The ferry from Corfu to Saranda – what you need to know

Hydrofoil Kristi - Saranda port

Hydrofoil Kristi – Saranda port

One of the best ways into Albania is via the ferry from Corfu to Saranda in southern Albania. What follows is the practical information of what you need to know to make that process easy and – hopefully – trouble free.

I’ve been to Albania three times now, so far, and each time via Corfu. The first time I arrived late at night and was expecting to leave on the ferry the next morning. That was thwarted due to an annual safety check on the hydrofoil (so I was told though I heard a different story in Saranda) which meant there was no departure for three days. The second time everything went as it should and the journey was made much easier due to my previous experience. What surprised me the most was there was no way I could find detailed information about the logistics of getting across a relatively narrow stretch of water. This posting is an attempt to give an as up to date and accurate step by step approach to getting from one country to another as is possible.

Where you buy your tickets depends upon the time of year. During the high season, when there is more than one sailing a day, there is a kiosk just inside the main New Port entrance, to the left backing on to the main road. However, outside of the months of June to September tickets are only sold in the company’s office.

This is the head office of Ionian Cruises. That’s a grand title but it’s based in small shop facing the Domestic Terminal building, which also houses the biggest café in the area (as well as a left luggage office) on the road that runs parallel to the sea. There is a small sign indicating that they sell tickets to Albania (in English).

All the details I’ve been able to collect are as follows:

Ionian Cruises – Petrakis Lines, 4, Ethnikis Antistaseos, 49100 Corfu, Hellas.

(The website has improved significantly since I first published this post. Any additional information will more than likely be found there, e.g., vehicle tariffs.) 

Tel. : +0030 26610 38690, 31649, 25155

Fax : +0030 26610 38787, 26555

The office is open from 08.00 and the people who work in there speak English, which makes life easier for some of us non-Greek speakers.

Fast Ferry – Hydrofoil

You need your passport and you MUST buy a ticket before going to the boat. As of April 2018 the adult cost is  €19 each way in the low season. The cost increases to €23.80 from mid-June to mid-September. Children go for half price. Departure Times (all year) are at 09.00, but with 2 or 3 extra sailings from the middle of June to the middle of September. Check the website for times when you want to travel. The latest sailing from Corfu is 18.30. Apart from possible disruption due to the weather or mechanical issues the ferry should run every day of the year. There is now a facility to book and pay online

The hydrofoil leaves from the top end of the new port. This means that after buying your ticket in the office you have to get to the main entrance to the Port of Corfu which is about 400m along the road, heading northwards out of Corfu town. Once through the main gates turn left and head to the New Passenger Terminal, the sandy coloured building about a 100m away. Here you will get your passport and ticket checked. There is also a small Duty Free shop but few other facilities.

Duration of journey: 30 minutes.

Once on board leave your bag at your seat (or at the luggage store by the entrance) and go right to the back of the boat and get a sensation of speed without being blinded by the spray that obscures any sightseeing from the cabin. The boats are Kristi, Santa and Santa III, Komet class hydrofoils, not that young any more but still up to the task in hand.

Remember to put your watches/time pieces forward one hour when landing on Albanian soil (you effectively arrive before you have left!).

Car Ferry

A ferry taking vehicles is also now an option. From 16th May till 25th October there’s a departure from Corfu at 19.00. There’s an extra ferry between 1st July until 25th October at 13.00. From Saranda the departures during the same dates are 10.30 and 16.00 (local time). Costs are too complex to list here but all are on the website.

Duration of journey: 70 minutes.

These times and prices are valid for 2019.

There are no visa requirements for citizens of the European Union, citizens of other countries should check first. Passport formalities are remarkably innocuous on entering (or leaving) Albania. The passport will be scanned and recorded on the immigration service computer. You normally get a stamp in your passport if arriving or leaving by boat but this is not always the case at land borders. The lack of a stamp took me by surprise the first time I entered by land, from Greece, but later learnt that this is common and you shouldn’t be concerned if there is no entry stamp.

Once you leave passport/customs control you might well be approached by Tomi. He’s an English-speaking Albanian who runs a basic hostel less than 100m from the port entrance. If you are new to the country, want to meet other foreign visitors to pick their brains about what/when/where the hostel is a good place for all of this. Tomi also is a mine of information and if he doesn’t know the answers will almost certainly know someone who does. If you miss him you can call his mobile, +355694345426.

Another good place to check out is the Dolphin Hostel, located at 168, Rruga Lefter Talo. This is just above the street Rruga Flamurit, which is effectively Saranda’s interurban bus station.

