Where Eagles Soar

Peaceful Easy Feeling
Monday 11th July 2022


In the middle of night I woke up with a nose bleed. I don't get them that often. In fact I think the last time I suffered one was our first night in Fez. It must have something to do with travelling. Despite the massive blood loss I actually had a very good night's sleep. It was so good we delayed waking up for as long as possible.  

Breakfast was served in the glorious sunshine by the pool. Drilon, who was working the morning shift as well as last night, saw me take a photo of the word "VASILIQIA" on the wall. He told us the story of Kyra Vasiliki, a young girl from Plesio a small village over the border in Greece who captured the heart of Ali Pasha, an 18th century despotic ruler around these parts.

Despite being of different faiths, he was muslim and she was a Greek orthodox christian, they married when she was 18 years old and she joined his harem as was the custom. They lived for a while at the fort in Porto Palermo where he built a church for her. 

Breakfast arrived. It was a revelation. Drilon served these delicious warm dough balls, an Albanian speciality known as Petulla. They were as large as a bread roll so we opened them up and filled them with butter and this wonderful cherry marmalade or another fruit jam that could have been apricot.

He didn't know the English word for it but said his favourite way of eating it was with cheese.

Next came sausage and egg. As Julie hates egg and I hate meat she had the cured pork sausages whilst I had scrambled egg on my plate.  If that wasn't enough it was followed by a large plate of fresh fruit.

Feeling properly stuffed we rolled ourselves to the nearest lougers. 

To help with the digestion we asked for a cup of tea.  It reminded me of Greek Mountain tea which we've had before but it was stronger tasting. It was certainly herbal, green and had a very distinctive flavour but we couldn't quite work it out.

We asked Drilon and he explained that it was basically an infusion made from dried sage leaves. It was amazing!

There was no rush to get moving today, no real agenda, although visiting Ali Pasha's fort was pencilled in to do sometime during today.  So just before 1pm we got in the car and drove the short distance to Porto Palermo.

We parked in a layby near to a small marina and walked down towards a beach formed on a spit of land joining the island. The fort was visible from the road. The officical line is that it was built by the Albanian born Ali Pasha but it's more likely to have been built by the Venetians who ruled the coastal areas for centuries.

The white sandy beach and turquoise water looked idyllic. There were loungers for hire but they were all taken; and anyway, we had lounged enough for one day. It was time we marched up a hill.

Unsure of exactly which way to go we walked towards some derelict buildings where we found a path. The sun was beating down and we worked up quite a sweat as we followed the path through an olive grove towards the fort. The sound of the clicking cicades and our the crunching of the gravel reached a deafening level.

In a small doorway, which appeared to be the only entrance, a man sat at a table waiting to collect 300 lek each from us. Fortunately I had withdrawn some local currency from an ATM at the airport as he only accepted cash.  

At first it was dark inside but when the reached the central hall sunlight came streaming in through rooflights. The hall was at the centre of the fort with most of the other rooms accessed from it.

With the exception of a few pictures on the walls it was quite bare.  The stone floor was smooth with centuries of wear where at the walls were rough, deterioated and marked with holes where I suppose wooden beams may once have been placed.

We took a closer look at the images on the walls. There was one painting of a rather dapper young chap in traditional Albanian dress. It was the English poet Lord Byron who during his unconventional "Grand Tour" in 1809 made the aquaintance of Ali Pasha at his summer court in the Albanian town of Telepena.   

Telepena was also the birthplace of Ali Pasha. He was born to a family of what could only be described as local bandits. He then followed in their footsteps creating a large and loyal following. His power grew when the Ottoman Empire recruited his local influence to control the region and over time he was rewarded with the title of pasha or Lord of Ioannina, the Northern Greek city.

"Lion of Ioannina" as he was known increasingly ran the region as an independent state, often contradicting his Ottoman rulers. It all came to a grizzly end in 1822 when Sultan Mahmud II declared him an outlaw and an enemy of the state. Escaping from the citadel in Ioannina he was captured and shot dead. He was later beheaded. Vassiliki was by his side to the very end.

We methodically explored the numerous rooms, most of them aided by the torchlight from our phones. They all looked the same, all damp, dark and stripped of any finery. Although Ali Pasha's bedroom did have a lovely view out of the window and a wonderful feature fireplace.

For most of our time we were the only people inside the fort until we came across a group of four Spanish youngsters; also wandering around by torchlight.

On our way back from the soldier barracks we came to a stone staircase that climbed dramatically towards the light. It was such an invitation. We had access to all areas so there was no question we weren't going to walk up. I was like a moth to a flame, captured and hypnotised towards it.  

We came out onto the rooftop terrace, our eyes dazzled by the brilliant sunshine. After stumbling around for a bit we saw the Albanian flag flying above a hexaganol stone building in the centre of the triangular star shaped fort with bastions at each point.

The views from up here were stupendous.

I walked to the bastion facing Eastwards and looked through the small window. The bay of Palermos beach looked stunning from this position and behind the beach was the small church of St. Nikolai that Drillon had metioned Ali Pasha built for Vasiliki.

The bay has been placed under a conservation order so that no new develpement can take place, protecting this idyllic setting for the future. No ugly concrete hotels here thank you very much!

Walking across to the Northern bastion we could see in the distance across the bay the entrance to a Soviet era submarine port and perched high above it was our hotel highlighting its excellent position.

We stood for while looking out to sea absorbing the absolute tranquility before deciding it was time to leave and find some lunch.

Conveniently just short distance away across the main road was Restaurant Porto Palermo. It was very popular, especially with families. All tables appeared to have been taken. We caught the eye of one of the waiters who indicated with a nod of the head to continue up the steps. Thankfully there were a few empty tables here. 

