Classical Tour of Albania
With a stop for a local Saturday market.
was another long and full day, driving from Gjirokastra to
Berat, visiting the two major sites of Byllis and Apollonia.
We drove north along the Drino valley with settlements along the base of the mountains. The river was very clear and blue, being fed by the limestone mountains. The valley gradually narrowed with less agricultural land. Mountain sides are rough grassland with scree. This is mainly a limestone area known for its lamb, cheese and yogurt. Small stalls selling honey and dried herbs lined the road.
We had a brief stop in Tepelene to admire the statue of Ali Pasha and take a photograph of the view with the Vjosa river. He built a fortress and a bridge across the river, which could be seen as we approached the town.
Progress beyond here was slow as the countryside is very arid and prone to landslides and long stretches of the road were undergoing repairs, although there didnít seem to be much work going on. Many of the fields are uncultivated.
We had a short stop at Krahes, busy with a typical Saturday market. Stalls were set along the road and sold everything from bales of hay, chickens, goats, Fruit and vegetables, clothes and shoes.
This is the centre of a fertile area and the government has helped the farmers with subsidies. It is flatter and small reservoirs were built during Communist times for irrigation during the summer months. Olives have been planted on the slopes.
Beyond here, a new road has been built as the old road from Greece to the coast via Hekal and the ancient site of Byllis is in poor condition. It is very rough and steep and runs along the side of the hill. Cafes built along the road have closed as pasising traffic has been lost. This is one of the poorest areas in Albania and many families are dependent on money sent home by relatives working in other countries. There was little unregulated development around here in the 1990s.
A new road has been built to Byllis in an attempt to encourage tourists.
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