The ticket office to get tickets to Corfu is in the building on the main road, directly above the dock. The name over the office is Finikas Lines. Sailings from Saranda vary depending upon time of year. There’s always at least one a day but there are extra sailings in the peak season. Check the link above for exact sailing details.

Recommendations

So now you’ve arrived in Albania (hopefully without too many problems) what do you do? If the beach is your thing then I don’t have a lot to say. Enjoy it but when you get bored with the sun I suggest you consider some – or all! – of the following attractions. Click on the image to be taken to the post.

Five Heroes of Vig - Skhoder

Five Heroes of Vig – Skhoder

 

Butrint

Butrint – a Greek and Roman story in Southern Albania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albanian Town Planning - drastic measures taken

Albanian Town Planning – drastic measures taken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother Albania Expelling The Priest and The Monarchy

Mother Albania Expelling The Priest and The Monarch

No, Vladimir Ilyich and Uncle Joe, you shall not go to the ball

No, Vladimir Ilyich and Uncle Joe, you shall not go to the ball

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Martyrs' Cemetery - Tirana

National Martyrs’ Cemetery – Tirana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting Enver Hoxha' Grave in Tirana

Visiting Enver Hoxha’ Grave in Tirana

 

 

Anti-Communist paintings in the Franciscan church in Skhoder

Anti-Communist paintings in the Franciscan church in Skhoder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Komani Lake - The most impressive ferry trip in Europe?

Komani Lake – The most impressive ferry trip in Europe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'The Albanians' Mosaic on the National Historical Museum, Tirana

‘The Albanians’ Mosaic on the National Historical Museum, Tirana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dordolec, the 'evil eye' and superstition in Albania

The dordolec, the ‘evil eye’ and superstition in Albania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resurrection of Christ Greek Orthodox Cathedral - Tirana

Resurrection of Christ Greek Orthodox Cathedral – Tirana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tirana

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tirana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Impressions of Saranda, Southern Albania

Impressions of Saranda, Southern Albania

 

'King' Zog's remains return to Tirana

‘King’ Zog’s remains return to Tirana

 

 

 

 

 

 

German Fascist Memorial in Tirana, Albania

German Fascist Memorial in Tirana, Albania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons to be suspicious – Albanian-British Relationships in the 1940s

Reasons to be suspicious – Albanian-British Relationships in the 1940s

The English Cemetery in Tirana Park

The English Cemetery in Tirana Park

 

Rinas – Nënë (Mother) Tereza – Tirana International Airport

A hundred years of Albanian Independence?

Panagia Monastery Church – Mother of Christ – Dhermi, Albania

Five Fallen Stars Rise Again – Dema Monument

 

Argentinian Diary – Monument to the Fallen in the Malvinas – Buenos Aires

Malvinas Memorial - Buenos Aires

Malvinas Memorial – Buenos Aires

Argentinian Diary – Monument to the Fallen in the Malvinas – Buenos Aires

There are many monuments and memorials to the Malvinas War throughout Argentina, especially in the south from where the forces that were sent to liberate the islands departed in March and April 1982. These vary in approach, some concentrating on the local involvement, such as Rio Gallegos and Puerto Madryn with others taking the issue on board for the sake of the nation, as in Ushuaia and in the capital, Buenos Aires where the Monument to the Fallen in the Malvinas can be found in Plaza San Martin, near to the Retiro train and bus terminal in the north-east of the city.

Architecturally and artistically the Monument is relatively simple. The structure has been excavated out of the hill and the concave wall is faced with red marble on which black plaques have been attached. Inscribed on these 25 plaques, in gold lettering, are the names of the 649 fallen in the conflict – on land, sea and air.

Above the first seven plaques on the left is a large piece of red marble and on this, in white, can be seen the outline of the Islas Malvinas. (Until I started to see these islands being represented in various monuments in different parts of the country I had forgotten how jagged an outline they present, with innumerable coves and small islets.)

Malvinas Memorial - Buenos Aires

Malvinas Memorial – Buenos Aires

On the extreme left, there’s a black, metal chimney, going from ground level to just above the stone that carries the image of the islands. This is for the ‘eternal flame’.

In front of the plaques is a small passageway allowing visitors to get close to see the names of their relatives or friends who had not returned from the war.

A low wall, which forms the bottom edge of this passage, is also faced with red marble slabs and on the front, facing the entrance to the monument, are 24 regimental shields and in the centre the symbol for the Argentinian Armed Forces.

