Gjirokaster, Albania

    Gjirokaster, Albania

    Thursday, August 10, 2023

    Leaving Alpeta winery and heading south, we stopped first at the site of Apollinia, an archaeological site on the way to Gjirokaster. It was great to be able to walk the site with few tourists and take our time. But travel days are hard, and kids have only so much attention, so we moved on. We got to Gjirokaster in the afternoon, and, after a scary drive up a cobbled street, we found our hotel conveniently located in the center of the city’s bazaar. It was a great place, though perhaps a little noisy at night for a family with kids. Still, the location was perfect. Sara dumped the car, we unloaded, and we found dinner in a little place up the street from the bazaar with great views and a wide range of traditional Albanian food. We went back to the hotel and listened to the thumping bass of the downstairs Irish bar until 11:30pm.

    The Museum at Apollinia The Museum at Apollinia Dad and Sam in front of the Odeon Getting some shade under an Olive Old walkway with porticoes Ancient olives Picking blackberries Driving to Gjirokaster The view from dinner Minaret Dinner with crazy boys Just walk away… Sunset view of the mountains Kids worried they’re not getting ice cream But we got it.

    Friday, August 11

    Breakfast was great, but we had an encounter with bees. The kids could barely focus, and were waving their cutlery at the bees to scare them away, but just succeeded in flinging sweet sticky breakfast cake soaked in honey all over the table. Guess what bees love? It was kinda miserable after that, as swarms of bees progressively took over our table.

    We did school in the morning on patio of the bar next to our room, then walked to a cafe halfway up to the castle. We came down afterwards instead of going to the castle just due to timing. We had some quiet time, then walked to the cold war bunker underneath the castle. It was a 30 minute tour, and we got to see a good portion of the bunker. Apparently some parts of it are in poor condition and have collapsed, but our section was “much stronger”. Still, neat to see evidence of Albania’s cold war past hasn’t all disappeared.

    We attempted the castle afterwards, but changed course at the gate after realizing that the kids were worn out. Saying it was “closing”, we moved on straight to dinner at a little restaurant at the top of the hill, rather than go back down. Again, a bit of a debacle. They turned on the music videos on a giant screen facing our table right after we sat down, so the kids were entranced and had a tough time finding their mouths with their forks. We also had to eat inside, which was a bit hotter and nowhere to escape with a misbehaving kid.

    One thing I will also say about Albania is that eating at a restaurant is a process. Dishes come out in ones and twos, and if you order a special dish, you should be prepared to wait 30-40 minutes. That’s not a problem, as many dishes come right away, but you have to plan for a full hour, which is not so easy to do with young kids.

    After dinner we walked to an aqueduct up the hill from our restaurant. It was a nice walk to do after dinner near dusk. Mom took Ben and Sam across, while I waited on the near side. I was not going to cross that bridge… My arms were able to span it’s width! Mom came back and brought Max over in her arms and once we were back on the same side then we all walked back to the hotel.

    After the kids went to bed we went out on the patio; we could see the door to our room, but could also sit and enjoy a drink. We met a nice couple and chatted with them until about 11:30…way too late! But still, it was fun and we don’t get enough of that.

    Looking out over the hotel deck toward the city. The old town of Gjirokaster Look at that slate tile roof! A view of the bazaar Brothers Waiting for the bunker tour Mom keeping the boys entertained Bunker tour…just going to close that door kids. The conference room Sammy in the Mayor’s bunker office Creepy hallway to a collapsed section of tunnel Kids Family photo Extra large apricot A view of the castle’s backside Hiking up to the aqueduct Hiking up to the aqueduct Mom and kids hiking up to the aqueduct A view of the valley Max and mom in front of the aqueduct

    Sara and Sam How narrow is that?! Sara and Max Dad having a heart attack Walking back down the hill The view of our door from the terrace.

    Saturday, August 12

    Our breakfast was much better this morning because the host put us a little away from where the beast were swimming. We finished our honey soaked cake first and set the dishes aside. By the end of breakfast they had 30 bees swarming around them!

    After breakfast we did some school. We then packed our bags in order to move rooms in the hotel and then finally walked up to the castle. The Castle houses a bunch of old artillery that Ben was interested in. Getting up to the top of the castle, there were sheer drop offs with very few guardrails, as well as an old section that had obviously been part of a prison in more modern times.

    We ate at the same place we had eaten on our first night in Gjirocaster. We tried a couple new things including the “big beans”…. They were very good and we “fought” over them.

    At dinner we ate near the bazaar and practiced various accents. Mom had the kids in stitches when trying to say “50 points from Gryffindor” in a Scottish accent.

    One of the hotel’s hosts with the kids Artillery display inside the castle Kids in the dungeon Walking out of the bowels of the castle View of the city from the top of the castle Exploring the castle ruins Peeking Old arched walkway Arches everywhere Looks like the prison yard Looking inside a cell Looking inside a cell Faimly photo from the top of the castle Playing with the kids in the prison/castle courtyard Kids, what kids? Keeping themselves busy making “potions” Keeping themselves busy making “potions” Big beans Big beans are a hit Brotherly love Fried trout Walking back to the hotel Sharing gelato Unsuccessful share Kids sharing fruit on the terrace Our hotel from below Kids in the evening We practiced our accents at dinner

    Sunday, August 13

    We ate breakfast, packed our bags, and said goodbye to our hosts at the hotel. The lady gave all the kids hugs. Sara drive out of the city a much easier way than we had come in on.