Our return to Lin, Albania

On the Albanian shore of Lake Ohrid lies the small village of Lin. The village is situated below a massive rock formation which juts out a few hundred meters into Ohird and the lake shore. At the very end of this great rock sit two communist-era bunkers erected by the Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha.

Three years ago, we stopped at Lin and were lucky to have some local children as our guides.  On our return, we sought out the same children who gave us such a memorable tour the first time through and took them out to dinner at a local restaurant as a thank  you.

Here we are sitting on top of the bunker over Ohrid. Residents have convereted this particular bunker into a shrine and the children asked that we place some coins there for good luck.

Lin, Albania

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Ksamil Beach in Southern Albania

Ksamil is a small coastal village 15 minutes south of Sarande and just north of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Butrinti. There are a number of small hotels and restaurants on the mainland all serving fresh fish from the local waters. Three are also four small islands you can easily swim to (or hitch a cheap boat ride to) which each have small bars where you can get a drink. A beautiful little oasis with a lot of potential.

See the full size panorama here.


Swimming in Syri i Kalter (The Blue Eye)

Swimming in Syri i Kalter

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Syri i kalter is a natural spring believed to be fed by Ioanina lake in Greece. Divers have not yet been able to touch the end. The name is said to come from a sound engineer who worked for some years in the nearby hydropower station, and compared the spring with the blue eyes of his fiancée.

I’d been here once before three years prior and told my Kejda that I wanted to swim in it the next time. Of course, she thought that was crazy. We made it back late in the afternoon, on September 4, 2009. The sun was setting and the colors were not as brilliant as before, but the spot was still beautiful. I setup the gigapan and quickly stripped down to my shorts, standing on the shore line while my wife watched carefully the direction of the Gigapan robot. One her cue, I dove in and felt a cold shock the likes of which I’d never felt — and probably will avoid in the future. I started swimming furiously across the short distance, but my muscles had to work much harder than I expected and it seemed to take a while to get to the other side. Exhilerating but pretty scary too.

In order to get in this shot, I had to time it perfectly. I wasn’t sure the gigapan was going to capture me and was very pleased to see that it did.

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Hotel Liro in Vlore, Albania

Hotel Liro

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Nestled into the cliffs overlooking the Ionian Sea, Hotel Liro in Vlore, Albania is a rare experience. Offering balconies almost straight above the clear, cool, transparent Mediterranean waters. the hotel offers free use of kayaks, canoes, a pool, scuba, and various water sporting equipment. The restaurant and espresso bar are pricey by Albanian standards, which means, for only $15 a person, you can eat an excellent meal with two appetizers, a main course, and beer or wine. The private beach below is made up of smooth rocks, but I suggest aqua socks or sandals. What I love about the Ionian Sea is that just a few steps out from the shore and you are above your heads (a haven for cliff-divers). You can literally dive into the ocean from the shore.

Three years ago we stayed in Vlore at a hotel above the cliffs where Liro sites — we didn’t see even the hotel until after we had checked in at the other hotel. We vowed to stay at Liro on our next trip and this time we spent three days and nights and we loved every minute of it (September 1 to September 3).

Vlora beach in southwestern AlbaniaThe city of Vlora, known also as Vlonë, or Valona is located in the southwest of Albania, with a population of 61,300 inhabitants. It is in front of Karaburuni peninsula and Sazani Island, close to various sandy and rocky beaches and the scenic mountains. Vlora is Albania’s second largest port, having regular ferry boat connections with Italian ports of Bari and Brindisi. The city is rapidly expanding with massive hotel developments. The downtown coastal region is literally starting to look like Miami — I kid you not. Vlore and Hotel Liro is a must visit if you find yourself visiting Albania.

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