Travel photo essay: World Heritage preserved in Albania
By BOB BERWYN
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When Leigh and I visited Albania in October, the two must-see stops on our list were Butrint and Gjirokaster, both designated as World Heritage sites by UNESCO.
Butrint is famed for well-preserved ruins from the Hellenistic, Roman and Venetian eras, but archaeologists have found signs of habitation going back far into the Stone Age. The layer-cake ruins stand on a wooded island in the middle of a lagoon. Rich meadow lands and marshes have provided a reliable food source for centuries, and the city stands on the strategic straits of Corfu, guarding passage into the eastern Adriatic.
Extensive floor mosaics are left covered with sand to protect them from the elements, but visitors are welcome to brush the grains away to take a close look at the intricate stonework. The ruins of Roman villas, baptistries and a grand basilica, among many others, are easy to discern, even for non-experts.
Gjirokaster, in the Drinos River valley, is dominated by a castle towering over a well-preserved warren of Ottoman-style houses, many of them built in the 17th Century. Standing on the ramparts of the city’s castle during a gloomy sunset, we found it easy to picture Ottoman ruler Ali Pasha surveying his domain in the stunning mountains of southern Albania.
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