We sat down with a great view of the fort and browsed the menu. I saw a dish called fargesė on there which I wanted to try. I had made it at home whilst researching traditional Albanian meat-free  dishes and really enjoyed it.

When it arrived I was little confused as it looked nothing like what I made.  The recipe I had followed was a warm baked dish of feta and red pepper and was of a saucy consistency. What I had on my plate was a cold feta and red pepper mashed together. I guess the description of "Summer Fargesė" suggested it was a variation on the tradition. The flavours were good though, even if it looked terrible. 

This was just my starter as I followed it with a simple but really tasty veg risotto.

Julie ordered the grilled prawns which came partly prepared as the heads and tails had already been pulled apart. She hates getting her fingers dirty. Although they were still left on the plate if she wanted to suck their brains out. 

The bill came to 3300lek (£23.50) which was reasonable price for lunch.

Back in the car we drove into Himarė to do some shopping for essentials like beer, wine and toilet rolls before returning to the poolside of our hotel where we spent the rest of the afternoon chilling to the view of Porto Palermo. 

It was a hot, even in the shade. I was sweating like a pig. 

At 6:30pm we arranged for a taxi to collect us and take us down into Himarė. We asked him to drop us off at the beach we had seen earlier when we popped to the Alfa Supermarket. It wasn't the centre of the town, but Prinos beach had a really peaceful easy feeling to it. 

We walked along the beach for a while before deciding to have a drink at the Red Indian Rock Cafe. It was a great little bar filled with all sorts of American memorabillia including a Harley Davidson style motorbike in the middle of the floor. There was also a Vespa style scooter which looked a little out of place. Despite having owned one, a moped wasn't very rock 'n' roll.

The music was great with classic British rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath blaring out the speakers. The owner, a self-styled Red Indian with his tanned skin and long jet black hair tied back into a ponytail was busy talking with some bikers. He seemed to run the place on his own.  

Once the bikers left he didn't come to take our order. We were the only ones there and he knew we waiting so we waited politely. In the end I had to go to the bar to order.

He did bring our drinks to our table but he was rather dismissive of us. . With the bikers he was laughing, joking, fist-bumping like they were his best friends but with us he really wasn't interested in engaging. We couldn't work out why. Perhaps we were to much like a moped to him, not rock 'n' roll enough for his bar.

Or perhaps it was because Julie asked him "Are you busy?" when we were the only ones there.

To be fair the beer was good and Julie had her white wine served in a stylish cut glass goblet with a Red Indian Rock Cafe motif. 

 When we came to pay he noticed my Led Zeppelin and Black Crowes tattoos. Now I was rock 'n' roll enough.  "Cool tatts man" he said which gave me the opportunity to be equally as dismissive and just grunted back at him.

Our table reservation was at a restaurant called To Steki. When we checked out its location I realised we were in the wrong part of town and had some distance to walk. We were at the end of the bay of Prinos beach and should have been in the next bay.

We quickly marched up the hill past the Alfa supermarket, then through an old part of town with its fair share of derelict buildings.

We continued along the road, overlooking Maraēit beach, before returning down hill to a pedestrianised promenade that ran alongside the main beach in Himarė. It was a glorious pleasant evening and we joined the people strolling up and down the beachfront. 

After a few minutes we found ourselves loitering outside the restaurant. Our stomachs had decided we should just turn up early, which was of course wasn't a problem. They weren't busy.

Reserving a table must not be the norm because when we introduced ourselves we were welcomed like royalty and shown to their "best table" at the front of the restaurant with a perfect view of the beach and the sea. 

We began by ordering a carafe of their homemade red wine whilst we browsed the menu. It was poured into this fabulous decanter, with a narrow neck but as wide as a dinner plate at the bottom. Perfect to aerate the wine.

It needed all the help it could get as it was a bit rough and ready.  

The menu was typically Greek and had plenty of choices for me. I had the Imam Bayildi, a delicious aubergine dish, served typically at room temperature. I also had two dips, tzatziki and skordalia with pita bread. Julie went for a belly pork dish and we shared some fries.

We were kept entertained by this tan coloured dog. It had a friendly face, with a splash of white on the bridge of his nose rising up between the eyes. His coat was wet. He must have gone for a dip in the sea to cool down.

He sat down in front of the table opposite us and politely begged. He wasn't making a nuisance of himself, he just stared at the couple eating. We had almost finished but Julie kept a piece of pork for him.

Not wanting to encourage his begging at the table I decided to walk over the promenade to the beach and he followed me. I then carefully place the piece of pork on my open palm from where he very gently took it. "All gone" I said and waved my hands to show I had no more.

I returned to Julie. He followed me back and sat back exactly where he was earlier.  The little rascal!

By the time we had payed our bill the sun had set. We decided that we weren't going to party until the early hours, not that Himare was that sort of town, choosing instead to find a taxi back to the hotel.

The taxi driver was unsure of where out hotel was but he knew Porto Palermo, so at least we were heading in the right direction. Fortunately when we came to the gates of "Palermiti Luxury Suites" they were lit up brightly. This helped us in getting him to stop before he took us down to Ali Pasha's fort.

Back in the room by 9pm. We planned an early night because we were moving on to Ksamil tomorrow.

I then had a phonecall from the hotel manager in Ksamil saying they had a problem with the toilet and she wanted to cancel our booking! "You can't do that!" I shouted. After an akward silence and some huffing I suggested "What about your other hotel?"

I knew that Hotel Citrus had cheaper rooms in a wing next door they called Citrus 2. We agreed to stay the first night in one of them. After the adrenalin rush of the slight confrontation I struggled to wind myself back down enough to get to sleep.

  Next Day >>>  

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