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

 

Sarandë’s Martyrs’ Cemetery

Saranda Martyrs' Cemetery

Saranda Martyrs’ Cemetery

A number of Martyrs’ Cemeteries have a single female partisan as the principal statue, Fier and Lushnje are two that immediately come to mind. This was also chosen as the case in Sarandë’s Martyrs’ Cemetery.

This has recently been repainted so there is, as on other occasions, some doubt of the original intention of the artists (here there are two attributed). In some ways it does turn the statue into a bit of a comic caricature but at least it shows an attitude of care for the monument, however badly executed. Whatever the pros and cons of such ‘restoration’ I prefer this to the total neglect that other lapidars throughout Albania have undergone.

The single female is standing in victorious celebration. Her arms are held high over her head as she waves the banner of victory. In her right hand she grips hold of her rifle by the firing mechanism. From this part of her weapon, until just before the end of the barrel, the sleeve for the pole of the national flag has been pulled over the barrel and she keeps it in place by her hand. A few inches of the top of the barrel can be seen just above the top left hand edge of the banner.

Painted rifle

Painted rifle

Here is where there is some problem with (re)painting of the lapidars. It might be more acceptable if the work was done by professional artists or restorers rather than enthusiastic amateurs. Here the stock of the rifle has been painted brown – but so has the metal firing mechanism, the trigger guard and the trigger itself, and, unfortunately not with the greatest of care. It’s difficult to see if the protruding end of the barrel has been painted brown, or even red, but it’s certainly not the colour that a real rifle would have been. Here, I suppose, is a call that if the monuments are to be painted there is a commitment to accuracy.

The banner is the flag of the Communist led National Liberation Front and which became the national flag of Albania after Liberation (and the beginning of true independence for the country) on the 29th November, 1944.

This is a red flag with a black, double-headed eagle in the centre. Over the two heads there was a gold star. The eagle on a red background had been the symbol of independence in Albania since the time of Skenderbeu in the 15th century. With the success of the Socialist revolution the star was added, this being the emblem of the Communists in the war against fascism.

This flag is shown as if it is being blown in the wind and the partisan is holding the bottom left hand corner of the flag with her left hand. Where the flag billows in the wind is where the statue is first attached to the column in front of which it stands.

Vandalised flag

Vandalised flag

As is not unusual in those lapidars which have been ‘restored’ there has been a little bit of political censorship, a re-writing of history. If you look carefully you will see the outline of a star over the heads of the eagles but in the ‘restoration’ this has been filled in and in the repainting has just been coloured red and not picked out in gold as it should be if there was a respect for history. Not the first nor the last time we encounter such conscious political vandalism in present-day, ‘democratic’ Albania.

Now to the Partisan herself. She is standing in full partisan uniform. On her head she wears a cap which has been another victim of vandalism. When originally unveiled there would certainly have been the outline (of just plain plaster and almost certainly not painted) of a star at the front of the cap. There is very little sign of that here so I assume to avoid the possible thorny question of why re-write history it was just plastered over. To have been true to the original that star should have been picked out in red when the restoration/cleaning work was done.

Her very long hair (totally impractical for a Partisan) is braided on either side of her head and the braids join together to form one even longer braid just behind her neck. She wears of tight vest over which she has a jacket with strangely wide, loose sleeves which, if real, would roll down her arms to her shoulders. The bottom of her jacket billows out behind her, mirroring that of the flag, and is the second point of contact between the statue and the column behind.

Around her waist she has five ammunition pouches, each containing five bullets. Her trousers are tucked in at the bottom to long socks that come to just below her knees and on her feet she wears a simple pair of sandals. (There’s a study in itself of the footwear depicted on Albanian Socialist lapidars.)

She stands on a block which has been painted brown on the top and black on the sides. Why not an irregular surface to represent the hills and mountains of Albania, where most of the fighting took place, is due, I believe, to the date that this lapidar was created.

Artists initials and date

Artists initials and date

On the left hand side of the column can be found the letters LL LZH and AL HH together with the number 88 or 89 (I think 89). This I assume to be the letters of the names of the sculptor/architect of the monument but, so far, have been unable to identify them. That being the case this must have been one of the very last, if not the last, lapidars to have been created in the Socialist era. There had been in existence a much more basic lapidar for many years but towards the end of the 1980s, with other towns improving their monuments (such as Lushnje) Sarandë, presumably, thought to do the same.

However, the later lapidars started to take a different approach to how the issues of the past were represented. In a sense they became less confrontational, more appeasing as the strength of Albania’s Cultural Revolution waned, especially after the death of Enver Hoxha in April 1985. This meant, among other things, the symbolism that had been established in the 1970s (such as irregular surfaces to reference the mountains) began to be ignored and, more importantly, as a political consideration when it came to the role of an artist in a Socialist society, the names (initials) of the artists started to appear on their work.

