Wednesday 23 September 2015

Butrint and Himara - Himare 2 days 22 & 23rd September

Butrint and Himara - Himare 2 days
Tuesday and Wednesday 22 & 23rd September

After another delicious breakfast, we leave lovely Hotel Gjirokaster with Nico, Annamalie and Nico's cousin Jack at about 8:30 am to drive to the archeological site of  Butrint. It's a lovely windy drive along pretty good roads. So lovely of Nico and Annemie to offer to take us! Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to see these ancient ruins. After exploring Butrint, we'll be dropped off at Saranda to catch a bus to Himare.

View down to Ali Pasha's castle just before we arrive at Butrint.

Inscriptions visible on the stones near the amphitheater.

Annemie exploring Butrint

An old spring and well, there are deep grooves in the rock from years of ropes pulling up water.
Temple remains. The mosaics are covered to preserve them.
The remains of the basilica.
The Lion's gate entrance, the height of the entrance was lowered to make defence easier.

The Butrint site is surrounded by water, some locals fishing.
Entrance to the Venetian castle and museum.
View from the top of the Venetian castle 
Butrint is lovely to explore, mostly shady paths meander through the ruins which are labelled in Albanian and English. I'm glad we arrived early, we've mostly managed to avoid the bus tours...

We finish exploring Butrint at about 12:30 and drive back to Saranda where Nico drops us off at the bus stop (next to the synagogue excavation and ruins) 
We're very lucky , the next furgon to Himare leaves at 2 pm, we have time to buy some water, snacks and have lunch, 2 byreck and 2 pizza about $2.50 AUD before getting aboard the 20 seater  furgon with the locals for the  2 hour trip.
The scenery on the trip is fabulous! Very steep, narrow winding roads with glimpses to the Ionian Sea farms and villages. Locals get on and off the furgon at all sorts of unexpected places! 
We drive past Port Palermo, where there is a submarine tunnel shelter .
When we get off the bus in Himare, a lady comes and asks us if we want a room, she points just up the road to her hotel, I decide to check it out, it's a clean, basic room with bathroom- right on the water! For 20€ a night. Hotel Gjicali. We decide to stay for 2 nights and explore the area around Himare, and have a few swims! 

 Himara is considered as the central spot of southalbania coast, The famous castle of Himara, the famous bysantine and metabysantine church of Himara.
Ahhh, a delightful swim in the Ionian Sea, water temp a very comfortable 22 deg! 
The local coffee bar. We met Andrew, an Irishman staying in Himare for a while at the same hotel.
Andrew fills us in with a bit of local background information, there's not a lot of local buildings left along the seafront, as in the communist era many old buildings were bulldozed and the new appartments were built, there's some original buildings up the northern end of the village, and up the hill at the castle.
Sometimes I just look at things and think " why"? 

Dinner, at Himara Taverna Lefteri
Met with Andrew for dinner at local Greek restaurant, Tarverna Lefteri. Great place!

Mixed Greek salad
Prawns and calamari
Local fresh caught fish
And for me 1/2 l white wine
4 beers Patrick,one for Andrew
Total price 2800 leke 
Good night Himare :)
Wednesday 23rd September
Good morning Himare! Early morning swim to start the day.
The only tricky aspect of the beach is getting out of the water, the pebbles are real toe stabbers!

After getting some yoghurt and fruit at a mini mart for breakfast, the Gjicali's drive us up the hill to the old castle, they're so helpful!

There's a Greek church with a school next to the castle.
Oops, we distract the students... This little girl was desperate to have her photo taken.
There's a significant Greek population in these local villages. The buildings and colours look Greek.
Heading into the old castle

The castle still has a couple of families living within its walls, and there are the ruins of 3 old churches. 

 It's lovely to wander around quietly and explore.

Inside the first church we find inside the castle

Some of the frescos are still visible. Locals still use the church.

Gorgeous views and vistas all around!

Another church ruin - they're very simple and beautiful

More frescos here too

Wondering the ruins in the peace and quiet 

We find the last church, no roof left

Some fresco visible in the sheltered alcove

We leave the castle, walking through on of the walls

Some one lives in the house over the wall and entrance!

As we walk down the road back to the waterfront, we walk past some locals delivering grapes, they give us a huge bunch! Yummy sweet dark grapes

Then further down the hill, we spot a lady tending a fire with some interesting equipment, could this be an opportunity to learn about Raki? Of course we wander over for a chat! Quite an interesting set up.

The final product slowly condenses and flows slowly into the pot. The fire needs to be continuously tended to keep the grape mix boiling.

And we're offered some of the brew to taste! Very smooth...

When we arrive back at the hotel in the afternoon, there's been a blackout for a few hours... Wonder if it's anything to do with what this guy is doing? None of the usual safety gear we'd see in Australia.

We have a few swims , relax and read for the rest of the afternoon. Then wander around the esplanade to check out what the fishing trawlers have caught. shrimp, calamari and fish.

Dinner at Esperia ... Overlooking the water, lovely location

The salad was delicious.
Fresh grilled fish
Grilled calamari 

Patrick, local fresh fish grilled, wild caught this afternoon.- delicious ,  price per KG 4900 leke per kg  approx 400 Gm 
Sallate Krete Salad- feta, tomato, olives, capers and dry, crunchy barley bread rustic croutons, very nice. 500 leke 
Grilled calamari - simply grilled with olive oil, lemon and herbs - very good! 700 leke 
white wine from Berat : Kantina Nurellari, Pulsi Beratit - 1800 leke smells like the first rain drops on hot dry rocks, a bit flinty... Tastes good . Made from native Albanian grape varieties. Pules and Shenti. 
Patrick ordered cheesecake for dessert - 300 leke 
5800 leke for dinner ( think our most expensive dinner in Albania)
Dinner was good, but I think I preferred the food, atmosphere and people at Taverna Lefteri better.

Stopped off at a mini mart for water and breakfast supplies ready for our departure tomorrow morning at 7:20 am

Family run simple hotel Gjicali , right on the waterfront just 20 steps to the south of the Saranda - Himare bus parking bay! 20€ per night. Very friendly helpful family! A great base for exploration, swimming and relaxing.

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