Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Saranda Again?

I suppose it's only natural that the resort town closest to Corfu has become the "it" destination for brave foreigners venturing into Albania for the first time.  Only 30-90 minutes away by ferry.  Marketed to bored Brits lounging on the beaches, looking for something to break up the routine.  "Day trip to Saranda and Butrint in the lawless wilds of Albania, mate?"  Hell, I'd plunk down a few bucks for that myself.

So it continues.  More and more tourists are plucking up their courage and taking the plunge.  The latest item to crop up on my screen came from the good folks at the LA Times. A very nice article.  If folks from LA like your beaches, you must be doing something right! 

The government seems to have gotten the message here and is in the process of moving all the commercial shipping traffic away from the tourist ferry terminal to the former Navy base on the north side of the peninsula.  Once that's gone, the pier will be extended 100 meters and the harbor dredged to allow cruise ships to dock directly on the quay.  Not soon enough!  I look forward to reading more articles from folks who have discovered this southern gateway to Albania.

Monday, February 1, 2010


One nice thing about living in a country that has a history of isolation and a geography that makes exploration problematic is the frequency of "new stuff."  Just when you think you are beginning to transition from outsider to seasoned local, somebody or something comes along to expose a new facet of the country that makes you do a mental double-take.  Discovering Byllis was the first of many of these moments for me.  It happened again last week.

Cruising, as I do, through the digital back alleys of Google-dom, I came across a story on sea turtle research that has been ongoing for a few years here.  Not only did I not know the research was in progress, I didn't know sea turtles even took the time to wander ashore in Albania.  Turns out over 250 of the little amphibians (reptile!) have been captured, tagged,  and logged.  Three of our lucky contestants were named and tracked via GPS.  Shpresa (Hope) stayed local.  The same goes for Guximtari (The Brave One) who couldn't muster the courage to paddle more than a few kilometers from his capture site.  The only turtle with real cojones was little Patok (named after the place he was tagged) who is currently kicking it in Corfu.  Probably talking smack to some Scandanavian tourist-turtle: "You are schweeeet!  Turtally, dude."

The other revelation from Albanian news was the discovery of some slightly slower-moving residents.  Glacially slow, in fact. A team of persistent "mountainologists" found four undiscovered glaciers in the northern reaches of the country.  None were named or tagged as you really don't need GPS to keep track of their wanderings.  The group from the University of Manchester was surprised to find these glaciers so far south in Europe and were quoted as saying, "I got your global warming right here, Al Gore!" 

Seriously.  Turtles.  Glaciers.  What next?  A missing link?  A Japanese solider who never got the message that WWII is over?  Lately, I wouldn't be surprised at all.  The more you unfold the creases of this country, the more it keeps suprising you.  I can hardly wait!