Part 2: The wild and crazy rolls on (mostly…)
Welcome back to my Albanian weekend adventure tale! We left off with me, hot dog and the rest of the gang chilling out at the hairy lemon hostel in Saranda and eating pancakes.
Disclaimer: This is the second of a two part series about the road trip that I went on last weekend, to get caught up on the cast and the plot check out part 1 here.
After saying goodbyes with promises to return to the hairy lemon in the future, we zoomed a little further south to the next ancient ruins on our agenda, the city of Butrint. Nuño, who has self admitted to failing the driving test five times in Spain was behind the wheel on the way to Butrint. He fit right in here in Albania with their driving style (We love you Nuño!).
Bonus shot to get things rolling – check out these cute kids on the road!
For anyone thinking of travelling to Albania do not miss Butrint! I really don’t think the pictures I took do it justice, but it was really a fascinating complex with lots to explore. Also another travel tip we learned at Butrint, fake being a tour group even if you aren’t. While it doesn’t always work, there are potential discounts to be found this way. Dishonest? Yes – but we are all on poor volunteer budgets trying to still afford seeing the historical sights so I think the karma gods may forgive us.
Butrint was a port city from Hellenistic to Ottoman times, and now is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the Straits of Corfu. In my opinion, It is one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the Adriatic Sea region.
After Butrint we began to circle back north, headed for the Ottoman city of Gjirokaster, but not before stopping off at the blue eye. The blue eye during communist times was an area that only the party elite could go, this sort of restriction in the past is usually a tip that something will be good. I expected more of a lake, with a name like the blue eye, but it turned out to be a freshwater spring and river flowing from it.
You can see why the communist elite kept this from the common people.
What do reasonable people do when they come across a pool of 10 degree C water? Oh they jump in of course! Let me include here – it is not warm outside! To some this would seem like a death defying stunt. Andreas is leaving Albania so for him it was now or never, but for Anouk and I we will be back so there was no rush to go for it…
It was almost dark by the time we made to Gjirokaster and we had just enough time to sneak in a visit to the creepy castle which sits above the town. Gjirokaster is the center of Greek culture in Albania, and I think has the potential to have some real charm but we all felt there was just something a little too quiet and a strange vibe throughout the town. I plan on going back to confirm this and delve deeper into what is going on here. Regardless, as I think you will see we had fun!
The main difference I would say between sight seeing in Albania and other countries that I have travelled with similar sights like Italy and Croatia, is that here there are no rules and not much is off limits or preserved. There are sights that are exceptions but there just is not enough money to go around in Albania to preserve and curate all of the castles, historical sights, etc. As a result, make sure you don’t fall off a castle wall and bring a headlamp to go down that dark unlit damp corridor. And keep an eye out for rats…
This was an american spy plane that had to land in communist albania during the cold war after it experienced technical issues. Of course we decided to ride it.
Headed back to Tirana, about a 4 hour drive from where we were in the south, we decided that we had a little extra time and that what we really needed was to find the beach. Seems easy enough right?
Based on the directions in the Bradt guide to Albania we were right on track to pass Karavasta Lagoon, which happens to also have a beach on the Adriatic sea. This sounded like an ideal place to have some lunch, catch some of the last sunshine of the weekend and just generally chill out after bombing back up from the coast.
One little relevant detail that you should know about google maps is that they don’t really work in Albanian. Intellectually I know this, but to be honest there is just something so compelling about a technological device telling you to go just a little bit further!
We followed the books directions and seemed to be on the right track, but 30 minutes later and seemingly in the middle of nowhere with google maps telling us to go down this road.
We decided after a little ways down the road that maybe it would be a better idea to turn back. Unfortunately it was too late, hot dog even in four wheel drive just couldn’t handle it.
The end result was me covered in mud, but hot dog free to roll on. Notice Anouk was smart and stayed off over to the side and emerged from our adventure mud free. I was not so lucky… As a result walking through Tirana after dropping hot dog off I got plenty of looks and comments.
But we may have never made if home if a wonderful albanian guy working on his house had not seen us and come to the rescue. Lesson learned, laughs had, and once again we experience the overwhelming helpfulness and hospitality of the albanian people.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out my Albanian adventures! Until next time, Mirupafshim!