Friday, 27 December 2013

Photographs of Albania Then - 3

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 … 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


The Solitary Walker said...

I'm enjoying your Albanian adventures, Dritanje.

BTW, thanks for your recent comment my blog about reading v. hearing poetry. I find it an interesting subject, and have replied at moderate length!

three sea horses said...

Wow! What places - amazing photos. Imagine once how these buildings were new and time has laid layers of history and dust over them while people go on with their daily lives through good times and bad.
I guess that applies to anywhere really, still ..
I like how you put in bits of relevant text.

three sea horses said...

Also, I meant to say - I am reminds of a very good friend who lives on Iona, telling me years ago when I was setting off to draw among the rocks - she said 'remember - see the rocks seeing you'.

dritanje said...

I like that 3 sea horses, 'see the rocks seeing you'. And in really old places, well I felt this in Butrint anyway, you can feel the past, you enter a different time. Possibly because it is not all fenced off and tidied up (not yet anyway) it's just there, as it always has been. xx

Forest Dream Weaver said... a dream! Didn't realize I'd missed so much!
I like "bones soaked with memories".