|100 years of Independence celebration in Vlore!|
After first mentioning the “pastoral scene” and noticing a table in the middle of nature Tuna showed us strait to the columns. It was quite clear that they had done some recent work on the columns, because there were some added red bricks, which we concluded probably weren’t around back in the day. Courtney and I stopped to take our picture in the theatre, similar to the one we took in Butrint, and we took a few Christian rock band photos of the whole group together.
|The columns of Apollonia|
We continued to explored and found an amazing view of the mountains complete with acres of farmland and grass in the valley. Whenever we go anywhere we are amazed at how much nature there is in comparison to Tirana. I also paused to take some pictures of the church with some amazing clouds as a backdrop.
|Cortney enjoying the fresh air and gorgeous view|
|Church, complete with the usual beautiful clouds|
By this point in time I was in need of a serious coffee, so me and Scott headed to the café to grab some coffee and some breakfast beer. We were soon followed by Cortney, Brian, and Tim. We also ate a small snack of fruit, granola bars, and corntey’s favorite runa and bake rolls. Scott and Cortney couldn’t resist giving the adorable dog some Tuna as a payment for the way she had shown us around. Thus the insanely adorable dog became knows as Tuna. It was a great breakfast and we were once again surprised that it was only 10:00 in the morning when we were ready to leave, and head to our next stop.
|Just enjoying some coffee and a beer in the middle of this field. What's up world?|
Next on our list was Vlore, including Independence Balcony, where the Declaration of Independence was signed by Ismail Qemali 100 years ago. Traffic in Fier was a bit slow, and we kept seeing this hitchhiker along the road. He was walking as fast as we were driving. The cars sped up on the highway and time was moving fast. Of course the traffic was terrible once we got outside of Vlore, and we were stopped on the highway, so we opted to park on the highway and walk the 3km to the center of the city. On the way, as usual, we started craving ice cream, so we stopped at a market to get some and upon walking out of the market we saw our hitchhiker. He made it there at the same time as us. How crazy! So Cortney said “hey there” to him and we ended up hanging out with Kevin while we were in Vlore.
|Independence Balcony way back when|
There were no signs telling us where the balcony was located, so we stopped to ask. One teenager told us we couldn’t get there by walking, so we started to lose hope. But we figured we had just walked 3km and something had to be happening, so we kept going. There was a ton of live music, and dancing and it felt a bit like MN on a gopher football game day. We stopped to look at the statue of the 6 most important figures in Albania’s freedom, and then moved on to look for the balcony. But no matter how hard we looked we just couldn’t find it, so we decided to give up and walk the 3km back to our car. Cortney decided to try one more time and went up to ask a cop. He quickly pointed to a balcony nearby with an Albanian flag on it. We had already seen this balcony, but thought it looked nothing like the picture we had seen on the coke cans.
|The balcony now. I see no resemblance....|
I quickly snapped a photo of the boring view and we headed back to our car. Scott quickly got us on the road, however we were soon stopped in some 4 lane traffic (on a two lane highway.) We were pretty much in the same place for about 90 minutes. We would sit for 20 minutes and then turn the car off, then traffic would move about 10 meters, and then we would sit still for another 15 minutes, turn off the car, and then traffic would move forward 20 meters. People kept getting out of their cars to walk around and we kept hearing our favorite Albanian song.
Eventually we realized everyone was going to Tirana, where we came from. Luckily about 10 minutes after the cars started moving at a generally slow pace we were able to get off the road to Tirana and on the road to Girokaster. Thank god for going fast. At this point I was getting a terrible headache from not eating a real meal all day long.
|Enjoying the traffic jam. Hey, does anyone know what an Albanian flag looks like?|
Previously we had drove through Girokaster and Tepelene, and come across a restaurant that looked super delicious and equally relaxing. Eventually, after another hour of scary driving in the rainy night, we made it and ate a delicious meal of fish, fries, salad, and bread. Once we arrived in Girokaster we easily found our hostel, and paid our 2000 lek each for our hostel. The hostel was cold inside, but we knew we could survive since we had our own bathroom, which was to remained locked at all times, for unknown reasons. After a short break we decided to head out to explore a bit by night. The roads reminded us a bit of Ohrid, hills filled with stone, but a nice difference from the busy Tirana roads. I stopped at the market to purchase some tuna for a meal the next day (our go-to easy meal) and we purchased a bottle of wine to share for the evening. I sit here listening to bluegrass, sharing a bottle of wine with a few new friends. Brian and Tim feel like long lost soul mates to our group. I have had a fantastic independence day :)
|We made it to Gjirokaster! Cortney thinks this should be our rap album cover.|