Monday, November 9, 2015
In Albania we visit world heritage site of Butrint
Butrint is a microcosm of Mediterranean history over a period of two thousand years from Hellenistic temple buildings of the 4th century BC to 19th century Ottoman defenses. According to mythology Buthrotum was founded by exiles fleeing the fall of Troy. On arrival, Priam's son Helenus sacrificed an ox, which struggled ashore wounded and died on the beach. This was seen as a good omen, and the place was named Buthrotum meaning "wounded ox." Virgil's epic poem The Aeneid, recounts Aeneas visiting Butrint on his way to Italy.
With the rise of the Roman Empire, Butrint expanded to become a flourishing Mediterranean city. We passed the Roman baths and entered the Romanized theatre. Here we were treated to a short concert by a man dressed in traditional Albanian garb who played several wind instruments. It was quite magical. These were and still are used mainly by the shepherds. The acoustics were excellent. In modern times the theatre has hosted many concerts. Julius Caesar and Augustus founded a colony here and the city was extended via a bridge and aqueduct, still visible, to the plain beyond. It was very special seeing the remains of temples, fountains, baths and funerary monuments. All of these were intermingled with trees and shrubbery, which made the site even more intriguing.
In 1081, the bay was the site of a battle between the Norman and Byzantine fleets and Butrint was seized by the Normans. In the 1300s Butrint was bought by the Venetians and for four hundred years it became a military post of Venetian Corfu. We stopped by one of the Venetian towers to visit the Butrint museum.
Refreshments were on offer for us at the adjacent hotel. It seemed a little surreal sitting at one of the outside tables with three or four Canadians discussing the Canadian election results after being transported through the history of Butrint.
Back at the yacht we were enjoying the sunshine while eying the nearby beaches. That was it. We grabbed our swimming gear and headed into town along the beach. There were a couple of locals swimming and we joined them in the still warm water. We were very happy to have an Albanian swim.
Our day ended with another odd meal in the ship's restaurant. Fish covered in a rich sauce, which I scraped off as the fish was lovely without it. I had ordered chips but without the truffle oil or Parmesan cheese that they were covered in. They tasted like they had been cooked in cheap or old oil. When asked how my meal was, I gave an honest reply prompting another meeting with the chef. How can we be in the Mediterranean where wonderful fresh food is plentiful and simply cooked eating all these strange concoctions? However, I didn't let this spoil my day. I loved our Albanian visit and wished we could have stayed longer.