2012 April 15 – Day 35 – Durrës, Albania

The only tours offered in Durrës were a four and half hour two city sightseeing tour and an eight hour three city bus tour.  We don’t get a great deal of enjoyment out of driving around cities so we planned to go exploring on our own.  As we were leaving the port one of the security guards came over and pointed out all the highlights in the area.  He was very friendly and inviting.Durrës is the second largest city in Albania and one of the most ancient and economically important cities of the country.  It was founded in the 7th century BC by Greek colonists and has been continually inhabited for 27 centuries. The round Venetian towers were built in the 14th century.

There was a long oceanfront boardwalk near the port with lots of rides for kids and adults.

We noticed lots of graffiti and many rundown buildings.  Communism does take its toll on a place.  Albania was the last country in Europe to oust the communist party.  After many demonstrations and a national strike the government fell in 1992.  The change to a capitalism system has had some major ups and downs.  The country is now a democratic republic. We had been told the Archaeology Museum had some interesting things to see but it was closed and looked abandoned. The Roman Amphitheatre dates from the 2nd century AD.  It was the largest in the Balkan Republics and could seat 15,000 people.  It is mostly buried, fenced and marked as an archaeological site but obviously not restored or maintained.

Big Tom Turkey and a lot of chickens were wandering around the amphitheater.

                                        Sultan Mehmet MosqueThis was the site of a Byzantine-era market place dating from the 5th century AD.  The ruins extend under some of the nearby buildings and there is also the ruins of a Roman bath on the site. Again, the site is not well preserved, maintained, or protected.  But I am sure the new government had a lot more important calls on its money for roads and infrastructure improvements than could be spared for archaeological preservation and restoration. Perhaps in time there may be some work done.

Past the amphitheater ruins we wandered down a few streets and then climbed the hill to King Zog’s Summer Palace. The climb up to the Summer Palace was steep and when we finally reached the top we discovered it was closed.  The view was nice though. Back down the hill we went, via a different street which took us to the edge of a much newer part of town with some nice modern buildings.  Our walk lasted over two and a half hours and we had a good day just strolling here and there.  The people were very friendly and happy to have cruise ships stopping in their port.  We were even interviewed by a TV crew about our impressions of the city.  No idea, obviously, if it aired or not.  All aboard was 4:30 and the ship set sail at 5.  We followed the west coast of the Adriatic Sea up to Croatia for a day on the island of Korçula, just off  the Dalmation Coast.

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