Hiking near the village of Shipska, Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Korca, Albania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Pogradec, Albania on May 12th!

Monday, April 19, 2021

The ruins at the ancient city of Butrint

Butrint is the amazing ancient city ruins site that you have probably never heard of. We are the first to admit that we had never heard of it either, until we started researching what we were going to do with our time here in Albania. Butrint is located in southern Albania near the border of Greece, and across from the Greek island of Corfu.

The original settlement of a Greek colony dates back to approximately 800 BC. Then in 44 AD, Julius Caesar himself visited Butrint and by 48 AD had declared Butrint a Roman colonial city.

A massive 4th century earthquake destroyed it, but it was rebuilt again by the Christians of the 5th and 6th centuries. It was inhabited by the Venetians in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Those of us from Canada and the U.S. have no concept of this kind of history. After all, it was only 550 years ago or so that Columbus "discovered" America! So obviously a civilization undergoes many changes over a period of 2,900 years!

After the fall of the Communist government here in 1990, Butrint was quickly given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1992.

On Sunday, Albania held their International Day of Monuments and Sites, and we purposely took advantage of the free entrance which normally costs 1,000 lek ($12 CAD, $9.75 USD) per person. This is an expensive entrance fee by Albanian standards, and we may not have gone if we had to pay full price. But now that we've been, we can honestly say that if you are a fan of ancient ruins, then it's worth paying full price.

We arrived at about 9:20am and spent a full three hours exploring. So there are lots of photos. Don't forget, you can click on any photo to make it full screen...

These RV'ers found an okay overnight spot.

This rig that had French plates was in the ruins parking lot by the ferry.
It was an even better spot.
GPS 39.743962, 20.018603

At 9:30am, even on free entrance day there was hardly anybody around. By noon, there were a few more people, but maybe only 15 or 20 cars in the parking lot when we departed. Very uncrowded!

At one of the old walls.



Much of it is unexcavated and in original condition.

Ruth, doing some exploring.

Seeing what there is to see.

And, it was a much nicer day than they had called for. It was supposed to be cloudy, but pleasant. Instead, there was hardly a cloud in the sky and it was a gorgeous sunny day!

Scenery along the way.



Lots of beautiful spring wildflowers out.

There was no sign explaining what this building was.

We found out later that it was some kind of cemetery.

Me, at the Lion Gate.

The Lion Gate obviously is named after the relief carving of a lion devouring the head of a bull over the entrance gate. The relief was not part of the original wall, but was placed here in the 5th century AD in order to reduce the size of the gate and make it easier to defend. The relief is actually from a temple building and may date from as early as the 6th century BC.

These are some old steps!

And that's an old wall!

A depiction of what it would have looked like almost 2,000 years ago.

Those are some big blocks of stone!
Notice the curved carving of the stones in the roof of the entrance.

A better view.

Julius Caesar might have walked through here.

Not sure what the purpose of this very narrow entrance would be.

Scenery along the way.

Butrint evolved into a Christian community by the 5th century, and they built a huge Basilica... appropriately called the Great Basilica of Butrint. They also built a complex Baptismal structure.

The Great Basilica of Butrint.

They built walls to last back then.

Ruth, showing you how big it is.

Us!

Ruth, reading one of the informational signboards.



The fountain.


And then we came to the Baptistry.

There's very little left of the structure of the building itself. However when they were doing excavation work in 1928, they uncovered the almost perfect remains of a very complete and detailed mosaic floor. It had remained intact due to being covered by silt for hundreds of years. 

However, in order to preserve the floor, they covered it back up. It is now only uncovered every few years for a limited period to allow public and scientific access.

The Baptistery as we saw it yesterday.

I found this photo online of what the 1,500 year old floor looks like.

Amazing!


There are a lot of frogs and turtles.
We've never heard such loud frogs!

Turtles enjoying the sun.

Wildflowers.

Eurasian Jay.

Fancy wall from the Roman occupation 4th century.

The Roman Forum part of town built and occupied between 50 BC to 400 AD.


Ruth, exploring!


We saw structures like this at one ruins site in Turkey.
Have not yet been able to figure out the purpose.

This entire Forum area was only excavated in 2005. 
Prior to that, most of it sat under 2 meters (6 feet) of soil.

Of course every ancient Roman community has to have a theater!

I expect that due to earthquakes the water table has changed over the years.

More turtles. 
They were sure funny to watch.





More turtles.

At the top of the hill, the Acropolis has changed several times, the most recent is when the Venetians had a settlement here in the 1500's. They built a castle at the top.

Ruth, and the Venetian Castle at Butrint.

View from Butrint Castle.




This triangular fortress was also built by the Venetians in the 1500's.

We decided to take the ferry across the channel. Yes, the old cable ferry that we showed you yesterday.

There were no signs on this side of the channel as to what it cost. It was only about a three minute crossing, so we figured maybe that it was free. So we crossed over, and when we drove off, the ferryman stood there and pointed to the sign on the other side... 700 lek, or 5 euros. Of course they use the euro in Greece, and we were very close to the border. We would have been better off using euros, but we didn't have any! So it cost 700 lek ($8.50 CAD, $6.80 USD) for that short little boat ride.

