Sarande, Butrint, and Porto Palermo

Sep 04, 2017 - Sea Cloud


Today we awoke in Sarande, a pretty city full of beaches and purple flowers along Albania’s southern coast. We boarded our buses early to get to the archeological ruins of Butrint before the crowds. We were lucky enough to have the UNESCO World Heritage Site almost completely to ourselves as we surveyed the evidence of 2,500 years of continuous occupation here. These ruins have been used by several different civilizations and have many different layers left behind from Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian people. We walked through the impressive Greek amphitheater which at one time could accommodate 2,500 spectators and had incredibly advanced acoustics for the time. Next we were fortunate to see the elaborate and colorful mosaics of the Byzantine baptistery floors, which we were told are usually covered with sand for protection. Towards the end of our visit we climbed to the top of the Venetian fortress and looked out upon the Albanian countryside and looked down upon one of the famous Ali Pasha’s many castles.

After our visit, we boarded the buses to a castle closer to the port, overlooking the bay of Sarande where the Sea Cloud sat peacefully. We took pictures of the countryside and enjoyed local snacks. It was a brief visit and before we knew it, we were on our way back home to the Sea Cloud. Once onboard we ate lunch and had a little siesta before wandering upstairs to see Dr. Rebecca Ingram’s riveting talk on the Ottoman Empire and its lasting influences in the region. Towards the end we found it hard to pay attention as another impressive castle came into view off the starboard side of the ship. We knew that a surprise was in store when we saw the deckhands unbuckling the rubber Zodiac boats that lay right next to the Lido Bar.

We were correct in assuming that such a surprise was in order. Soon expedition leader John was on the PA system announcing that we would have time for a short swim, and then a cocktail hour at the castle up above. We boarded the Zodiacs and disembarked on the pebbly beach before hiking up the mountain. We were greeted with traditional flute music from the roof of the castle as we entered into the basement down below. The main path was lit with candles, although there were several dark corridors for brave souls to explore. The candles eventually led to a staircase and the roof where we enjoyed the local music and stories of Ali Pasha and this particular castle.

We were sad to leave, but it was windy and the captain wanted to get a head start north to our second stop of Albania. We got back to the Sea Cloud and showered. Afterwards we had another memorable dinner before heading up to listen to Peter play the piano into the Ionian night.

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About the Author

Alisha Kilgore

Assistant Expedition Leader

Born and raised in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, Alisha Kilgore has possessed an appetite for adventure from a young age. When she and her father weren’t backpacking or kayaking in the stunning mountain ranges around them, they were chasing the next adventure throughout Canada, the United States, or Mexico. The farther Alisha ventured from the Northwest, the more intrigued she became by the people and landscapes she encountered.

About the Photographer

José Calvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Nicknamed “Indio” (Indian) because of his powers of observation and quiet nature, José has almost two decades of experience working as a naturalist and photography guide; as well as being recognized as an expert birder and nature photographer in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity — over 893 bird species have been recorded in the country. Since very young José spent all of his free time in the outdoors in the forest, where he soon fell in love with the birds. He particularly enjoys listening to their calls, and watching their behavior. Oddly enough, another one of Jose’s passions is science and technology, and because of this, he was among the first in Costa Rica to experiment with digital photography. As the technology quickly improved so did his love for it.  He truly believes that nature photography is the perfect combination of both of his passions.

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