Long way to the south.
My way down to the South is going to be over soon, since after my next destination, Saranda, I will start to move eastward to reach the Black Sea as soon as I can. While it is still uncertain which town I have to visit in Greece, maybe Turkey and in Bulgaria, I have very clear in mind how to spend next three days. Today I have to reach Saranda and take a look at the town and in the two following days I have to visit Butrint and Gjirokaster, giving priority to Butrint if it is good weather. Trip to Saranda is expected to be quite long. Bus leaving at 8:00 AM from Berat central station should be in the capital of the Albanian “Riviera” around 12:45 so, in the end almost 5 hours on a Furgon, as they call it in Albania or, more internationally saying, in a mini van. Due to early trip I have to skip the breakfast. I count on some stop along the road. The route, for the first part is the same I did yesterday to go to Fier then afterward it goes in the direction of Vlorë after it I would have expected it would have followed the coastal road that should be good but I know it will stop also on Gjirokaster so, my idea it is likely wrong. However I don’t care too much about it, I’m more concerned about the breaks that doesn’t seem to be in the plan of the driver. So far the view from the window is quite boring. Only the usual flock of sheep. When the bus is near to Vlorë it goes towards the inland. At a certain moment I realise that between the road we are following and the sea where I should be in few hours there is a mountain range. Nice but I’m wondering what kind of road would allow us to overcome it. The trip is not one of the best I did in my life. The driver assistant is yelling on the phone, there is some sort of Albania turbo folk pushing loud into the speakers and, in addition, there is a strong smell of raki, the local firewater, pervading the bus. One little tank of it was obviously not closed properly and a little stream of the spirit is flowing in the bus. My thought goes to my luggages in the back. Would they be drunk? Meanwhile the landscape improved a little bit getting closer to Gjirokaster since we are in river Drino valley. I notice that as closer we get to the Greek border, there are an increased amount of signs written in two languages: Albanian and Greek. We are now just 50 kilometres from Saranda and there is still mountains between us and our destination. I didn’t say that in the aim of recovering a backlog of posts for this website, I’m using the time on the bus writing them. I never used my Mac keyboard in such a similar situation. Last 45 kilometres of road are absolutely crazy. Curves, curves and more curves. Trying to keep my equilibrium, I’m using the leg muscles as I would doing rafting. Once we finally arrive in Saranda I’m very tired and I’m happy my host is there waiting for me.
Ok, this is Saranda…
It takes one hour before I decide to get out from my apartment and go to see how it looks Saranda. I’m a bit far from the centre but I have to say that I walk more than one kilometre wondering where the ‘nice’ part of the town is going to start. I have to be very honest, when I finally find the centre, basically the part of the town close to the bay and the harbour, I cannot define it as a nice town. First of all is full of dust. The only passable walking street is the sea promenade that, apart the fact that is full of people coming from a cruise ship, doesn’t have any attractive. I can see that the sea is clean so for sure, during summer it would be great to lay on the beach and swim having the greek island of Corfu on the horizon, but if it is not warm enough what to do? There are many restaurant and café but none of them it looks nice to me. I keep going and I see some marble sculpture on the seaside part of some exhibition occurred in the past and once again I have to say that they do not impress me too much. I also find a map of the attractions of the town and the nearby area. There is of course Butrint that is 15 kilometres far and that hopefully I will see tomorrow but in town it doesn’t seem to exist anything really interesting. I’m too bored. I’m sure that the bad trip is one of the reasons of my mood. On the way back I finally find something to see: remains of an ancient Basilica. There should be also a mosaic but I understand it is impossible to visit in April so I have to be content with the basement of the Basilica and one or two columns.
The day would have ended with this terrible mood unless I would not have followed the suggestion of my host for the dinner. He addressed me to some fishermen restaurant very close to my apartment, located just next to a very small fish harbour. As soon as I tasted the fried red mullets, one of my favourite dish, my mood improved immediately and I was able to start thinking about tomorrow excursion to Butrint or Gjirokaster in a completely new way. Ok, this is Saranda. It would be maybe not the nicest town in the world but it is possible to eat great fish. And this is already something… 🙂
Here following is my gallery so you can make your own idea about this town.