I haven't as yet had the chance to much about the hostel and its residents but I will do in the days to come. You'll see which way this is heading after I tell you that when I arrived early evening by boat, they instantly invited me to sit and eat with them at the table as they had prepared themselves fajitas with mined meat and feta salad. Also, they would not accept any money from me so naturally I will return this generosity over the days to come. I felt so at ease with these people so early on that I finally felt it was the right atmosphere to open that bottle of Red the nice Italian man gave Kate and I.
And what non-food related concoction do we have here then...?
We have the hostel manager, Albanian (top right) and a Mexican couple here for a couple of weeks. Top left is a Dutch lady in her early 40s travelling alone and then we have two Brits (from Hull) in their mid 20s.
So as it's my first full day in Albania and I knew what I was going to as per a blog suggestion yesterday from a friend back home. For some of today then I visited the archaeological site known as Butrint (it is also a national park and UNESCO protected). As regular readers will know, I've seen a lot of ancient monuments and incredible views over the months to last me a short while so in the interest of trying to keep things interesting and non-repetitive, as ever I'll try and keep the images and text down to a select bare-minimum. I had a good few hours here though so thank you Naoimi - I'm glad I visited. Hope you like the snaps.
Firstly, Albanian transportation. There are buses that pretty much depart every hour so this was OK to navigate to and from - also I had guidance from the hostel manager. England could learn from the primitive but efficient service they have here. You get on, you sit. At some point the conductor comes down and it would appear, irrespective of where you're heading, you hand him a single coin, you exchange a mutual nod and that is that! The process is complete in seconds and not a single piece of paper as receipt, exchanged. BTW my 45 minutes bus ride to Butrint (90 round trip) it cost me 2x100 LEK coins for both journeys - £1 (50p each way)!
The roads are said to be notoriously bad in Albania as you might have heard or have guessed. Thankfully the more heavily used roads appear to be OK and therefore the journey was fine on this route. The vessel was far from the relative luxurious I relied on 'across the pond' in Corfu. Here, the seats are slightly grotty, the windows are dirty with head and hand stains and there is definitely no AC. Worst of all, there aren't any windows to open! (Other than a small roof top one that reminded me of my journeys to school those many years ago). And some of the local people are slightly special too which again, you might have guessed but they do for the moment seem friendly which is of course the most important thing.
One stat for you - bet you didn't know that our very own and very gorgeous Rita Ora is Kosovo-Albanian! She was born in the capital of Kosovo, Pristina. These days the vast majority of ethnic groups in Kosovo are Albanians - summit like over 90%.
Now on to Butrint. The one stat I found particularly interesting (at the time) was that it was ruled by so many different ancient rulers and therefore different eras. There was the Hellenistic period, followed by the Roman period, then the late-Roman period, then the medieval period and finally the Venetian period. (Don't worry - that's the only piece of written history you'll get from an uneducated, unappreciative philistine like myself).
The Albanian's are proud of their flag with a central black double-headed eagle. The red colour represents bravery and strength while the double-headed eagle represents the two dialects of Albanian spoken people (those of north and those from the south). Two can still be one.
Get this, to reach the green on the other side of the river below (couple of hundred meters at most) - there is a modest car ferry! Let's be clear, I mean some burly men and what looked to be wooden ramp of some sort. I assume there is some mechanical intervention to actually get them across but at the cot of £2.50 a car - all bets are off. Sadly I didn't get any photos of that but I was sure I remember something like this on Top Gear so had a little chuckle to myself.
And finally some snaps of a couple of insects which have also turned out quite well I think.
So for less than £5 to enter (and for combined transportation) it was a decent way to spend some hours in Albania.
All in all, a really nice first day although I still can't believe I know someone else that has visited Albania albeit for the day. How much she experienced in that one day I'm not sure as I get the feeling I can gain an interesting cultural insight into this place if I dig deep enough...
Will check in with you next weeks folks. Have a great weekend.