Oh well. It meant that we could take a different route back to Saranda, and actually it was quite pretty and with very little traffic.

Scenery along the way.

It's a very pretty area.

So, that was another great day in Albania. What did you think of the ruins?

Today, it's supposed to alternate between sun, clouds, and rain all day. So it might be a good day to do our tax return that is due April 30th. But I read that the Canadian government is waffling on whether or not you actually have to pay your taxes by the 30th, so while I might get the return completed beforehand, I won't file it until the end of the month, and may or may not have to actually pay it at that time. 

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22 comments:

  1. Seems like that site could use a little more signage. Too bad that beautiful floor was covered up.

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    1. Actually there was quite a bit of signage around but that one area by Lion's Gate with the cemetery/necropolis wasn't and it definitely would have been helpful. I did some research on it when we got home because it looked like it might have been used as a burial site but apparently that wasn't it original function when it was first built only centuries later was it used as a burial site.

      It was a real shame that is was covered up but I guess if it protects from the flooding that can happen in the area then maybe it is worth it, except that not many people ever get the chance to enjoy it. It's sort of a double edged sword in that regard!

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  2. If I didn’t know better; I would have guessed the pictures were old pictures from when you were in Turkey.

    $8.50 OUCH!

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    1. It did remind us of some of the ruins that we saw in Turkey but it was still very different as well. We really enjoyed how there was still so much left in it's original state and that there is still so much that hasn't even be unearthed yet.

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  3. Wow! You guys find such great ruins - even at $10 IMO. I wonder if that structure with the round pillars & flat "roof" was a granary? Your photo reminded me of the hórreos you see in Galicia & Asturias in NW Spain. If so, the top structure would have been wood to allow for ventilation for drying & storing grain crops & that could be why that part of it hadn't survived. Apparently, the rounded column stones discourage rodents from climbing up. Per wiki's page on hórreos, similar granary structures are found in the Balkans & Turkey, so maybe it's a possibility at least?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yep, it would definitely had been worth the $8.50 each but luckily if was a free day and we didn't have to pay. It really is hard sometimes knowing whether the entrance fee is worth the visit or not because we have been to some places where it isn't. For many Albanians 1,000 lek is a lot of money, we thought that they may have got a discount but they don't.

      One thing that Kevin didn't mention in that photo, is that it was taken at the Roman baths. I did a little further digging into it and found out that it is the space under the pools where the hot air from the furnaces would pass through to heat the water. In fact through my research I actually came across a photo from the Butrint site, almost the same as ours, lol. https://www.worldhistory.org/Roman_Baths/

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    2. It would have been better had I done that before Kevin wrote the blog post, lol!

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  4. Hard to tell with the structure but could possibly be for underfloor heating??? The flat roof is possibly the floor?? Beautiful area yet again.

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    1. You are absolutely correct Helen! Kevin and not mentioned that the photo was taken in the Roman baths and of course with you so close to the Roman baths in Bath, you would have known right away. I had just finished reading up about it on the internet when your comment came through. :-)

      The area is beautiful but I think our next destination is going to be even more beautiful!

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  5. Don’t pay the ferryman, don’t even fix a price. Don’t pay the ferryman until he gets you to the other side.

    Your post reminded of this song. Great pictures!!!

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    1. Chris de Burgh is one of our 1980's favorites. We went to see him in concert a couple of times. Did you know that his daughter was crowned Miss World in 2003? And he's just a little guy and his daughter is 5'10".

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  6. Like you said you never know if visiting ruins, museums or galleries will be worth your while but it seems that you really got lucky on a free day. Lots of history through different eras. That floor was amazing.
    Be Safe and Enjoy your next adventure.

    It's about time.

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    1. The only thing you can do to help decide if the entry fee is worth it, is to check it out online and see some of the pictures and also check the reviews, both good and bad but even then it all comes down to personal opinions and one persons opinion is different from another. We were lucky to be there for the free admissions day but like we said after seeing the site, it was definitely worth the price of admission.

      The picture of the floor looked amazing, such a shame that we weren't there when the floor was uncovered so that we could have had a nice look at it ourselves but we do understand that it needs to be protected to. It is a bit of catch 22 though because what is the point of protecting such a beautiful floor if know gets to see it, or very rarely gets see it!

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  7. The Quyon Ferry is up to $9.50 now. Wasn't it $5 for ages?

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    1. Bah... yes we noticed that last time we were there. Actually, I think it's been $9.50 for a couple of years now.

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  8. Replies
    1. It certainly was! We enjoyed our three hours poking around and exploring the entire site. :-)

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  9. Wow, ruins, history, and nature all in one blog post. Magnificent! The architecture is incredible.

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    1. It was a great site and a great day, what a enjoyable day we had. We still have such a hard time trying to figure out how they built things like this back then without having the tools that we have now, it really is amazing and they stood to last a good long time!

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  10. That castle was a so cool! And that's good that you didn't have to pay! Take care, Rawn

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    1. The castle and ruins were wonderful and yes, it was even better because we were there on a free day. :-)

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