Malvinas Memorial - Buenos Aires

Malvinas Memorial – Buenos Aires

From each side of the memorial plaques a small wall (which have not very impressive shrubs planted in the top) extends down towards the entrance, narrowing the space as it gets closer to the gates and which, if allowed to, would end up meeting at the point where a tall flagpole flies the national flag. From the entrance gate three small platforms, in the central portion, lead up to the memorial wall, ramps allowing a step free access on the outsides. The whole area is surrounded by a low, black iron fence with lockable, sliding gates.

This is a simple memorial but there are indications that some, at least, within Argentina, whether that be the local or national government, don’t really think the issue of the Malvinas is as important as it was in 1982 where it cost the lives of over a thousand military on both sides, many hundreds of injured and an unregistered total of millions of pounds in material. (Not a problem that it gets destroyed but in present circumstances this only throws more money into the coffers of the arms manufacturers and diverts resources away from other, more useful projects.)

I had read before arriving in Buenos Aires that there was a permanent ceremonial guard at this memorial and that the ‘eternal flame’ was, as the phrase implies, eternal. Neither is the case. My first visit to the memorial was in the days after the G-20 (when the centre of the city had been locked down for the best part of three days) and this square is only a stone’s throw from the Sheraton Hotel, one of the locations which housed people so ‘important’ that the hotel had a ring of vallas to itself, one of the rings within the rings within the rings. At that time there were even lower, more conventional barriers around the monument. Can’t really understand the thinking here as this area was a long way from any mass mobilisation and why would anyone want to attack a monument to young men who died in 1982? (As far as I can tell there were no female military casualties on either side – three women who were killed were civilians living on the Malvinas and they were killed by the British.)

I understand that there’s sometimes a guard of honour, sometimes by soldiers in ceremonial dress (who are permanently on guard in the Metropolitan Cathedral in the Plaza de Mayo – presumably the, in the main, conscripts who died in the Malvinas under the leadership of the cretinous military fascists don’t merit such treatment), sometimes by one or two individuals from the various armed services. I have seen pictures on the internet but have been unable to work out any pattern. However, I would assume that on the anniversary of the conflict greater effort would be made to recognise those who died for Argentinian pride.

As for the ‘eternal’ flame I assume that with the economic crisis that Argentina is presently undergoing there’s no money to pay the gas bill.

Also there’s an element of decay creeping in, as it is in all the Malvinas Monuments I’ve seen in the country (Rio Gallegos, El Calafate, Puerto Madryn and Ushuaia). If you build a structure into a hill you can expect water to find its way through – as it does here with the marks of water damage between and below the name plaques. Also lack of proper care means that litter and other rubbish accumulates in every corner.

Malvinas Memorial - Buenos Aires

Malvinas Memorial – Buenos Aires

Location

At the northern edge of the Plaza San Martin, close to the Retiro train and bus station, in the Retiro district of Buenos Aires.

Opening times

From 08.00 to 18.00 every day – when there’s no G-20 that locks the city down.

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Argentinian Diary – Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo

Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo - monthly publication

Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo – monthly publication

Argentinian Diary – Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo

People considered to be ‘subversives’ started to ‘disappear’ soon after the military coup of March 1976 in Argentina – known about beforehand and supported subsequently by the government of the United States, especially by the ‘Nobel Peace Prize winner’, Henry Kissinger. Once it was realised that this new regime would rule based upon terror and the elimination of the opposition the mothers of those first ‘desaparecidos’ fearlessly established an organisation – soon to be called the ‘Madres de Plaza de Mayo – Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo’ (from their intention to congregate each Thursday afternoon in the Square of that name, directly in front of the Casa Rosada, the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires).

Little did they expect that more than 30,000 people would be abducted, tortured and killed by the military in the following seven years. Those mothers also soon learnt that virtually all the young women abducted whilst pregnant would disappear – and so would their babies. In 1977 another organisation was formed, this time called the ‘Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo’ – Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo – which sought to reunite those babies with their true families.

Although with slightly different agendas the two organisations have been working together (although at times there have been ideological rifts) ever since and now there have been 2133 (to date) uninterrupted manifestations in the Plaza de Mayo. Thursday 24th January 2019 saw demonstration No 2128.

Without in any way intending to denigrate the determination and steadfastness of these women and their supporters over the decades the presence in the Plaza de Mayo every Thursday afternoon (the march begins at 15.30 on the dot) has been turned into something more than a demand for the whereabouts and fate of the 30,000 ‘disappeared’ and the truth being told about, and to, those babies who were given or sold to those childless supporters of the military in the late 70s.

