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Albania: Butrint

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Butrint | Albania | Europe

[Visited: August 2012]

After enjoying some relaxing hours on the beach of Ksamil, we headed a little further south, to Butrint, with plenty of time left to explore the ruins. When we arrived, it was still a little hot with harsh sunlight, so we decided to cross the Vivar strait by a small ferry; it allowed us an overview of the peninsula of Butrint as well as a closer look at the Venetian castle. Once inside, we decided for an anti-clockwise walk, building up our expectation for what we imagined would be the best part of the historic site: its very core. After passing a Venetian tower, we walked the clear trail to the east, where remains of the city walls easily presented themselves. Our first stop was the ruins of a large Roman palace, of which enough was left to get an impression of its grandeur - once upon a time.

Picture of Butrint (Albania): Looking down the marble amphitheatre, right in the middle of the historic ensemble of Butrint

While on our way, we studied the rich history of Butrint a little more. Originally founded between the 10th and 8th century BCE, some, like Virgil, claim that the founder was none other than Helenus, son of Priam, who had moved here after Troy had fallen. It has also been claimed by ancient historians that Aeneas himself visited Buthrotum, as it was then called, after Troy had been destroyed. Its location on the mainland, just opposite the island of Corfu, made Butrint of strategic importance. The Romans also set their eyes on it, and Caesar declared it a colony of Rome; it was subsequently further developed, with an aqueduct and more buildings; after the fall of the Roman empire, Butrint fell into many different hands, notably Venetian, Turkish, and French. Excavations in the 1930s and 1940s revealed a lot of what can still be seen today. Wherever we looked, and whatever we saw, the feeling of looking at a historic site ran deep.

Picture of Butrint (Albania): Detail of a stele lying on the floor of the ruins of what once was the gymnasium

Indeed, the baptistery, restored with columns standing on sand protecting the mosaics underneath, the ruins of the gymnasium where we did find some mosaics, a nymphaeum, the Great Basilica, and the massive defensive wall which looked impressive and led to the Lion Gate, all testified of the richness of the area. We walked through the museum in the Venetian castle on top of the hill of the peninsula on which Butrint can be found, knowing that the best was yet to come. The central area of Butrint contains the sanctuary and ruins of the temple of Asclepius, for which many traveled here to seek cure for their illnesses. The centrepiece of Butrint must be the amphiteatre, a marble semicircle where the floor is now partly flooded. Behind it, you can find the ruins of a Roman bath, the only place with a visible mosaic floor, the forum, and many more remains of ancient buildings. By now, the sun had disappeared behind the hill of Butrint, and it was time to go. Waiting for the bus, the sun was setting on the walls of the Venetian castle across the strait, where the small ferry was still being towed to and fro. We had thoroughly enjoyed our visit here to this well-organized place, with much less visitors than we had anticipated.

Picture of Butrint (Albania): Ruins of the baptistery; under the sand, a mosaic still lies
Picture of Butrint (Albania): Curved wall and pool at what once was the gymnasium
Picture of Butrint (Albania): Ruins of one of the many buildings in the heart of the complex at Butrint
Picture of Butrint (Albania): The Venetian castle opposite Butrint catching the last light of the day
Picture of Butrint (Albania): The Lion Gate with a lion attacking a bull carved out on the lintel
Picture of Butrint (Albania): Arched ruins of the Great Basilica of Butrint
Picture of Butrint (Albania): Mosaics in the niches of the ruins of what once was the gymnasium of Butrint
Picture of Butrint (Albania): A Roman palace once stood here; now only ruins remain of this impressive building
Picture of Butrint (Albania): The Venetian tower with some ruins at the entrance of Butrint
Picture of Butrint (Albania): Partly immersed ruins of the temple of Asclepius, god of healing, in the heart of Butrint
Picture of Butrint (Albania): The only mosaic floor visible at Butrint: it can be found in the former bath house
Picture of Butrint (Albania): Ruins of a house with atrium in the middle of Butrint
Picture of Butrint (Albania): The Venetian tower which can be found across the Vivar strait from Butrint

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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