Butrint, Albania

Jun 14, 2018 - Sea Cloud

The sun rose over the mountains of Albania at 5:15AM. The lushly green Greek isle of Corfu is only 2½ miles from the Albanian mainland. We docked in small commercial port city of Sarandë and boarded buses for our trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site of ancient Butrint. Albania was off limits to visitors for almost half a century and isolated from the world by the oppressive communist paranoid dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. The residue of those years was apparent as we drove along the roads with many half finished buildings. Today the average annual salary is about three thousand dollars a year with approximately 15% unemployment – primary school teachers make $2000 per year. The best five star hotel in Sarandë is less than $100 per day. 

We arrived at the beautiful ancient city of Butrint and walked allover its precincts. The Italians, under Mussolini’s direction and led by the distinguished archaeologist Luigi Ugolino, undertook the excavations here in the late 1920s. The layers of architectural history revealed are stunning, from the 4th century Hellenistic BC structures, to the 16th century Venetian castle. The Greek theatre is surely one of the most impressive sites as it is cut into the hillside, has quite good acoustics and originally sat 2500 in the audience. The 6th century Byzantine baptistery has the most wonderful mosaic floor and immersion baptismal font. Unfortunately, it was covered today. Much of the ancient city is at sea level and is threatened by rising sea levels. We pushed on and reached the Venetian fortress on the acropolis and a very good museum at the top of the hill, supported in part by American funding. 

After lunch Tom Heffernan gave a lecture on Homer and our next port of call, Ithaca. After Tom’s talk we were most fortunate today as the wind dropped to two knots and we were able to board Zodiacs and motor around the beautiful Sea Cloud under sail. What photos we got! 

At 6:15 PM Tom O’Brien gave a most informative talk on the extraordinary history of Sea Cloud from its inception in Ed Hutton’s imagination, until today. We were then invited to have champagne and caviar and visit the original staterooms, most with working fireplaces!  We had cocktails in the beautiful evening sunshine and a barbecue dinner on the Lido at 7:30 PM. What a wonderfully full day. Tonight we sail on to Durres and the capital of Albania, Tirana.

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About the Author

Tom Heffernan


Tom, a native of New York City, who has had a life-long passion for travel and exploration, is the Kenneth Curry Professor of Humanities at the University of Tennessee and the founding Director of the university’s Humanities Center. His areas of interest are anthropology of religions and historical linguistics.

About the Photographer

Lauren Buchholz

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Lauren’s wanderlust has taken her from the Appalachians to the Rockies to the Southern Alps.

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