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.