The column behind the Partisan flares out slightly at the base then narrows when behind her to gradually widen as it gets to its summit, about the same distance above the flag as it is below it. Towards the top of the column there’s an arrangement of six red stars, of slightly different sizes, which could represent the constellation of Ursa Major, The Plough (although one star short). On the very summit there’s a large red star, a typical crowning glory on lapidars (although also the target for vandalism in many cases) and there as a symbol of Communism.

The Plough?

The Plough?

To the right of the main lapidar is a white, concrete, fluted column which widens out half way up to provide the support for a large concrete bowl. It’s also worth noting the presence of the palm trees, often in Albanian cemeteries and for the same reasons as they were placed in Librazhd Martyrs’ Cemetery.

There is a flight of steps on either side of the statue and the tombs are on 3 or 4 different levels, on rows beneath. The space for the tombs fans out on both sides of the statue causing it to be much wider by the entrance lower down the hill than it is a the top. On one level there are nine marble slabs upon which are inscribed the names of almost 150 Partisans who would have died in the area (or who were originally from the area and died elsewhere in the country) who don’t have an individual tomb. The cemetery is reasonably well-kept and the tombs tended to on a semi-regular basis.

Commemorating 150 Partisans

Commemorating 150 Partisans

The location at its inception would have been marvellous, outside and above the old town of Sarandë, looking down onto the Ionian Sea, with the island of Corfu in the distance (and the site of the notorious ‘Corfu Incident’) with citrus and olive groves all around.

Now the cemetery has been overtaken by the unplanned expansion of the town’s tourist infrastructure with apartment blocks or hotels (many incomplete) appearing on every conceivable plot of land, completely changing the atmosphere of the town – and not for the better.

At the very bottom, by the original entrance gates, is a one storey building which would have housed the local Liberation War museum – now abandoned and empty.

As with many of the Albanian lapidars what we see today has not always been the case. By 1971 there existed a tall, two-part monolith with a large panel at 90º to the column at the bottom. Although it’s not clear it looks as if on this panel the names of some of the Saranda Partisans were listed. This stood at the top of a long flight of steps. I assume it was in the same location but it would seem to indicate if that was indeed the case there was some major remodelling of the cemetery when the statue was added in 1988/9.

Martyrs' Cemetery, Saranda, 1971

Martyrs’ Cemetery, Saranda, 1971

Location:

It’s a little bit difficult to find as the area is now full of new hotels and apartment blocks. As you go up the steep road that takes you in the direction of Gjirokaster the cemetery is on the right, just after the junction with Rruga Skenderbeu (on the left). Once you know what you are looking for it stands out quite clearly amongst the tower blocks when you look over from the ferry port.

Lat/Long:

N 39.86958199

E 20.017721

DMS:

39° 52′ 10.4916” N

20° 1′ 3.7956” E

Altitude:

55.7m

Saranda War Memorial, Albania

Saranda War Memorial

Saranda War Memorial

Through its monuments and memorials you can tell a lot about a country, its history, its heroes, its respect for itself, the class relationships, the political balance of power, even the state of the economy.

And there are many examples to prove this hypothesis.

I remember reading a letter written by Vladimir Illyich Lenin asking, in no uncertain terms, why Tsarist memorials and street names still existed in Petrograd (as Leningrad was then known, and not the Germanic St Petersburg as it is now called) less than a year after the October revolution – see Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 44, p105.

I have also seen pictures of the statue of Carlos III being transported to storage on a horse and cart. Carlos Bourbon stood in the Plaza del Sol in the centre of Madrid but was taken down during the time of the short-lived Republic in the 1930s. He was reinstated by the Fascist Franco and still stands there to this day in the time of the so-called ‘democratic monarchy’.

The Plaze del Sol is the traditional meeting place for working class and left-wing Madrileños and the square has witnessed many demonstrations and sits-ins as the people protest the ever worsening economic situation in which an increasing proportion of the Spanish population are having to live. But this is not a problem for the present Bourbon family and Carlos sits on his horse looking down his not insubstantial nose at the hoi polio below with contempt. The situation of the Spanish people will not improve until he is again taken away in another horse-drawn cart, in pieces, to be melted down and the present day Bourbons are taken in a similar cart for an appointment with Madam Guillotine.

One of the images that went around the world after the United States led invasion of Iraq was the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in the centre of Baghdad. The Stars and Stripes flag that was originally covering Saddam’s face was quickly replaced by an Iraqi one (it wouldn’t do to give the impression that he was toppled by a foreign invasion force and not a ‘popular’ revolt) and the edited version is the only one that gets shown now. Imperialism has always re-written history.

