“Albania 🇦🇱 ~We Have a Departure Plan”

In addition to our good meal this evening, after having a so-so meal the night before, it felt celebratory for us! Sometimes it is the little things, which add up to big things.

Earlier, we had a bit of a challenge finding ATM’s around the city that worked. Sarandë is fairly good size, so this was surprising. The fourth one we tried decided to claim $400, but did not give me any cash (this happens more often than we like to deal with in our travels). AND, while in the subject, it pays to count your cash at each ATM withdrawals, because we have discovered we don’t always get the same amount dispensed, as our banks get charged! Thankfully, a call to our bank in the USA always resolves these issues, for which we are grateful! Whew!

Being within days of departing one country for another, it’s critical not to be left with any local currency, as it’s worthless anyplace else, even at “money exchanges.” Needing to figure out what monies we will need for bus tickets and/or a hired driver, and meals for the next few days, is a balancing act even time. Most less-traveled countries do not like to take credit card, especially during these slow times, and others places say they won’t take them at all. It is not like we know if businesses take credit cards in advance, so it gets tricky, as we go along.

In the end, I had to use some emergency US dollar funds we have on-hand, for just this purpose, and exchanged them for Euros. Euros are a much safer bet to have on-hand in this situation than extra Lek (local money), as Euro is accepted in non-EU Europe, too. This way, now we will have cash to fill the rental car with fuel, before returning it, as we know gas stations take cash, and we can eat and buy water.

It also worked out that the rental car company we used, who we enjoyed working with, will also drive us to the Macedonia border (4-5 hours), as a hired- driver option. There are no buses available from Sarande, and a shuttle company I found online, will not respond to my inquiry of driving us. If needed, we could have rented the car for another two days with an overnight hotel, plus pay the one-way pickup fee to drop the rental car in Durres; 4 hours to Durres from Saranda. Then, from Durres, (where buses are) we would still be another 3-4 hours on a bus, to the border from there. We do have the time in a lot of cases, but not always the patience, or desire.

So, tomorrow, on our last full day in Albania, it’s a play-day. No touring, but instead, some downtime, enjoying the beautiful beach and ocean, right at our hotel stay!

On Thursday, we get picked up in the AM at our hotel by the hired-driver, who will take us to the Macedonia border. Yay!

New adventures await, but if by chance we can’t cross the border in to Macedonia, by the time we arrive, we will remain in Albania, near Lake Ohrid. (Lake Ohrid is shared, by both Macedonia and Albania). It is a good plan to visit this location last, just in case we need a backup plan to await open borders.

“Winging it as we go,” is the new way of traveling!

Lake Ohrid is shown, between both countries
When we travel from Sarande to the border, after after Gjirokastër, it will be all new places we have not driven
Next country, God willing
European Map. Can you find Albania and Macedonia?

“Albania 🇦🇱 ~The Blue Eye of Muzine”

In a 30 minute drive, out of the seaside town of Sarande, is this incredible water source. I can honestly say I have seen clear water like this, before, but I have never seen these colors with the clarity, before. It’s a real natural wonder and a worthwhile trip to see, if you are ever in southern Albania. I was a bit mesmerised by the scene.

The walk to the Blue Eye from the parking lot takes less than five minutes. It is a popular site, and even during these times of scant tourists, it was a steady flow of people, all trying to get selfies at this incredible blue/green/turquoise water hole. We were in line, doing the same thing.

There use to be a concrete deck of sorts that overlooked the hole, but that has broken away, and now its a small area on the side of a hill where one stands to get the best view of the hole.

This Blue Eye is intense! As you look into the center of this pool, you will begin to understand where the place gets its name. The deep blue sapphire waters of the center form the pupil of the eye and are surrounded by the vibrant emerald greens, teals, and turquoise of the iris. The eyelashes are formed by the surrounding vegetation. The waters, though deep and blue, are so crystal clear that they reveal the rocks and vegetation at the bottom. The water maintains an “only for the brave” temperature of no more than 50fahrenheit.
The “Blue Eye” (called Syri I Kaltër in Albanian) is a water spring and primary source of water for the Bistrice River. It is a natural phenomenon occurring near the village of Muzinë in Finiq municipality, in southern Albania. A popular tourist attraction, the clear blue water of the river bubbles forth from a depth of more than 164 feet. This is only an estimated depth, though, since in 1984 the first dive of the spring was made, with no certain idea of just how deep the karst hole really is.
More specifically, it is a Vauclusian spring, which basically means it originates from a cave
It is said the Blue Eye was blocked off to the general population during the communist days, only to be enjoyed by the ruling party members. This is a testimony to the place’s stunning beauty and goes to explain the site’s high level of conservation.
Mr Terrific enjoying the cold water. It is always cold, no matter how hot it is, as far as outside temperatures go
Easy does it over the bridge. Notice the fix to the wear and tear. Yikes!

“Albania 🇦🇱 ~Back in Sarandë”

We arrived in Sarande this afternoon from Gjirokastër, with a climb over a mountain pass, then dropping back down into the Albanian Riviera. We had hoped to see the Director of UNESCO again, before we left, but the busy crowds, before we noticed she had arrived for the 50-year Anniversary celebration of the towns relics, drove us out, with such limited parking, and we were happy to be on our way, again.

We love our digs at the mistrial Beach Hotel with a view and free parking. We are ready to relax for the rest of the day, and enjoy a nice dinner, later.

Sarandë is a busy and trafficy seaside city. There are some pretty parts, though. We found such a place out fo the central part of the city. The restaurant is okay, just not enough tourists to warrant a full menu, so pasta, and pizza are available.

We have one more site to see, tomorrow, a bit out of town, before we head for Macedonia. (it’s not another castle) 😉 We also have to figure out our passage from here to Lake Ohrid In Macedonia 🇲🇰 Will this be by Bus? Shuttle? Hired car? We do not know as yet. We have to turn our rental car back in tomorrow. When we get to Macedonia, we will get another rental car, there.

We have a nice view from our room
A view of the other side of Sarande
There are many hotels open and ready to welcome visitors. We have this place to ourselves, as it is midweek. The weekends gets busier
We are now in Sarande. Very Southeast. This is the town we rented the car in, several weeks ago, and need to return it by the end of this week. We made a long and large loop all over Albania, and feel like we saw the best parts.