A Travellerspoint blog

Day – 21

Back to Tirana

semi-overcast

In 5 days I had to be back in Cilipi, and going there might take a few days, so I started my way back.
The 8 O'clock bus left after 8:30 but the son was out and I could enjoy the road via lake Ohrit and then in a river gorge to Elbasani.
On the bus there was a mathematics professor from Korça working in Tirana. From him I heard another view of the country.

I arrived in Tirana pretty late in the afternoon, went straight to the backpackers' hostel, had late meal and got something for breakfast.
I had to finish some village goat cheese I bought near Korça because Crna Gora prohibit dairy and meat from Shqiperia.

Posted by sapan 04:23 Archived in Albania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Days -19-20

Korça

rain

I had to catch an early bus to Korça. There was just a drip outside and now I had my raincoat, so the ten minutes walk to the bus stop in the clear air wasn't bad. I had a good coffee near the bus stop with a sandwich I prepared earlier.

The road along the Drinos river valley and later Vjosa river is another beautiful scenic road, but the dark gray sky and the condensation on the window prevented full appreciation of that wild beauty.

In Korça the weather was a bit better, but still gloomy.

I went immediately to Hani Elbasanit, an old Turkish caravan Han.
Ground flour is not stables area any more. Instead it became a part of the large market around the Han.
The second flour thou, continue to be a guesthouse as in the old days.
The place is amazing, all made of old wood that looks like museum exhibit, cleaned thoroughly all day long and taken care of as well as it should.

There is a little difference between local guests and tourists.
The local guests use authentic Turkish bathroom, but tourists pay 100 leke more (less than 1 euro) and get a key to modern bathroom with hot water (one have to unplug the washing machine and plug the water heater in 30-45 min. before taking a shower).
The total cost of a room was 400 leke a night.

The market outside the Han is an interesting one. Like most old markets, there are whole streets and alleys of similar shops, like shoes street, hardware street and so on.
I intended to go to Pogradec to see lake Ohrit, but the weather was still too bad for that, but good enough to walk around.

On the main square there is a big cathedral and near by nice cafes and fancy fashion shops.

Korça looks different than other Shqiptar cities, much more like a city in central Europe, with wide avenues and a lot of vegetation on the streets and avenues, and especially in the many large parks all around.

There are interesting museums there, but there is a problem visiting them.
One is the museum of education in the building of the first school in Shqiperia. The building lopos nice and well preserved and in the yard there is a statue of the letters A, B and C with an inkstand and a quill pen.

That's nice, but they have a bell to notify them of visitors. I rang the bell and nobody came. I tried again, knocked on the door and nothing happened. I went away and came back after two hours or so, within their opening hours, and nobody replied.

There is a special museum of orthodox icons. I was looking for it, but nobody seemed to know what I was talking about, including travel agents, until I found someone who told me in German how to get there.

The icon museum is behind a church and a monastery and has a unique collection of icons I have never seen such.
Even the earliest icons there, dating 14th-15th century have depth like more modern works of art, and not like most orthodox icons that still follow the Byzantine flat style.
It's a nice collection of art works even if one has no idea or interest of those saints.

My reception in the Han included. Like every other tourist staying there, acquaintance with Ilia, a local retired teacher who lives there. Ilia and I had some conversations, I told him about Israel and he told me about Shqiperia and especially about the operation of the communist regime he opposed in minor deeds because he didnwt want to be expelled from teaching. He's a pessimist about the future of his country, unlike most Shqiptar.

Posted by sapan 04:20 Archived in Albania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Day -18

Gjrokatra (Gjrokater)

storm

The next day I went to Gjrokatra where I had real good luck.
A guy approached me and offered me a "hotel" room in his house.
It wasn't a very good one but I took it anyway.
Soon I went up to the castle and seen about everything one can see there (except for canons demonstration one have to pass through).
Then I went down and explored the old town on the hillside and had some beer there.

A little later rain started and I didn't have my raincoat with me. I waited till it eased to dripping and started my way down to the new town but half way down there was a series of lightning and very loud thunders and in seconds a flood started. Near me there were two columns of a house with a covered gap between them about 70 cm wide. I got shelter there just as the heavy rain started.
In minutes the steep, stone padded street turned into a river, carrying a lot of mud and litter.

It rained like that more than half an hour. It was early afternoon but dark as sunset. The flow in the street became clear after the heavy wash of dirt. When the rain eased again I started hoping from one shelter to another until I got to a street of the new town where the buildings had covered walk.
From there it was easy and soon I got to my room and waited about two hours till rain stopped.
It was late in the afternoon, I went out to eat, checked my emails and wrote home and on my way back bought some breakfast.
The storm started again in the evening and continued with breaks all night.

Posted by sapan 04:18 Archived in Albania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Days -16-17

Saranda

The early bus was too early for me, so I took the 11 O'clock bus.

The road from Vlora to Saranda is the second best scenic road I traveled in Shqiperia.
It climes up the mountains south, giving at first a full view of the bay, then in a gorge to a mountain pass about 40 km south of Vlora than serpentines down steep mountains with a view far along the Ionian coast and continues on the mountain side to Saranda.

At Saranda's bus station waited a local "hotel" owner who offered a cheap room nearby and close to all places of interest.
This Xhaferi "hotel" is a kind of guesthouse but I got a large 3 single bad room with bathroom ensuite and was content.
Saranda has a large bay, protected from the weather by the island of Corfu. Along beach there is a nice promenade.

Quite many cruise ships come to Saranda mainly for a visit of Butrint.
I also came there to see Butrint, an ancient fortified city on a peninsula between lake Butrint and the sea. There are also Othman and Venetian castles near Butrint, but the ancient city is the centre of interest.

It was first fortified by Illyrians, than the Greeks, Romans Othmans and Venetians.

It takes a few hours to walk around and see the most interesting remains.

There is a cable ferry on the river for cars and people.
On the other side there is a Venetian castle and a trail to remote ruins of an Othman castle.

Waiting to the bus back to Saranda, a taxi driver tried to persuade me to pay ten times more, but hust before the bus came he decided to go anyway and gave me a lift. In town I gave him the coins I had in my pocket, a bit more than bus fare.

In the centre of town there are ruins from early centuries AD, and the most important place there is a 5th century synagogue with mosaics of menorah, ram horn and other decorations, but they are covered to protect them from the weather and you can only see the pictures.

Posted by sapan 04:15 Archived in Albania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Day - 15

Vlora

semi-overcast

Again I got up too late and missed the bus to Saranda.
But there was a midday bus to Vlora, so I took it.

Vlora is a costal city, the second largest port of Shqiperia.
It is the closest port to Italy and there are ferries between Vlora and Brindisi.

It is also a beach holidays place. In the summer many groups from Europe come there.
It's on the border of the Adriatic and Ionian seas.

Vlora has a large sandy bay, protected from the weather by the surrounding mountains.

However, the beaches are pretty far from the city so you have to take a bus or rent a car to go there, or stay in one of the beach resorts.

I found the surrounding pretty nice but there is not much to do in the city.

Posted by sapan 04:12 Archived in Albania Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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