After a welcome dinner in Era in Tirana on the 30th of July we left Tirana in the morning next day for Elbasan in a perfect new minivan, complete with air conditioning, cool water and a video screen, and visited the ethnographical museum. Some had lunch in the Kalaja of Elbasan, others just a drink. On the way to Berat we stopped at a village where we had coffee and raki in a family home. In the late afternoon we arrived in Berat and walked along the river at the Gorica (Orthodox) side to the center and settled in at Hotel Tomorri. Dinner was served at Hotel/Restaurant Mangalemi, run by Tomi Mio. As usual the food was excellent.
Next day we went for the citadel up the hill. The bus took us to the top and after a visit in the old citadel we walked down on the other side to visit the ethnographical museum. As it was Monday, the Onufri Museum in the citadel was closed as well as the ethnographical museum. In the afternoon we were the guests of a family living in the old Muslim quarter of town, Mangalem. Before leaving Berat for a country side trip the next day, we visited the ethnographical museum, bought meat, tomatoes, cheese and other things for a picnic near the Bogovë waterfall. Before reaching the waterfall some people decided not to cross the little stream, so part of the group stayed there to prepare the picnic. Others went along, but did not reach the waterfall as well.
On the 3rd of August we travelled on to Gjirokastër , took an excursion to Byllis, the old Illyrian town on our way and made a short stop at Tepëlenë, to take a look at the statue of Ali Pasha. Once in Gjirokastër from Hotel Kalemi in Lagjia Palorto in the old town we went to the restaurant Kelcyra on top of the hill. At the restaurant a polyphonic group of five men, Ansambl Argjiro, presented us songs in typical Lab style which ended up in dancing Pogonishte with them.
The second day in Gjirokastër we visited the Ethnographical museum, just one street down under the hotel, and continued to the citadel of Ali Pasha. Passing through a part of the weapons museum within the castle we moved to the festival site, on top of the castle. Every five years a 6 days folklore festival is taking place. The sign for 2009 was still there. After the visit everybody was free to explore the town. Late afternoon we gathered to leave for Libohova on the other side of the valley to have dinner there, under the 400 year old tree. Just before leaving we visited the Zekati house, one of the finest old houses, restored and well preserved, with the characteristic Gjirokastër two-tower architecture. At the end of the night in Libohova the lady of the house put on music and started dancing with the group around the big tree.
Next morning we started out for Sarandë to visit Butrint. On the way we visited the Blue Eye spring, Syri I Kaltër, a beautiful place where water comes up to the surface from miles deep in the ground, creating a dark blue “eye”. Passing through Sarandë, we went on to Butrint, the archaeological site on the most southern part of Albania along the coast, a centre where many cultures passed by from Illyrians and Greeks to Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Turks. Nearby is the palace of Ali Pasha.
After visiting Butrint some went for a swim at Ksamil.
On the last day of the roundtrip we left Butrint again for Tirana, having lunch on the way along the beautiful coastline at Llogara, the high pass and a short stop in Vlorë.