We certainly can’t complain about where we are. Sarandë, Albania is absolutely beautiful! Every day we wake up to perfect weather, a magnificent view of blue sea, the southern Albanian coast, and the island of Corfu, Greece. There is a community of expats here and we’ve met some fantastic people. This is also one of the most affordable places we’ve stayed so far. We are seriously thinking of making this our base of operations for future travel. We’re not ready to do that just yet though. Right now our main priority is getting home and it’s not going to be easy.
The EU is not allowing in any US citizens, no matter where they’ve been during the quarantine, even if it’s just to change planes. So while we can see Greece, we can’t go there. We waited until July 1st to see if anything would open up, but it hasn’t. We’re hearing now things may open up July 15th. If not then August 1st perhaps? We’ve been constantly waiting 2 weeks at a time for months now.
While we wait, we have been enjoying our time in Sarandë. From the time we arrived, there have been no Covid restrictions. Some places are still closed, but they are places that only open up for the busy summer season anyways. The people who have been here all year said things were pretty normal during the lock down and the restrictions were not really enforced. I also haven’t seen a face mask since we left Tirana. There haven’t even been any cases of coronavirus in Sarandë, but I imagine that may change as some tourists slowly start to visit. Every weekend there are more & more people on the beaches and lounging by the pools. It’s still a very, very slow tourist season though and a lot of people and businesses are struggling.
Speaking of pools, there are salt water pools here, filled with water straight from the Ionian Sea. I spent a nice afternoon with a couple new friends lounging by one at a nearby hotel. The hotels will rent lounge chairs by the pool or beach to anyone for just a few dollars. It’s nice to have that opportunity. We were just about the only people at the pool though. The beach chairs were mostly empty too. It’s a little weird, but I’m not going to complain. I’ve seen photos of some of the beaches here mid season and they are packed!
We’ve spent quite a bit of time at American Blue, an education center / club house recently turned into a bar. This is where we’ve met a great group of expats and Albanians. Having a large community of friends has been great. From beach parties to boat trips to a table for 20 at Haxhi, one of the best restaurants in Sarandë, we have had such a great time.
The boat trip was an adventure. We fit as many people as possible in a rather small boat and headed north along the coast. The boat seemed small for the ocean, but it was a beautiful day with no wind so the sea was perfectly flat. There is a reason this area is called the Albanian Riviera. Steep rocky cliffs drop off into crystal blue water. Civilization disappeared as soon as we got away from town. Small coves with uninhabited beaches broke up the cliffs. Beaches you can only get to by boat (or donkey so I was told).
We pulled the boat up on Kroreza Beach. There we swam, jumped off rocks and lounged in the water. I found a mask and fins in our Airbnb and did some snorkeling too. Evangelo, our tour guide for the day, prepared us an amazing meal of fresh grilled seafood, chicken, and vegetables. We ate in the shade of a ruined stone building that was once a restaurant. On the way back we ran out of gas (too many people in the boat) but that just turned into another opportunity to go for a swim. It also wouldn’t be an Albanian adventure if something like that didn’t happen!
When we weren’t out having fun, we finished up some work projects, moved all our hosting clients to a new, more powerful server array, and made a plan for getting back to making games. While our motivation is finally back, things unfortunately have slowed down work wise. I guess it’s time for us to go back to the US. We’ve paid for our RV site for the summer so we really should be using it, plus my parents are anxious for us to get home and help them with some things.
We booked a ticket from Tirana to Belgrade, Serbia to JFK, and finally to Boston. We’ve heard other US citizens have successfully gotten home this way. All we can do is try.