It all started when my friends from Delta Tours, a great Bulgarian travel agency invited me to be their guide-photographer for a promising Balkan photo-travel with a bus and a small group of about 20 people, all dedicated to our favorite Eight Art ;) I was thrilled to go to Albania and Greece again, this time in a different month and season so I was sure that apart from the new friends I will also find new beautiful places and I am going to make good photos.
The trip started in Sofia, late in the night and after few hours with our bus we woke up by the waters of the beautiful Pamvotida lake near the small and cozy town of Ioannina in Greece.
I want to note that at 6 A.M. even before the morning cup of coffee, there you could already see that most of the people are smiling. That's the spirit!
Fogs in Greece aren't common. We enjoyed the mystical morning landscapes...
The calm waters of the lake so early in the morning were like a mirror you could see your soul in...
We had to wait so it's 9:00 A.M. when the first ferryboat line opens to a small island also called Ioannina where I have not been before. So went to look for an open cafeteria. Check out few city photos below:
(Self portrait, of course!)
Lovely store front, isn't it? ;)
Finally we jumped on the ferry ;)
There was, of course, a lot to photograph and enjoy!
The island of Ioannina is a very small one but you should definitely visit it! The ferry ticket is only 2 EUR and since on the island there are no hotels it is very calm and quiet, especially in the morning. It would take two, probably three hours max to walk it all and enjoy the local food in one of the taverns. All the dishes we tried were very delicious!
The church on the island is very interesting and beautiful, a must-visit as well!
It was time to return to the mainland and continue our ride towards Albania. We had to hurry because crossing a border of a non-EU country could take a lot of time. Or not. It's just unpredictable sometimes.
It was great that we crossed the Albanian border with no troubles and after few hours we checked in to our hotel in Saranda, our place to rest for the next three nights. That same evening we went to the top of the nearby mountain to meet the sunset. There is a medieval castle with part of it turned into a restaurant. The views from the observation deck there are breathtaking!
If it wasn't for that cell tower, the landscape photography would be absolutely perfect from there! ;) But still, we enjoyed a lot that evening! Back to the hotel as our schedule for the next morning was full. Of course!
The plan for the next day was to visit and take photos at:
- The Blue Eye - a very famous river source in the mountains... The water is amazingly clear, turquoise...
- Butrint national park
- Ksamil, the Albanian Bali ;)
After short ride we arrived at The Blue Eye.
When looked right from above, it really looks like an eye. As the water velocity and debit is huge here, no diver has managed so far to go to the bottom, if course if such one even exists. But they say the depth is at least 70 meters. Probably lots of caves under the ground...
The surround area is also beautiful:
The sign says jumping is prohibited but we saw a young Albanian jumping from it trying to impress his lovely girlfriend. But she got angry at him instead! :D
The place is also well known for its blue dragonflies... Amazing creatures and of course I spent some time photographing them :)
On the way to Butrint there is a place to stop with a small observation deck:
That's part of what you see from there:
If you notice, it's a crossing point of the river. I don't know how to call it but I am sure it's fun to get to the other side with it :)
Butrint is a place full of history and I strongly suggest you spend at least half a day when you go to Albania.
Our last stop for the day... The heavenly place called Ksamil. Beaches with white sand and crystal water, small taverns with great food. Ah, don't forget to try there one of the most famous Albanian deserts, called "Treleche". The etymology of the word as you may guess comes from "three milks". Three layers of delight, but let me not ruin the surprise when you taste it!
We spent some relax-time here, waiting for the sunset. With part of the group, we created some portraits using the golden light...
Interesting details here was also that the showers were built virtually in the sea.
We said goodbye to the warm spring Sun and went back to Saranda for the night...
The next day was very exciting - ferry to Corfu, Kerkira, Greece and then back to Albania in the evening. Crossing, again, two borders, this time crossing the sea! Yey!
The surprising part was the speed ferry that took us to Corfu only in about an hour. It was an old diesel-driven noisy boat but the average speed was 60 km/h!
Finally at Corfu!
In my experience, there are few things one should do there - go to the castle (amazing views), get lost in the narrow Venetian streets and pathways downtown, try ice-cream with kumquat (it is vitally important you do that as I tried to find such ice-cream in other parts of Greece and Italy, and Spain - no luck. I promise it is divine!), go to the small islands with churches - Vlaherna and the Mouse Island and finally, go to the point on the walkway where the landing airplanes pass right above you. This adrenaline point is very close to the "church islands".
Someone couldn't take eyes off the captain :D
Wedding preparations at the church at the Mouse Island
And here's the passage-under-the-landings-airplanes in case you wonder why those people wait here :)
If you aren't in the mood for churches or are just too hungry, you could eat and enjoy the views to the islands and watch the passing airplanes...
The afternoon came too fast, and here we are on the ferry back to Albania. This time - a regular one, so instead of one hour, it took us three instead!
Time flies faster with friends, isn't it? ;)
Last night in Saranda and last stop on the next day to a beautiful Greek mountain village called Metsovo. Ski resort in the short Greek winter, as it appears. Lovely green and Balkan architecture could be enjoyed in the other seasons...
Finally, one last group-self-portrait using my mini-tripod before we head back to Sofia, arriving very late in the night, exhausted but happy!
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