When just over a dozen women appeared in the square on 30th April 1977 they would have arrived from their homes on public transport and they must have felt very alone as they were faced by the might of the Fascist military in front of their political headquarters, the Casa Rosada. However, this was a situation where the perceived strength of the fascists was outweighed by the moral strength of the mothers’ demands. The Generals looking down from the upper balconies of the Casa Rosada realised that to have crushed this nascent movement would have caused them more trouble than it was worth, not least as the young conscripts would have been able to identify too closely to the protestors. (The first march was on a Saturday, I’ve not yet been able to discover exactly when the Thursday afternoon was selected as the regular day.)

From the very beginning they chose the most simple symbol of their unity – a white head scarf that represented the nappies of their children. This soon became ubiquitous and images to this day can be found throughout the country – see below. The head scarf has also been adapted to show support of other campaigns, especially those concerning women, with a green scarf – with the white design of the Madres in the centre – declaring the person displaying it is openly a supporter of women’s abortion rights which are constantly under challenge in a country with a right-wing, conservative government and where the Catholic Church still wields political influence. At the time of writing there has been a case of an eleven year-old rape victim having to undergo a C-section due to delays in the making of a decision over an abortion.

But now, more than 40 years after starting their protest, the event is much more organised. The Non-Government Organisation (NGO) that the Madres/Abuelas has become has funding now – much of it international – and there’s a van, with the name of the organisation and logo on the side which is used to bring both the people and the equipment needed to provide the spectacle that the Thursday afternoon has become.

There’s a substantial gazebo to provide protection from the elements, as people arrive more than an hour before the 15.30 start time. (In my ignorance when I went to the square on the Thursday before the demonstration against the G-20 summit taking place in Buenos Aires in November 2018 I thought this tent was a last minute addition to protect the Madres/Abuelas from the rain that had fallen heavily that day.) This large tent also houses the loudspeakers and amplification equipment used for the press conference that follows the march around the centre of the Plaza de Mayo. Associated with this is another, smaller tent which houses a temporary bookstall and souvenir table where those who want to learn more about the movements can pick up the increasing number of stories that have been published.

Again, I don’t deny the organisation these facilities but there are problems when a certain amount of money is made available to such popular organisations and working class representatives become ‘celebrities’, some of them being ‘welcomed’ by political and religious leaders, some of whom are from the very class of people who carried out, or condoned the abduction, torture, murder and baby-selling practices that the organisation was originally formed to counter and condemn.

And where there’s money, often a lot, there will be accusations of corruption – which in Argentina are thrown around like confetti and are an everyday news item with accusations and counter-accusations flying around from all sides. Such accusations are being made against the current leadership of the Madres. I have no detailed information about, and have no opinion on, those accusations but suffice it to say that when a lot of money gets involved the opportunists and the jealous will get in their two-penny worth. And however innocent the accused might be mud sticks and the weak and impressionable will remember that more than the 40 plus years of struggle to get answers.

And that 40 plus years is an indictment of Argentinian society, from top to bottom. Various ‘democratic’ governments have ruled in Argentina since the end of the military dictatorship in 1983 – after the generals showed themselves to be totally inept in the prosecution of the military campaign to liberate the Malvinas from British imperialist occupation. But none of them have even got close to answering all the questions that have been asked – more than 30,000 times.

(The Madres/Abuelas have commissioned a video called ‘Todos son mis hijos – They are all our children’ but, so far, I have only been able to locate the trailer. It’s strange that the full documentary isn’t available as the trailer has been out in the public domain since June 2016.)

Whether from an unwillingness to open all the books (due to the fact that they could be tainted by association, or even active participation in the disappearances), reluctance (due to the fact that doing so would open a can of worms and no one could be sure to what other nefarious aspects of Argentinian society such investigations would uncover), fear (due to the fact that until you truly slap down the military and change the whole ideology of the culture they will always hold the threat of another coup over society – this was/is especially the case in neighbouring Chile), or just sheer incompetence and stupidity (which is the norm for most ‘democratic’ politicians who aren’t from the traditional ruling elite) many answers are still not forthcoming. There have been a few trials and many revelations but still many still walk free for their crimes.

