Islands in Ksamil Bay, southern Albania.
Text and photos by BOB BERWYN.
If you like this story and want to support independent journalism in Summit County, check out our sponsorship and our about page.
A short trek through southern Albania in October 2009 included a seaside stay in Saranda, where Leigh and I enjoyed strolling past sidewalk vendors selling black pumpkin seeds, pomegranates and raisins.
Nearby, the coastal town of Ksamil is quickly developing a reputation among beach and seafood lovers for its spectacular white sandy beaches and tasty fresh fish. Ksamil is on the road between Saranda and the World Heritage site at Butrint, where Byzantine, Greek, Roman and Venetian architecture shine in a well preserved jumble of baptistries, mosaic-floored basilicas and ancient seaside villas.
Farther inland, another World Heritage designation encompasses most of the old town of Gjirokastra, where Ottoman ruler Ali Pasha surveyed his lands from a fantastic hilltop castle.
See last week’s photo essay on Butrint and Gjirokaster here.
Be sure to click the “more” button below this image to see the full photo essay.
A group of Albanian men gather for their regular round of Sunday morning dominoes along the boardwalk in Saranda. After trying out my limited Albanian vocabulary with a "Miremenjes" (good morning), one of the men turned around and said the fellow in the checkered jacket, dealing dominoes and counting the money, is the town's police chief.
Mountains dominate the Albanian landscape around the coastal town of Saranda and everywhere else in the country. This view is looking east from the road between Saranda and Butrint, across a lagoon that's been intensively developed for aquaculture of shellfish.
In the basement bar of the the Gjirokaster Castle, bartender Napoleon browned a little sugar over a camping stove, mixed it with a splash of water and then blended the whole thing with Raki. "Better than aspirin," he assured us as he served the concoction.
Tending nets in the harbor of Saranda, Albania.
A brother and Sister in Saranda enjoy the fountain in the town's main square on a sunny Sunday morning.
A couple of waves crash into each other from opposite sides of the isthmus joining two small islands in the Bay of Ksamil, Albania.
I beached the boat in this sheltered cove and explored the two tiny islands, joined by a wave-washed isthmus. I was the only person on the islands, giving the day a Robinson Crusoe feel.
In Ksamil, a few miles south of Saranda, most of the beachfront restaurants and stores were closed by mod-October. But the water was warm and clear, and eventually I found a place to rent a kayak for a short paddle out to the islands that guard the bay.
A view from near the summit of the smaller island in Ksamil Bay, looking back to the cove where I landed the kayak.
The day before this picture was taken, Leigh and I had seen a photo of this island in a small shop in Saranda. It looked like it was worth a visit, so I splurged on a $10 taxi ride to Ksamil. In mid-October, nearly all the beachfront joints were closed down, with lounging chairs neatly stacked away. But in the end, I stumbled upon the Rilinda Restaurant, one of the places mentioned by name in the Bradt guide to Albania, one of the few comprehensive guidebooks to the country. The owners were resting in the sun when I arrived, but gladly helped me drag a boat to the beach for the short voyage across the bay.
In Ksamil, Restaurant Rilinda was the only open place. The family that owns the eatery was enjoying lunch when I arrived looking for a kayak and asked me if I was hungry. When I said yes, they pointed at their plates, indicating that the fish was fresh. How could I resist?
Grilled fish, roasted sweet peppers, and a salad of tomatoes, feta, onions and peppers at Restaurant Rilinda in Ksamil.
Fishing boats rest in the still water of the harbor in Saranda, Albania.
Generally, it was unusual to see women out on their own in Albania. The coffee shops, for example, seemed to be populated only by men, other than the servers. But on Sunday morning, younger Albanian women dressed to the nines emjoyed the sunshine along the seaside promenade in Saranda.
Filed under: Summit County Colorado, Travel Tagged: | Albania, Balkans, coast, mountains, Summit County Colorado, Travel