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Location - South east Europe; Capital - Tirana; Population - 2.9 million; Currency - Lek MORE ALBANIA

Head south from Tirana to two hilltop fortress cities which have stunning valley views below, Berat and Gjirokastra - April 2018.


albanianote3A 200 Lek note. Shqiperise means Albania in Albanian








albania269Berat is known for its Ottoman houses perched on the hillside below the castle


albania272It's also called the 'City of a Thousand Windows' - Berat


albania303The narrow cobbled streets of the Mangalemi district - Berat















albania299The easiest way to transport your luggage. Though not for horses.. - Berat














albania311From Mangalemi it's a steep, steep walk up the hill to Berat Castle - Berat


albania312Recovering in a cafe with lovely mountain scenery - Berat


albania322Several churches lie within the citadel grounds. This is the 13th century Holy Trinity, with great views of the river valley below - Berat














albania356Cloth for sale near the Onufri Museum - Berat














albania355The entrance to the 13th century citadel - Berat


albania353For me this is the main draw - the brilliant views of the city and surrounding moutains - Berat


albania341The Osumi River runs parallel to the main nightlife street in Berat, the Boulevard Republika - Berat
















albania329On the opposite side of the Osumi River is the Gorica quarter, where I stayed in an excellent hostel - Berat














albania280My hostel room view. On the right is St Spyridon's Church while across the river is the castle hilltop providing the photo viewpoints above - Berat


albania360A close-up of the castle wall viewpoint displays a familiar name, Enver - Berat


albania275The 13th century St Michael's Church sits precariously on the castle hillside, below the viewpoint - Berat















albania281The Gorica quarter - Berat
















albania286aWhitewashed buildings of the Gorica quarter - Berat


albania287Gorica is a quiet area comprised solely of cobbled streets, pathways and steps - Berat


albania291 Gorica bridge links Gorica to the rest of Berat















albania262aFishing for supper on the Osumi River - Berat















albania292The ice and river-eroded mountain grooves above Berat


albania294Snow-capped mountains provide the backdrop - Berat


albania361Boulevard Republika is the ideal place for alfresco dining and a few drinks - Berat















albania363And even more so in the evening - Berat














albania367Mr & Mrs Plantpot outside a florist near Boulevard Republika - Berat


albania370More snow-capped mountains on the bus ride from Berat to Gjirokastra


albania436One of the traditional 19th century homes dotted around Gjirokastra, several of which are open to the public













albania387Looking down on the old town rooftops from the castle - Gjirokastra















albania374World War II cannons line the entrance to the castle - Gjirokastra


albania392Walking the castle grounds to the clock - Gjirokastra


albania394The clock tower has a magnificent mountainous backdrop - Gjirokastra














albania395Just like Berat there's great valley and mountain scenery - Gjirokastra














albania383See all of Gjirokastra before you from the castle


albania388One of the best known traditional homes is Zekate House - Gjirokastra


albania390 Looking a little out of place is an American Air Force jet downed in 1957. Albania claimed it was a spy plane while the US say it strayed into Albanian airspace. Mmmm.. - Gjirokastra















albania400The castle prison was used by the Nazis during WWII - Gjirokastra















albania403In 1944 500 prisoners were held here in just 50 cells by Nazi Germany - Gjirokastra


albania404Pointing always reminds me of North Korea's Kim dynasty, who loved doing it; it must be a communist thing - Gjirokastra


albania421The birthplace of communist dictator Enver Hoxha on 16 October 1908 is now the Ethnographic Museum - Gjirokastra














Nearby Enver Hoxha's name appears alongside numbers 1908 and 16, and what looks like the word for 'legendary' - Gjirokastra













albania423Wander around Skendulaj House, which dates back to the early 18th century and was formerly the Etrhnographic Museum - Gjirokastra


albania427Check out much of Gjirokastra's new town from Skendulaj House


albania432More traditional architecture in the old town centre - Gjirokastra
















albania408 Unlocking the gate to the town hall air-raid shelter, also known as the Cold War tunnels - Gjirokastra















albania413Much of the extensive tunnels lie beneath the castle, and were linked to both the municipal and communist offices above ground - Gjirokastra


albania416Original signs for each department still adorn the doors, which if memory serves me, has an interrogation room. There's also evidence of the 1997 riots that occurred throughout Albania following the collapse of financial institutions known as the Pyramid Crisis - Gjirokastra


albania417Local goverment and communist party staff would have lived and worked in the shelter - Gjirokastra















albania434 The panorama from outside the tunnels, next to the Socialist Party offices - Gjirokastra















albania439I didn't get to the Blue Eye Spring but the azure colour of the nearby spring water is obvious - Gjirokastra to Saranda


albania441 I was lucky enough to get a hotel room with this view of Saranda
















albania447The fainter hills across the Ionian Sea are from the Greek island of Corfu - Saranda















albania446The Ionian Sea, though I still call it the Mediterranean - Saranda


albania448The best place for a drink is Pizzeria Limani which spreads itself across the small harbour - Saranda


albania451The city centre's main beach - Saranda















albania454Saranda is a lively coastal town out of season compared to the beach resorts















albania455I read somewhere that Albanian buildings in the middle of construction often have dolls attached to them for good luck, or to ward off bad luck/evil. Any more info on this, or is this one just a little unfortunate? - Saranda


albania458Memorje 78 is a communist era concrete pillbox bunker - Saranda


albania461You can walk inside the bunker and see what view you'd get through the grille - Saranda














albania464A short bus ride south of Saranda are the ruins of World Heritage Site Butrint, spanning the 4th century BC all the way to the 19th century AD


albania467The theatre dates back to at least the 2nd century BC, if not earlier - Butrint


albania469Meeting another visitor - Butrint















albania471Apparently the baptistery boasts an impressive mosaic floor but they're usually covered in sand to protect them from the weather - Butrint















albania477Butrint has a beautiful setting on Lake Butrint, which flows into the Ionian Sea through the Vivari Channel


albania485A mere 2km away from Butrint is the Greek island of Corfu, while the very faint building that can just be seen at the mouth of the Vivari Channel is known as Ali Pasha's Castle


albania487Take the cute old cable ferry across the Vivari Channel - Butrint
















albania489The Venecian triangular fortress lies opposite the main Butrint site - Butrint














albania492The double-headed eagle appears on the Albanian flag - Butrint


albania494A couple of kms north of Butrint are the lovely beaches of Ksamil















albania498Ksamil comprises several beaches, sandy bays and rocky inlets, all surrounded by turquoise waters














albania504Several cafes, restaurants and hotels line the Ksamil coast


albania505Lone boat on a shimmering sea, my favourite - Ksamil


albania507The mountains on the right belong to Corfu - Ksamil
















albania509Like much of the Albanian coast Ksamil suffers from overdevelopment but sections are still very picturesque
















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LINKS - tourist info - Tirana Times newspaper, in English - Tirana tourist info


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