With just a few days left to our trip to the Balkans, it was nice to have a day filled with some great sight-seeing but not so much driving. We left Vlora after breakfast and drove about a half hour to our first stop, the ruins of an ancient Greek city of which very little has been uncovered. After our visit we drove around an hour to our next and final stop of the day, Berat whose old town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.
While visiting both of these sites were really great, another highlight of our day occurred during lunch. A family was seated close to us and with them was their daugher, about a month or two younger than Lucas. Lucas decided to go over to say hi and he had a blast playing with her for the next hour or so!
Here are the places we visited:
- Apollonia Archaeological Park
- A fun lunch for Lucas
- Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
I was really excited for our visit to the Apollonia Archaeological Park. Soon after arriving we spotted this amazing temple ruin. I expected to see other things like it but this was by far the best thing we got to see. There were some columns, more like small stumps also layed out in some areas as well as pretty good remains of a small theater.
We followed the paths around but were a bit surprised to not see much else around the park. It turns out that excavating the site has been slow moving and only 10-15% of it has been uncovered! Based on what we saw, I could only imagine what else was waiting to be dug up.
An even more impressive part of our visit to Apollonia was the incredible museum. After being closed for a while, it reopened in 2011 with the helf of funding from UNESCO. The museum was probably the most modern that we visited during our trip. All of the objects on display were recovered at the site and the collection was impressive. There was a cabinet full of ancient coins, pottery of various colors with different designs, utensils and amazing statues- full bodies and heads like the one shown above.
The museum really completed our visit to Apollonia and made the stop well worth the time.
When we were almost done eating, another family came in with a little girl close to Lucas’ age. Lucas wasted no time heading over to say hello. The little girl was also very friendly and followed him back to our table. Lucas shared his bread with her and he eventually mooched a couple of french fries from her table. It turned out that the parents were from the Balkans- dad from Albania and mom from Bulgaria. While Lucas played with the little girl, Kim and I chatted with her parents. If not for this encounter, we probably would’ve left the restaurant an hour earlier.
Lucas blew some kisses to his new friend and then it was time to head out to go see the town.
It was really great to see Lucas have fun playing with someone close to his age during the trip.
The bulk of our visit to Berat was made up of a visit to the Kala- a castle mostly built in the 13th century. This area was really interesting due to the fact that people still live within the castle walls.
Getting to the castle is rough without a car. The road up is very narrow and steep. I couldn’t imagine walking this road every day. Luckily we got a ride!
Once we entered the castle (there is a fee to enter of around $1-2), many friendly residents are out trying to sell things in front of their homes.
We came across many interesting structures, some with homes or churches behind the walls. We visited one church which is the home of the Onufri Iconography Museum. The museum wasn’t huge but there was a good amount of art on display. We made our stop a quick one as I can’t say that I am a huge fan of this kind of art.
The homes appear to be stacked on top of each other due to being so closely built together. When you view them from far away, they almost appear to be one, huge mass opposed to lots of individual buildings. When you get up close you quickly see the differences.
Our hotel was located in one of these old homes offering only 3 or 4 rooms for rent. To get there you walk or drive up a narrow road and then turn onto an even narrower path before reaching the front gate. When I tried to see it from the road, I could not find it. It was either not visible or blended in with all of the other white homes with red roofs.
While Berat is a relatively small town, it was one of my favorites in Albania. The white homes made it stand out and are definitely what I will remember it for.
Keep checking back to find out about the last couple of days of our trip.
Check out my other Balkan Trip posts:
- Day 1- Belgrade, Serbia
- Day 2- Novi Sad, Serbia
- Day 3- Nis, Serbia
- Days 4 & 5- Skopje, Macedonia
- Day 6– Kosovo
- Days 7 & 8- Ohrid, Macedonia
- Day 9- Next Stop Albania
- Day 10- Korca to Gjirokaster
- Day 11- Gjirokaster to Butrint
- Day 12- Driving Along the Albanian Riviera
- Balkans Trip: Lucas finally gets an airline duck
- Balkans Trip: Some Local Menu Item at McDonald’s in Serbia