In a sense the Thursday event has become part of ‘revolutionary tourism’ with many left visitors to Argentina attending if they are in Buenos Aires that day. Indeed as was I. But that’s not necessarily a negative matter. On my second visit, at the end of January, there were banners condemning the Yankee threat to Venezuela;

Fuera Yankys de America Latina

Fuera Yankys de America Latina

calling for the closure of the military prison in Callao, Peru, where Presidente Gonzalo, the leader of the Communist Party of Peru (Sendero-Luminoso) has been held since 1993;

Close Callao Military Prison

Close Callao Military Prison

political prisoners in contemporary Argentina;

Imprisoned for fear, hate, misogyny and racism

Imprisoned for fear, hate, misogyny and racism

against the consequences of ‘austerity’ that is having a devastating effect upon the poorest in Argentinian society;

Wages fall 50%, prices rise by 54%

Wages fall 50%, prices rise by 54%

as well as the ongoing campaign for justice for those murdered in the late 1970s and early 1980s;

Not a step backwards

Not a step backwards

You can watch and hear what was said at the press conference on Thursday No 2128 on the Madres website but one statement that I thought was interesting is that in Venezuela the army are on the side of the people and not against them as they were in Argentina all those years ago. Events will show how true that statement was.

There are definitely fewer people who are prepared to make an effort to attend the Thursday demonstration but as long as the spark remains it won’t take much for it to become a prairie fire. In all popular movements in Argentina now there is always a reference to the Madres and their struggle, and a handful of their representatives led off the demonstration against the G-20 on 30th November 2018.

For more information:

Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo – in Spanish

Here you will be able to watch the press conferences that follow the Thursday afternoon march as well as other material about various activities sponsored by the Association.

There are guided tours, each Wednesday for the general public, in the HQ of the Madres, which is close to the National Congress building in the centre of Buenos Aires. This gives an idea of the what the organisation has done over the last 42 years and also an introduction to some of the successes. These tours have to be booked in advance (and looking on the site it seems that 3 weeks in advance should be sufficient). The tours will predominantly be given in Spanish but there’s a likelihood that the guides would speak English, at least for a translation of certain important points. I didn’t learn about the tours until I left the country so haven’t followed one myself. Any further information would be appreciated.

Book online

Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo – in Spanish:

Where digital versions of the publication shown at the head of this post are available (in Spanish).

In English:

This gives a precise history of the movement, an interesting video asking the question ‘Who are the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo?’, as well as a list of the babies they have identified as having been kidnapped within hours of their birth and the successes achieved in uniting some of those children with their genetic families.

The ‘stolen’ babies in popular culture

Within a couple of years of the end of the military dictatorship a film took as its subject matter a woman who was unable to bear children adopting a little girl. Although she is depicted as not really wanting to know where the child came from, in 1978 – when the child was supposed to have been born – all within Buenos Aires society, no matter how privileged they might have been would have been aware of the issue. But often people only see what they want to see and disregard the difficult issues. Her husband, on the other hand, knew exactly where the child had come from and was financially, personally and possibly militarily linked with the Fascist regime. His true nature comes out at the end of the film.

The film is ‘La historia oficial – The Official Story’ (1985), directed by Luis Prenzo. Recommended for a view of the situation so soon after the end of the military dictatorship.

‘Madres de Plaza de Mayo’ in other parts of Argentina

I didn’t spend a lot of time in the major cities of Argentina and therefore probably missed locations where the ‘desaparecidos’ were an everyday reality during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. It would have been in the more industrial and commercial cities where the working class and organised opposition from the academic community would have been more active, and hence more of a target. Patagonia would have been even more isolated in the 1970s than it is now but the 30,000 + subjected to fascist terror are still remembered even in the smaller towns. Often this remembrance was in the form of the white headscarf being painted in a circle around the centre of one of the principal squares of the town – but not always.

In Rio Gallegos in Plaza San Martin:

Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Rio Gallegos

Madres de Plaza de Mayo – Rio Gallegos

In Bariloche in the Centro Civico. This was slightly different from other places in that here there was a very large of the scarf, names were associated with the various scarf images, as well as the dates they disappeared, and a slogan stating that the murdered would always be with those that remained:

Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Bariloche

Madres de Plaza de Mayo – Bariloche

Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Bariloche

Madres de Plaza de Mayo – Bariloche

Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Bariloche

Madres de Plaza de Mayo – Bariloche

In Ushaia the images were painted on a wall on the main shopping street, San Martin:

Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Ushuaia

Madres de Plaza de Mayo – Ushuaia

Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Ushuaia

Madres de Plaza de Mayo – Ushuaia

In Salta there were small images in Plaza Belgrano:

Madres de Plaza de Mayo - Salta

Madres de Plaza de Mayo – Salta

but there was also a small arch, el Portal de la Memoria, close to the main bus station.

Portal de la Memoria - Salta

Portal de la Memoria – Salta

and there must be many more which I just didn’t see.

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