Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Along the Ionian Coast

Tirana International School had a three day weekend over the Easter holiday. A group of us piled into two cars and headed south to the beaches. The roads were windy and bumpy but the landscape was breathtaking.

Here's our group! We primarily hung out in vehicle groups. (Tracey's parents are here visiting from British Columbia.) Once again, we lucked out on drivers. Olti was very considerate and stopped whenever we saw a photo opportunity (or when I got car sick...)

Our Saturday destination was Dhermi. It is a very small beach town on the Ionian Sea. There were a handful of hotels and a small number of restaurant options. We found a hotel that fit our needs and was steps away from the sea. Here, you can see Travis hard at work on a drift wood structure. There are no sandy beaches so sandcastles are out of the question!
Vicky, Sarah's friend from Britain, said she's never seen sea cows before. Ha! Only in Albania.

Attempt 1,609,085 of trying to learn how to throw a Frisbee. It's a curse. Practice does NOT make perfect in this case. Travis did give me tips that helped a bit. I did have a great time playing a Frisbee game with Amy, Tracey, Travis, Lee and Vicky. Maybe, I'll keep trying. Maybe.

Tracey said, "Holly, how about an adventure?" I'm a fan of adventure. Her idea was to swim out to this rock, climb it and then jump down. Mission accomplished! It was simply hilarious because of course the rock was slimy and not a simple climb. There are more beaches south of Dhermi, which we will go to next year. The draw is that there are islands that you can swim out to!
Hale, hale, the gang's all here. Sarah's car was about 2 hours behind us on both Saturday and Sunday. We did all manage to get together for Saturday dinner. We enjoyed sea food overlooking the sea. I had a sea food pasta that was delicious. I even ate the calamari.
Sunday morning, we went out on this beach (which we had played on the day before) for our Easter service. It was one of the simplest Easter services ever! We kept it focused on scripture, prayer and songs... the essentials of a worshipful experience. After "church" we headed down to Saranda and Butrint!
We had a light Easter lunch in Saranda overlooking Korfu, Greece. Sigh. I don't think I can return to "normal" after this year.Another new favorite place!!!! Butrint is amazing. These ancient Roman ruins date back to 4 B.C. Butrint was a functioning colony up through the middle ages. Everything was incredibly well preserved. Amy read out of my Albania guide book, so we actually knew what we were looking at. It is a world heritage site and a must see for sure! These are the Roman bathhouses.
There were two gates with secret entrances. Here is the Epp family preparing to go down toward the gate.
All the world is a stage! The amphitheater is still in functioning order. They even have concerts there in the summer. We all took a turn performing. Here is Travis rehearsing a little tragedy.
Ah, the Lion Gate! I thought Travis was making fun of me when he said, "Oh look, it's Aslan," in a childlike voice. He wasn't, but that was exactly what I was thinking.
This is the Nymph Fountain. I thought it would be fun if we pretended to be nymphs, but I really wasn't seriously considering the possibility of climbing up the fountain. Tracey, on the other hand, is very good about carrying an idea to fruition. Hence, here is my very favorite picture of all! The ruins were all very accessible and were really a jungle gym for adults. The only exception was the baptistery which has a load of sand over an amazing mosaic. Unfortunately, funds haven't come in to expose the mosaic is a safe manner, so they just covered it up with sand.
I can't see wooden boats without thinking about my dad and taking a picture just for him. This is on the way up to the castle which also houses the artifacts museum. The museum is where we saw a picture of the baptistery mosaic.
Back to Saranda for Easter dinner! We walked around the water front looking for open restaurants. We finally found an amazing Italian place. It ended up being a gathering spot for about 4 families from T.I.S. Albania is a small, small land.
There was wisteria everywhere we went! It made me think of Westmont in springtime. Happy Easter to all! We live in a beautiful world.


Jennifer said...

Beautiful pictures Holly. I love the nymphs!! I'm glad you were with family, even though it wasn't 'us', you were with family. Remember, normal is what you make it.

Melinda aka Passionfruit said...

now THIS is what I call "something worth knowing"! What a lovely treat to read your wonderful blog! I think my favorite photo is the nymphs frolicking amongst the ruins. Where can I get a gig like that?! Seriously, I wish we were coming this year, perhaps next spring! It sounded like a beautiful Resurrection Sunday!