Permet, Gjirokastra, Blue Eye Spring, Butrint, Ksamil, Albania Week 110 May 19th - 22nd 2013
So we wound our way along the river valley.

The River Vjose

There's a couple of drinking water companies using its water.
Past Permet on the other side of the river.

The suspension bridge was limited to 8 tonne.

We nearly drove through Gjirokastra.

Turned right at the first (northerly) roundabout to see if we could drive higher up the valley side towards the old town.

Parked on a bus stop.

Did a recce.

Returned and drove to the second roundabout (southerly on the main road) then followed the sign up the hill.

Parked near the square, hidden by a couple of tour buses.

Its Unesco World Heritage.

Stone buildings with stone roofs, and a castle.

And stone roads.

Some of the buildings have deep eves.

Which need a bit of support for the weight of stone on the roof.

The description of Gjirokastra in our favourite guide book was possibly written when the author had been smoking something.

We walked up to the cloud shrouded, dark, gloomy, castle, like something from a vampire movie, protected by crows, with the  blood-chilling history.

The castle that is, not the crows. 

Must have been a different day.

We only saw one crow, there were no clouds, our blood was hot from the sun, and to the best of our knowledge there were no vampires.

Some of the buildings are original, some rebuilt.

It seems the same building materials were available over quite a wide area.
There are several villages which are the site of various old bazaars.
We think some sort of arabic script.

The Ottomans were here.

The language we here spoken is distinctly different to the Albanian we've heard further north.

We think Italian. 

We've also begun to see Greek on signs.

Can't get over the eves.
The castle has an armaments museum (pay extra).

It also has a collection of first and second world war guns.

This is a second world war Italian Fiat tank.

We know its Italian because it is on the right of the gallery. The captured German guns are on the left.

Its apparently coal fired, possibly steam engined. Described in the castle guide as "slow".

Captured at Porto Palermo, a bit up the coast from here.

We can't imagine why only 243 were built.

The road we came along followed the valley of the river Drino.

It flows north, joins the Vjose, and heads north west to  the sea.

The hill was first occupied around 4th century BC.

The castle building really began in the 12th - 15th century.

Then there was Ali Pasha in the 18th century.

There was an Ottoman prison built in the 15th century. The castle was also used as a prison during the communist era until 1968.

Perhaps stories of torture would chill our blood.

At some time these stairs led somewhere.

I liked the half arches.

Would you believe something I can't recall from elsewhere, though surely not unique.

The clock tower was rebuilt in 1965.

The 12 km aquaduct supplying water was demolished in 1928 to provide road, house and prison building materials.

Couldn't resist the purple version of the white flowers we saw at our "eyrie" a couple of days ago.
Inside the gallery again.

Looking the other way .... Italian on the left, German on the right.

Or is it the other way round?

Ali in the middle.


But aren't the tall arches magnificient.

At least three storeys.

They almost belong in a cathedral.

I have a sneaking suspicion there were wooden floors and ceilings in here somewhere at one time but there's not a rotting timber beam in sight.

This is the later western end of the castle.

The river just below Blue Eye Spring.

Where the camera battery became discharged and the spare was in the truck.

The eye is a deep spring with a dark blue centre.

The water has that colour from limestone and is crystal clear.

Even the dragonflies are blue.

There are two restaurants, one also a hotel, at Blue Eye Spring. Both newish looking.

The surrounds to the spring itself were looking a bit timeworn (complete with collapsing unusable bridge and rusty viewing platform), which along with the rubbish detracted a bit from the spring.

And two gatekeepers near the main road charging an entry fee, inflated from 50 leke to 200 leke in 3 years..

We retreated, and camped in a field near where the track to Blue Eye meets the main road, by a stream.

Among oak and chestnut trees.

Though even there it looked like a tour bus sized party had lunch and left all their plastic plates and cups.

For a while we shared the field with some cattle. The herder appeared to take them for milking and wasn't particularly interested in us.


Holiday homes for Albanians.

We took a wrong turn.

Then headed south down the penninsula to Butrint.
Through Ksamil.

Building standards met reality.

The building in the center lacked some foundation.

Others suffered from a lack of cross bracing and concertinad.

Ali Pasha's castle.

At least one of them.

At the entrance to the channel into Butrint.

Roman town house in Butrint.

The city was apparently founded by exiles fleeing Troy.

First substantial settlement around 4th century BC.

6th century Baptistry.

We had to buy a postcard to see the mosaic under the sand.

Its there to protect. Cleaned off every so often for study and tourists.

The Great Basilica.

Early Christian Church about 6th century.

Butrint expanded as the Roman Empire rose.

Lake Butrint.

The old town is on a promontory.

One of the walls.
And one of the gates.

The Lake Gate.

Complete with butterfly.
In 1081 the town was seized by the Normans after their fleet defeated the Byzantines.

In 1386 the town was bought by the Venetians.

It became an outpost of Venetian Corfu.

This Venetial tower was built in 15th - 16th centuries.

Turtles in the theatr.
3rd century BC theatre adapted later to Roman design.
The stage.

Sea level in the area has risen.

The guide pamphlet and all the info boards are first class.

All sorts of drawings of what it all may have looked like at various periods..

Theatre in the distance, forum close.

The town had declined to be a fishing village by the 19th century.

Goverened by Ali Pasha who built the castle at the mouth of the channel. 

Byron and Edward Lear visited.

Butrint was a bit frustrating to picture, as its spread out among trees.

There's a small ferry on a wire rope that crosses the channel.

There's a triangular Venetian fort on the far side and other Roman ruins.

The aquaduct was demolished.

We retreated to Ksamil to rest and camp for a couple of nights.

The hydrofoil is passing between us and Corfu.

Corfu in the background.

I sailed through here in 1978 on the way to Igoumenitsa. When people were worried about what would happen when Jugoslavia inevitably broke up, and Albania was closed.

An odd sort of campsite at the northern boundary of the village. Half the price of the somewhat cramped one with no view on the hill opposite, loo (and cassette empty) in the disco and water from a hose.

Disco at times noisy, and a generator for the power cuts.

And swam in it.

Clean Mediterranean water is often an oxymoron but here was clear.

Water just the right temperature. 

That's me just to the left of the sun's reflection.

There's been a bit of a building boom in Ksamil.

Building standards must be a bit lax as several of the concrete pillar and beam multi-storeys have collapsed before completion.

Maybe a lack of cross bracing.

So we contented ourselves with a couple of days of sunset watching.

It rained and blew on the third night.

Northern Pindus (Monodendri, Vikos, Vikos Gorge), Greece Week 111 May 23rd - 26th 2013

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