bonine to make sure we are ok on the curves and swerves. So we are finally off to Apollonia this morning on a hill top and take some photos of some cemeteries as we pass and also some of the bears hung in houses being built to ward off evil spirits. Usually these bears or dogs are hanging from the rooftop or hanging from an aerial.
I am worried that I do not have a good turkey photo yet so I told Klodi that if we see a bunch of turkeys, we have to stop so he can hold one for me so I can get a photo. So that is what we did. We passed a flock of about 8 turkeys with an older man and a stick. We stopped and Klodi went back to talk to him. I don’t think he ever told him that he was doing it so I could take a photo but told him that he was interested in buying one for dinner. I am out of the car and walking towards him because I expected him to wave me in but as usual, all the Muslim men ignored me so I just kept walking closer and closer and then Klodi is running after turkeys trying to catch one
We pass some of the omnipresent bunkers but these are quite large ones
Apollonia is a huge site but like most in Albania, not a lot of excavation has been done. At least this place is much better than Durres in that they could do a lot of excavation. High on a hill top and no modern village or town built on top of it. There is a large fašade of a former building which might have been a Prytaneion – basically a place where the leaders of the local government met. Also a couple of Stoas or ancient streets that were straight as a rod. There was a library and an Odeon, some baths, some noble’s house and that’s about all we got from Klodi that I recall. We did pick up the brochure and there is a lot more information about the rocks and walls and ruins than what we got and also must have been some more in other places as well. Looking at the map of the site, we only covered a very small portion of it but also looks like we would have been hiking over quite a distance to see the other ruins and possibly would have taken too long.
We walk into the former church/monastery which is a museum. There is a monk standing looking over the valley below and the wind is blowing his robes. I snapped a photo but didn’t really get it into good focus. There were statues around the courtyard, all without heads which are in museums elsewhere. The church was lovely but the columns along the front of the church (a covered walkway between the columns and the church entrance) were Byzantine and was more interesting as they had faces on the tops of the columns on both sides
I was allowed to take photos in this church. It didn’t have near the fancy decorations or icons of the other churches but it was small and nice. At one time there were frescoes on the walls but they have been scrapped off or painted over and are gone except for a small blue one on the wall and a bit on the top of the dome. A double eagle is on a carved stone set up near the roof on the outside and some writing in Greek which is very strange for the time period. We went into another little church that had a lot of damage done to it and the frescoes were in very bad shape.
We are now heading down the coast to Sarande which is a resort town and we will spend two nights there. Klodi has started warning us that things will probably be closed on the 1st. He also says thought that it is good we are out of Tirana because the celebration there goes on all night and you can’t even see outside at night because of all the fireworks smoke. There have been fireworks every night and often during the day as well as people set off bottle rockets and such just for fun
The itinerary read that we would stop at Ali Pasha’s castle in Porto Palermo. As we are coming down one hill, we see it in the distance. It is on a small island that looks like it might have a causeway. According to my very old guide book, it said you could visit this castle and there was no entrance fee. According to Klodi, it is closed and all we could do was stop for less than 5 minutes and take a photo. We would have learned a lot more about Ali Pasha had we been able to visit Butrint but since we couldn’t; he fades into the background of our knowledge. He did undertake a lot of building in Albania and we did see some of his stuff but you can take an “ali pasha tour” to see his works and buildings and aqueducts and castles.
We are almost to Saranda when we drive up a steep hill to the Lekuresi Fortress that overlooks the bay and the island of Corfu. This is when we first realized that we were so close to Greece. I never remember what is in the itinerary! Lekuresi was waiting for us and had our lunch ready. We did not get to choose the menu as they are giving us some traditional food things . It actually had looked like they were totally closed but they were getting ready for their New Year’s Eve party
Some things we have learned. So far, only Tirana (with one exception) has any stoplights and those are questionable at best since there are traffic cops messing up the works everywhere. In Vlore, we saw cops with guns who were searching a car and the people in it. Skanderbeg’s flag is the flag of Albania which is a double eagle. Mostly men are the shopkeepers, a lot like Turkey and if they aren’t shop keeping, they are sitting around in cafes and coffee bars drinking Raki, or coffee, and chatting with each other. The women don’t chat on the streets but hurry from one errand to another and then go home. Also in Vlore, we saw a salesman whose trunk was totally full of mandarin oranges. Where the seas join in Vlore, there was a secret submarine base but wasn’t quite as secret or prohibited as the one in Balaclava in Ukraine. Dhermi was a village totally on the side of a cliff with one church and one mosque. Vuno was a village with one stoplight.
We are at the Hotel Butrinti which is 5*
We ask for the quietest rooms we can get. Pretty sure we are almost the only ones in the hotel again, maybe one or two other guests. They do tell us the party downstairs will not start until midnight. Great. Pretty sure we will get no sleep this evening. There are two sets of 5 speakers stacked on top of each other in the lobby and they reach to the ceiling. Of course, we end up in rooms right over the speakers. We ask for rooms at least on the other side of the hallway and are told that would be worse because there is a club back there and they will stay open all night and be much more noisy. We do have a great view out of window though of the city which has a promenade around the waterfront. There is also a view of Corfu, the Greek island, right across the water from us. There is a daily ferry to Corfu. While in the room, the lights are flickering several times and the TV would go out and the lights would go out
We get to the fruit stand before it closes and stock up for tomorrow. I get some sunset shots of Corfu. We get ready to go out at 9 for dinner. Our guide comes to get us but we are not driving, just walking down the street to the restaurant. When we get there, a few people are already there for dinner as well and some more come in so people do eat earlier than 10. There is a man tuning up his clarinet with a speaker. Have never seen a wind instrument with a speaker attachment before.
The meal is a set menu and several courses. We get starters of some fried little seafood bits which included octopus and squid but some tasty tiny shrimp. And I’ve totally lost what else we had but it took a long time to get the food and a long time between courses. By now, the musicians have started playing music which sounds a lot like Greek and the largest party there starts dancing which is a lot like Greek, 6 steps around in a circle. I am not a late night person so didn’t last much longer but headed back to the hotel where I could read and get into my pajamas and enjoy the rest of the night.
We were reading and watching TV at midnight when we heard fireworks and looked out