Easter meant we had a long weekend and 4 of us drove south from Tirana, along the almost deserted coast road. We spent the first night in the village of Dhermis, by the Ionian Sea. The second night was spent in Saranda 'the jewel of our sea coast' as Naum Prifti wrote. From Saranda we visited the classical ruins of Butrint, before heading east to the town of Gjirokaster, now a UNESCO heritage site.
From Tirana Papers - The Road South
Later in the morning we go with Valbona and Russell to see the ruins of Butrint, which were only uncovered in the 1930s. Butrint was apparently mentioned in Virgil's Aeneid …......work was interrupted by World War II and though it later resumed it was really only when the Butrint Foundation was established in the 1990s that the site became a protected area and attracted international interest and funding.
The amphitheatre dates from the 3rd century BC, as does a temple of Asklepios.
There are ruins of an early Christian baptistry
as well as the dramatic, skeletal arches of an early Christian church.
The stone ruins are restful, like an old, old grandfather, whose bones are soaked with memories. These stones have seen and heard and touched so much of life that they have lost that slick human art of judgement. They are much too wise for that. These ruins accept you in the way the stars do. They see you far more clearly than you can imagine. And they wrap their stony arms and their uncoloured light, around you.
|Gjirokaster, clocktower & bazaar|
A few meters away from the narrow road that clutches the side of the steep slope where the house is built, the land plunges into a miniature gorge, fringed with treetops. On the other side of the gorge is an old mosque.
The plain below the city is so flat it reminds me of a chessboard, only thinly populated with pieces as if the players have abandoned it. While the city has an agile energy, the plain looks as if it has been left in some displaced enchantment that it hasn't woken from. It is too flat, too deserted, while the mountainside, heaped with buildings, gives you a ledge and a breathing space and something you can lean against, with gratitude.
|Plain below Gjirokaster, looking towards Greece|
|Looking down on Gjirokaster|