Gjirokaster And Beyond

Sotira Farm to Gjirokaster

We rode out of the quiet farming areas and valleys yesterday, to arrive at a real city with real hotels that have real shower screens and real full size towels. Our last abode was quite light on in the towel department, just having one bath towel, complete with holes, and one largish hand towel. What it lacked in amenities it made up for in views. But everywhere we go has the best food.

When we reached Gjirokaster, we joined the group for a tour of an early 18th century house and the city fortress. This involved walking up cobblestone streets. It is not for nothing that the town is known as the city of a thousand steps. Not really what you want to do after a 70km ride. Although any excuse for a drink with the team. Our Danish friends found a wine bar for a pre dinner drink.


Another river valley today, if anything better than the previous day. The water in the river was slightly white as a result of the limestone through which it flows.


Some of our group riding out after a morning coffee stop in the middle of nowhere. Don't ask me how they manage to make any money when they charge 1 euro for a espresso and they have built a huge cafe on the edge of a high river bank. Brenda may have told you already that Albania has more coffee shops per capita than ony other country. Wierdly not many of them sell pastries as well. I can't figure that out.


The "Old Man's Seat" in the Skenduli House where all the old men of the family would sit in the summer time. The house was built hundreds of years ago and it has been in continuous possession of the Skenduli family, apart from when the communists took it over for a few years. The guide for the visit was a family member.


The southern side of the three storey house.


Then up about 500 steps to the Gjirokaster Fort. This is a huge fort built by successive conquerers of Albania


The hall of cannons.... or was that weapons. (too many ruins over the past few weeks)


Our fellow cyclists in tourist mode.


Albanians are breaking their necks to get into the European Union. Most people will accept euros as payment instead of leks (ALL)

Gjirokaster to Sarande

Today, Friday 13th, nothing bad happened. We had an easy ride to our lunch destination on the coast. We had delicious seafood, and then a tour of the ancient ruins nearby, which took 90 minutes with a guide. Had the group known what a delightful hotel we were to stay in that night, we would have by-passed the ruins and ridden straight here. It is a new building constructed right by the sea. In fact you can dive into the sea from the bar. Apart from a superb location, it has fluffy towels, and plenty of them. 

Ray decided that he had had enough of going slow, and after the ruins tour he set off at a cracking pace for our destination. He passed our guide, and I was afraid he would miss the turn for our hotel. Our poor guide had to chase after him up some good hills, where he enventually steered him in the right direction. We arrived in Saranda just about on sunset over the Ionian Sea, looking out to Corfu. 

Only two more days on the ride. One of the group, Natalie from Belgium, decided to have a rest day today. She accompanied our van driver. Tomorrow, Zane from Texas, has decided to have a day off. This is his first big bike ride and he is feeling it, especially on a normal bike. He is going to stay at the hotel and catch a taxi later in the day to our next seaside resort. Meanwhile, the rest of us just keep plodding along.


We are going to reach the coast today. Way off in the distance we might or might not be able to see the sea. The lake in the foreground is actually connected to the sea although I think the connection was man made.


Part of the World Heritage ruins is this fort which was built by the Venetians. We've seen a lot of ruins so i started to go to sleep.


We have to catch a ferry to the other side of the river to see the main ruins, which momentarily sparked me up a little.


Until the heiroglyphics.... zzzzzz


To prevent myself from going to sleep on the final leg of the ride, I told Brenda to switch on the electric bike she was riding and follow me. She chickened out when i passed the leading riders, but we eventually ended up here anyway.


Sunset at Sarande


Nightime at Sarande. Not quite what i was expecting from Albania.

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