October 7-9, 2011: In Saranda, it dawned on me that I was no longer traveling in shoulder season, I was traveling out of season. While this got me a cut rate at the clean and comfortable Porto Eda, and peace and quiet at Butrint, it also meant that a lot of places had shut down for the season. The hotel seemed short on hot water (only available in the morning), but besides providing a good view from my balcony, it was just across the street from an actually open restaurant, where I ate a lot of pizza. The restaurant/cafe/bar was particularly useful when it rained, which it did a lot.
There didn’t seem to be much to Saranda, aside from hotels and apartments and (mostly closed) cafes, but I had really come to see the Roman ruins at Butrint. I took a very crowded mini-bus south to Butrint, passing a lot of unfinished – often, hardly started – buildings on the way. I lucked out with the weather, as the rain didn’t start again until I was safely ensconced under cover in the garden of the Hotel Livia waiting for the bus back. While lunch there wasn’t memorable, I did enjoy the tame rabbits hopping around the place.
I also enjoyed Butrint, sprawling over a wooded site by the water. I regretted missing out on the mosaics, covered with sand for protection, but appreciated the small Roman theater and Byzantine religious buildings. Even the small museum, locked until I turned up, kept me occupied for a while. My only complaint was that I got bitten! I’d had no problem with insects for so long, I wasn’t even carrying the Cortisone I use to cut the itching.
Aside from seeing Butrint, I mostly used Saranda as a place to rest and plan the remainder of my trip. I discovered I had a week less than I had thought initially, which simplified matters: I would skip Slovenia and northern Italy and go straight north through Bosnia to Hungary. I also decided, regretfully, to skip the Albanian coast. The reports on the scenery were very tempting, but one young couple I talked to said that their B&B had to open up for them, as it had already closed for the season, and given all the closed cafes in Saranda I was worried about getting fed. Plus, I could raise little enthusiasm for the 5:00 am bus I would have to take. Instead, I’d get up a bit later for the 8:00 am to the capital, Tirana.