In Britain the long-term sycophancy and obsequiousness of the British population is shown by the plethora of statues to different members of the monarchy and representatives of the ruling class that have oppressed and exploited the population over the centuries. To themselves and their struggles the working class have little to look to.

One of the finest is the monument to the ‘Heroes of the Engine Room’. This is on the Liverpool waterfront, just a few metres north of the Liver Building at the Pierhead. This was originally designed to commemorate the men who kept the lights working on the Titanic as it was sinking, having been sealed in to the engine room and with no possible chance of escape. It is still known locally as the ‘Titanic’ Monument, the name being changed to recognise that just over two years after the sinking of the Titanic hundreds of men died in the slaughter of the ‘Great War’ in similar circumstances. Britain is littered with statues and monuments to the incompetent and criminal generals who ‘master-minded’ that particular capitalist and imperialist enterprise but you’ll have to look far and wide to find any others to the ordinary workers turned warriors.

Monument to the Heroes of the Engine Room Liverpool

Monument to the Heroes of the Engine Room Liverpool

And following that conflict, again in Liverpool, there wasn’t enough money to pay for a permanent memorial to those who had died in the ‘war to end all wars’. They didn’t return to Britain to ‘homes fit for heroes’ and neither to a memorial to their dead comrades. Throughout the 1920s on Armistice Day (11th November) a rickety wooden construction was wheeled out on to St George’s Plateau in Lime Street, decked in red paper poppies for the short memorial ceremony. When there was a bit of money, collected in the main from ordinary working people, the city was provided with (to my mind) one of the finest – if not the finest – war memorial/cenotaph to found anywhere in Britain.

Liverpool Cenotaph Mourning Panel

Liverpool Cenotaph Mourning Panel

And that brings me to Albania.

During my visits to the country I have attempted to search out the monuments and memorials that were constructed in the period of socialism. Most have been neglected, many have been vandalised, some have been destroyed but many are still in existence and in their different ways tell the story of not only the past but the present in Albania. I will be illustrating and telling the story of those monuments in the future.

So the first one is the small, well maintained but almost hidden and not easy to find (if you don’t know where it is) war memorial in Saranda.

There were certainly memorials in the centre of the town but if they still exist I’ve yet to find them. The language problem (i.e., my inability to speak Albanian) means there are few people to ask and some that might know don’t necessarily pass on their knowledge. The construction that seeks to turn the place into a major tourist destination might have played a role, outright vandalism and reactionary elements would also have played their part.

When it comes to the war memorials I have difficulty in understanding why so many in Albania have been treated in the way they have. I believe the First World War to have been a disaster for the European working class but that doesn’t mean I advocate destruction of the war memorials that are in all but very few cities, towns and villages throughout the British Isles. I’d rather they had died fighting for themselves (as did the workers and peasants in what became known as the Soviet Union) but the lack of any anti-war, Communist leadership and the betrayal by the young Labour Party didn’t make any real and meaningful opposition to the war a viable proposition at the time.

So why have the Albanians allowed their history to be treated in such a shameful manner? More than 30,000 of their people died in the occupations by the Italian and German Fascists. The country’s economy was in pieces, thousands of homes had been destroyed and the isolation imposed upon the country by the victorious imperialist powers because they wanted their own independence meant that they had to build using mostly their own efforts – only the severely damaged Soviet Union coming to their aid.

I might find the answer on day, but I don’t have it yet.

But back to the Saranda memorial.

There are only two main routes out of Saranda (apart from the sea route to Corfu), the road to Butrint (the archaeological site dating back to the Greeks) and the Greek border or the road that leads to the rest of the country. It is by the side of this latter road you’ll find the memorial. The road rises steeply after leaving the coast heading up in the general direction of Lëkursi Castle. Once you get to the brow of the hill, with a view of the valley below and the mountains that you have to go over on the route to Gjirokastra to the north, the memorial is slightly above street level on the right, next to an ordinary house.

It’s a strange place for it to be and I’ve no idea if that is its original location or whether it’s been moved there in the last few years. The pillar looks as if it has been made of relatively modern materials, although the plaque with the names and the red star would be the originals.

This is the sort of modest war memorial can be seen all over the country, although some are difficult to find.

The inscription reads: Glory to the martyrs who fell in the liberation of Saranda on 9th October 1944.

‘Lavdi Deshmoreve’ (Glory to the martyrs) was the slogan that was ubiquitous during the time of Socialism, even being set in huge characters on top of the Palace of Culture (now the Opera House) in Skenderbeg Square in Tirana.