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.
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.
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.
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.