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guru_josh Gjirokastra - A travel report by Martell
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Gjirokastra,  Albania - flag Albania -  Gjirokastër
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guru_josh's travel reports

Welcome to Mercedes Country!

  18 votes
After a trip through Northern Greece, we wanted to get a quick, first impression of Southern Albania, before we would go home. We had our doubts, because we did not know anything about the country except it's 40 years of isolation...


The only transportation in the whole country...Mercedes!
The only transportation in the whole country...Mercedes!
After we dropped our rental car in Igoumenitsa (Greece), we took the bus (40 min.) to the recently opened border crossing of Mavromati. We walked to Albanian customs, where we were observed sceptic by the border police. While they took their time to assist us, some young Albanian men, who also just arrived from Greece, got verbally punished and intimidated (almost physically) by one of the policemen. Not a very inviting entry. After we handed over 20 euro and saw it vanish in the pocket of the policeman, we could walk on. Our next challenge was to get to the nearest city of Sarandë. We had two options, to step into a van, overloaded with apx. 15 boys who had just been bullied by the border police or try to get a cab. We chose the 2nd, but since there was only one taxi, there was not much to negotiate about. We had to pay the full price the guy asked, in our perception a rip-off. Anyway, the 30 euro ride was worth it, if you take the driver's style into account. With a terminal velocity (broken speed indicator) our Mercedes crossed over the pot-holed sand-'roads'. Sometimes coming to a complete stop, when confronted with a herd of sheep. The driver was not very communicative, except for his non-verbal communication: throwing 90's musictapes [2Unlimited-No Limit (how appropriate)] out of his window.

Favourite spots:
The ancient ruins of Butrint
The ancient ruins of Butrint
When we had to cross a river with a very basic ferry (basically: a couple of oil barrels, some wood and a rope) just in front of the archeological site of Butrint, we took our chance to get more for our 30 euro. We arranged to let the driver wait an hour (within the price), for us to get a guided tour through the ancient ruins.

What's really great:
'Exotic' Sarandë
'Exotic' Sarandë
Besides the beauty of the adventure itself, the old part of Gjirokastra was picturesque, The Blue Eye (Syri i Kalter) is supposed to be stunning, Sarandë is an exotic contrast and the people are very friendly. reason to return!

Sights:
The room where dictator Enver Hoxha was born.
The room where dictator Enver Hoxha was born.
The Castle.

The Etnographic Museum w.i. the birthhouse of Enver Hoxha.

Wandering through the old town.

Accommodations:
View from our balcony in Hotel Kalemi.
View from our balcony in Hotel Kalemi.
Try to get the Albanian style suite in the Hotel Kalemi in Gjirokastër, it's exceptionnaly beautiful! (30 euro or 4000 Lekë), overlooking the whole city.

In Sarandë there are a lot of options. we were in Hotel Delfini. Seafront, Corfu view and very clean for only 20 euro.

Nightlife:
The cave of the bull!
The cave of the bull!
You have to go to the only 'hip' place: Cueva de Toro, near the football stadium, downtown. We have seen the 'toro' (the bull) earlier on the Lion's gate of the ancient city of Butrint.

Hangouts:
Get to the old city center for a (turkish) coffee or a raki.
Get to the old city center for a (turkish) coffee or a raki.
Visit the tavernas in the old city centre. it's like a wild west crossing, a lot of old men sitting in front of the bars, only the horses have been replaced by...obviously: Mercedesses!

Restaurants:
Bye bye Albania. We will definately return.
Bye bye Albania. We will definately return.
The Fantazia restaurant has an incredible panoramic terrace.

Other recommendations:
When you're heading for Corfu, definately go to Albania. At least for a day trip to Sarandë and Butrint, or step into the adventure and visit Gjirokastër or beyond. There's a lot more to explore: the Adriatic coast up to Vlora, Lake Ohrid etc. etc.

Published on Thursday October 6th, 2005


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Fri, Sep 22 2006 - 07:32 PM rating by mrscanada

I've been to Corfu but not to Albania.

Sat, Oct 08 2005 - 12:44 PM rating by mistybleu

Martell,

So many places in the world to see, so little time. This is a very intriguing report. I wish I could have nipped across as well.
Misty

Fri, Oct 07 2005 - 09:11 AM rating by gloriajames

Nice report and pics!

Fri, Oct 07 2005 - 06:43 AM rating by rangutan

Wonderful report with a lot of good pictures. Funny having a country like that in the middle of Europe. Thanks, must see it too oneday!

Fri, Oct 07 2005 - 03:29 AM rating by esfahani

sounds like a great adventure to a very special country... so close and still so far! thanks Ralph

Thu, Oct 06 2005 - 08:51 PM rating by eirekay

Martell, I really enjoyed the terminal velocity reference! It would be terrific to see you expand on this report - I would like to know more about the castle and the ruins!
Eire

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