A stones throw from Greece

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hairy Lemon

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Back on the coast, and we are close enough to Corfu to get Greek phone reception. Saranda is a beach resort town, but Albanian style. It only takes a short stroll to find those typical Albanian sights - firstly the bunkers, those concrete symbols of Albania that cover the whole country. After the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 there seems to have been a strong fear of invasion, although I am not entirely sure how 60,000 tiny concrete bunkers help. Secondly, the city cows, who paused briefly from going through the garbage bins to stare at us (sizing us up for the probability of carrying food I think).
But I guess I should mention the beaches, seeing as that is what most people come for. The water is lovely and clean and cool, although the rock beach would be a whole lot more novel if the rocks were not so razor sharp. Watching the hostel staff attempt to windsurf armed with only an inflatable mattress and a sheet was pretty entertaining too.

Close by are the ruins of Butrint, a city that passed hands from Illyrian to Roman to Byzantine to Venetian. The bus to Butrint took us past many buildings that were collapsed only half built. Unnerving when we think about how our hostel is on the 8th floor... Turns out though that these were illegal buildings that were dynamited and left there because, well, no one seems to really know. The ruins (of Butrint, not modern Saranda) are partly overgrown with forest and partly rebuilt. Views across the inlet include the Venetian triangular fortress.
None of the buses back to Saranda bothered to turn up (apparently normal practice) but a taxi appeared after a couple of hours.

We also took a bus to the 'blue eyed spring' a deep spring sourcing a rushing river that follows the main road all the way back to Saranda. The water is cold - about 10 degrees, so sitting next to the water is the closest thing you get to much needed air conditioning here. Thanks to our previous experience, we settled in for a long wait for a return bus but within 5 minutes of standing by the road, a car pulled over and insisted on giving us a lift. The occupants of the car were two super muscled young Albanian men in tight t shirts - we made the mistake of complimenting the speaker system and were rewarded by near deafness by the time we got back. They were horrified at the suggestion of accepting any money, taking out their own wallet to try and give us money instead.

We spent a hot afternoon climbing the hill behind town to reach the old castle. It is now a restaurant / bar with live music in the evenings and an entire (low sided) turret to dance on.
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