Sarande & Butrindt

Aug 25, 2019 - Sea Cloud


After a calm breakfast at anchor in the port of Sarande, guests set out with our guides Shpressa and Loreta for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint. The site has only been partially excavated, and there was a palpable tension between the ruins and nature in the form of an almost jungle-like overgrowth of flora and the gradual encroachment of the brackish waters from Lake Butrint and the Ionian Sea. Butrint could serve as a textbook for archeology students: a Greek theater, Roman baths, Byzantine basilica, and a Venetian fortress on top of what had been the acropolis. The difference in construction type and materials is fascinating as each civilization added to the wealth of this site so important for trade, healing, and worship. Until more funding is available for preservation, the magnificent mosaic floors remain covered in sand, but pictures of them are on display in the small but comprehensive museum.

After lunch, some went for a walk along the seaside promenade, others read or played cards, and still others opted to nap. In the afternoon, ship historian Rebecca Ingram gave a presentation on the Ottomans in the Balkans to prepare us for the upcoming days in Albania. Afterward, there was a swim call for those who needed a refresher after the warm morning in Butrint.

Later on, we enjoyed a cocktail party at the Ali Pasha Castle with panoramic views of the Albanian countryside, Butrindt Lake, and Corfu. Vendim, a world-renowned flute player, serenaded us with traditional Albanian melodies, haunting and lyrical. Photographers took advantage of the view while some more adventurous folks walked down the road to photograph the infamous bunkers and a flock of goats grazing nearby.

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About the Author

Grace Fielder

National Geographic Staff

Historian Grace Fielder is a National Geographic expert on the history, culture, and languages of the Dalmatian coast. She holds a PhD from University of California, Los Angeles and is a professor of Balkan and south Slavic linguistics at the University of Arizona. Grace taught at the the University of Virginia from 1983-1992, before moving to the University of Arizona in 1992. Since 2000 Grace has served on the National Policy Advisory Committee, Slavic and East European Language Resource Center at Duke University / University of North Carolina, and she has been the Chair of the Discipline Advisory Committee for the Fulbright Program. She has held grants from IREX and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences for research in Bulgaria, as well as an ACLS postdoctoral grant.

About the Photographer

Max Seigal

Max Seigal

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Max Seigal grew up in beautiful Boulder, Colorado, and spent his early years working at his parent’s veterinary clinic, which sparked his love for animals. At a young age, Max fell in love with conservation and travel. He studied abroad in both Costa Rica and the Bahamas during high school, and went on to graduate summa cum laude from Ohio Wesleyan University with degrees in environmental science, zoology, and economics.

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