Day 30 – Friday 20th July
After departing by bus from Athens last night a bit after 10pm, we arrived to Sarande, Albania, very early this morning. As usual, sleep on the bus was impossible. Crossing the border from Greece took about two hours, normally it’s boring enough but so much worse at 3am.
Luckily our host was waiting on the street to greet us in when we finally arrived in Albania. Seeing as there’s not really any street signs, let alone bus stops. It seemed that people just got off wherever they needed to be dropped. Tommy, our host, is an overly helpful bloke and his favourite expressions are “no problem”, “don’t worry” and “I’ll take care of it”. Turns out there was a problem upon arrival; he had overbooked his hostel but he kept his word and did take care of it by letting us stay for a few hours in an apartment until the people in our bed were ready to check out. After a couple hours sleep, at about 11am, Tommy came to take us to the hostel. Second problem: there’s no water at the hostel which wasn’t to be fixed until later that afternoon. This was quite strange but didn’t matter too much as Jen and I were pretty keen to explore. After loading up on some local currency; 15,000 leke, we caught a bus to the ancient ruins of Butrint, an old Roman city approximately 45 minutes from Sarande.
Here’s a little bit more info about The Baptistery at Butrint:
“By the 5th century AD Christianity was flourishing at Butrint and the city had its own bishop. The Baptistery and the Great Basilica were constructed in the early 6th century. The Baptistery was discovered in 1928 by the Italian Archaeological mission. It is the second largest baptistery in the Eastern Roman Empire, the largest being that of Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.
Every aspect of the architecture and decoration of the Baptistery is symbolic of the baptismal rite, with the fountain on the far side of the Baptistery representing the fountain of eternal life. The intricate brightly coloured mosaic has representations of land (animals), air (birds), and water (fish), symbolizing aspects of Christian salvation.
The attention of the visitor crossing the threshold of the main entrance is held by two large peacocks in a vine growing from a great vase. The peacocks symbolise paradise and immortality, and the vase and grapes, the Eucharist and the blood of Christ.” – From website.
After wandering around for a couple hours we took another bus to Ksmili, a small beach village on the way back home, and relaxed there.
That evening our friendly “no problem” host, Tommy, took all the guests down to the beach where he dug a hole and made a bbq right there on the sand and cooked up a pretty delicious dinner.
For a Friday night the rest of the city was pretty quiet, even down at the towns most “happening’ bar. It was still nice to walk along the beach at night.
Day 31 – Saturday 21st July
Another local attraction close to Sarande is the beautiful Blue Eye, a natural spring about 30 minutes bus ride from the town centre.
Jen and I went with two lads from the Netherlands, staying at the hostel with us. Once there we went in for a very, very quick dip. After about ten seconds my lower half was numb from the coldness, but the water was amazingly clear. The Dutch boys spent a bit more time in the water, being that they’re more accustomed to the cooler climate.