Monday, June 20, 2016

Albania part 1 - Sarande

June 20 - 24 Saranda

We left Corfu and headed the short distance to the port of Saranda. On a cruising website called Noonsite there was a recommendation for an agent with Saranda Summer Tours (http://www.sarandasummertours.com/contact), Jelja Serani. We contacted her and had a very quick reply back letting us know that she would be waiting for us when we arrived. We highly recommend this company. She and her co-worker were very pleasant and extremely helpful.

She took the documents that were required and filled out all of the documentation and brought everything back once the check in was complete. The cost was 50 euros. Our berth was approximately 25 euro per night. We were safe and in a fairly quiet place.

We took a walk along the waterfront which offered many tavernas, play parks and beaches. There are older buildings interspersed with modern ones.As we were walking both Shaun and I agreed that Albania is where Turkey was 5-10 years ago. We both feel that it is an up and coming tourist destination. You can have a full meal with drinks for 4 people for between 20-30 euros. We ate out most of the time as it was so reasonable.

One one of our days we took a walk through the back streets to find the plethora of shops and to find the grocery store. They were well stocked with all of the items that we would need. We also came across some ruins in the middle of the town.

ruins in the middle of the town
On the second day that we were in Saranda we noticed our new Australian/New Zealand friends that we had met in Corfu were moored right next to where the ferries dock. We caught up with them over beverages and joined them for dinner at a traditional Albanian restaurant. They were leaving the following day as they had to make tracks to get to Gibraltar.

our Australian/New Zealand friends at dinner
We had noticed on a previous walk a restaurant just near the beach that offered bumper cars and of course Jordan wanted to go on them. We had promised her at some point that she could go so off Shaun went with her for some bumping around.

an action shot of Shaun and Jordan on the bumper cars
moon rising up over the hills
Our agent had recommended that we see several spots while we were in Saranda, the Blue Eye (a natural water spring - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Eye,_Albania), the old town of Girokastra and Butrint. We decided it would be best to rent a car to visit them. Saranda tours arranged a car for us and off we went.

Our first stop was to the Blue Eye (this was a highlight of our visit). We drove along a dirt road with a river running beside us. We came upon a small shack and paid the entrance fee. Further along we finally came across a parking area where we were able to walk the 30 m to the phenomena.We crossed a small bridge over a crystal clear river and along another path with a ton of vegetation, blue dragon flies and frogs. All of a sudden the river ended and there was a mountain. We looked down and saw a large spring bubbling with 750 cubic meters of water coming from under the ground. It was magnificent. I have never experienced anything quite like it until that moment. The water was ice cold and stunning. The girls were especially interested in the critters and spent time looking/finding them all.


the small bridge
blue dragon flies that have wings like the horses in the move Avatar
another dragonfly on a leaf
crystal clear water
the beautiful vegetation surrounding the river

the Blue Eye from the ground
the Blue Eye from up above
did I mention crystal clear?

looking down while Paige was searching for frogs
selfie looking down
one of many frogs near the waters edge
Jordan testing the icy waters
Once we had fininished at the Blue Eye we decided to make our way to the old city of Girokastra. Along the way we snapped some pictures of the countryside. We were surprised by the contrast of landscapes that we saw.

a valley that we drove by

a drier area that we drove by on our way to Gjirokastra
another shot of the drier area we drove through
looking down into the valley
farmlands nestled in the valley

We made our way into the old town and were pleasantly surprised. The town is located on top of the hill. We found a parking spot and started our walk up to the fort at the very top. The streets are stone along with all of the buildings. All the streets are narrow with very little walking space when cars drive by. It offers stunning views of the surrounding areas.


narrow stone streets


walk up to the fortress
largest stink bug ever
very cool table

peek-a-boo view


a stone carver hard at work
the entrance


interior arsenal










this gives you and idea the size of the walls

the ticket lady photo bombed


the view

yes that is a plane




a T33 (50's era fighter plane)










the clock tower























on our drive back to the boat

We arrived back at the boat and noticed another catamaran. We happened to notice a family walk by. The kids automatically flew together. I got to chatting with the parent (Zoe and Guy from Australia). It turns out that they are fellow live aboard cruisers and we hit it off. Once they returned from dinner we had them over for beverages and let the kids play. We also have another connection through another Australian family Karen and Toby. What a small world. It was a welcome opportunity for all of us.

from left to right - Paige, Max, Jordan and Cameron
from left to right - Shaun, Sherrie, Zoe and Guy
We had planned to only have the car for one day but decided to keep it for a second day as we wanted to visit Butrint an ancient city (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/570). It is situated very close to a riverbank.















turtles in the ponds



writing in a wall


an amphitheater

ruins of heated floors
mosaic tile


large cricket - yes our girls love the critters




looking for turtles







ruins of the Baptistery


more writing in a wall

resting our weary feet in the heat




the river




this is a skeleton of an unknown insect









resting in the shade




arches and more arches




they don't make walls like this anymore
a spontaneous hug



of course Paige is the lion eating the poor ram (Jordan)








nearing the end
the famous triangle fort












For a job well done we stopped at a beach on the way back and let Jordan swim (oops we had no swim suit)....... She swam in her undies..... but didn't care one bit.

Jordan swimming European style - no top


the bunkers that kept the outside world out for so many years
another bunker

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

2 comments:

  1. Thx for sharing your adventures.

    Wishing you fair winds and calm anchorages.

    Barrie and Sandra, SV Passat II

    ReplyDelete
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