21 JUL


Our meeting with tour guide Ola the night before, we’d planned to visit Butrint (Buthrotum), Ali Pashas Castle and Blue Eye spring. She picked us up at 10am in her little air-conditioned Golf. It was 35-degrees, really hot and humid as hell.

On the way out of Sarandë we had passed the public holiday apartments (since renovated) that was used by the people during Communist times – a kind of public time-share. Ola pointed out the large Jewish influence over the city as we departed..

Further along we passed through a the beginnings of Butrint Park wetlands.

Butrint was a Fort built and subsequently modified by the Byzantine and the Roman cultures. The defined layers separating periods of construction were clearly evident by the style of blocks used. Incredible in its size, location and design, we had to move through it at a fast pace, taking as many photographs as possible. Unfortunately time was of the essence and heat stroke was immanent. Felt like real tourists now.

Our next stop was the Blue Eye spring. We were greeted at a checkpoint that was once a water storage area for the local region. Though the stagnant water was now mossy and undrinkable.

Blue Eye is an artisan well some 50mtrs deep underground which channels up 10 degree cold water that is crystal clear blue, green, aqua luminous in appearance.

Being a bit of a thrill seeking Aussie I chose to dive into the spring from the platform several meters above. The setup was a bit of a safety hazard with its rickety rusty rails and worn wooden platform. Once I dove in my body came alive, blood rushed from my extremities. The locals and other tourists seemed deadly afraid to jump in. I went back 4 more times as it was the most refreshing experience on such a hot and humid day.

Once dried off a little we went for a cold drink at the local kiosk. There happened to be a wedding taking place. The odd thing that stood out here was Bride all dressed in Flamur (Albanian flag) red.

From there we headed back toward Sarandë to visit the Ottoman built Ali Pasha Castle – now a café that hosted a million dollar full 360 degree view of Sarandë. A spectacular view on a spectacularly clear day. We could see the dwellings of the 40 thousand inhabitants around us.

Sniper bunkers dotted the hillside waiting for the west to invade. Halfway down the mountain was a half built house with its own dirt road hacked into the side of the mountain – the land may well of been freely claimed when Communism collapsed.

Unfortunately the view of uncleared rubbish in the rear of the Castle was appalling. Sadly, this was a common occurrence seen throughout Albania.

We eventually headed back down the mountain to Sarandë and straight to Limone seafood restaurant on the main promenade, where we had a magnificent seafood spaghetti, my favorite dessert Zup and Letce. We treated Ola dinner as a thanks for such an amazing whirl wind tour.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel to refresh. Then Rohan and I headed down to Demi Bar to meet Genta, Silvana and Dori for drinks. Again only Genta was worthy of any decent conversation. As again all Dori and Silvana could do was SMS and Facebook, like a lot of young Albanians they were obsessed with social media, like it was invented the day before.

It was a real struggle to communicate with Silvana. A 2nd lieutenant in the Lufter (army), she was just so blocked that it really wasn’t funny anymore. Rohan and I had to pull each other aside to ascertain if it was something we were doing wrong, but we were very entertaining and gentlemen like. I had to pull out all stops to get her to open up. Eventually there was a crack in her shield, a beautiful smile, laughter, eureka! But no sooner had she opened up did Silvana close back up into her seemingly traumatized shell. I actually felt rather sad for her, the male dominated military really must of messed with her head badly!

We left the Demi Bar and went for quick coffee then walked the ladies home. Though Genta, the most forward of the bunch snuck back out like a teenager to come back to Mano Hotel to do the horizontal mambo with Rohan.