Take the waterfall away from the water and leave the coffee tables on the sidewalks along the “Epidam” boulevard. Then we turn left from the left onto the Castle Road and a hot day of XXI Century Albania is melted, leaving the second century AD and the Roman Empire in all its help.
Surrounded by a modern-style house built here and there, but notable in its majesty, the Amphitheater of Durres can still be pampered without making any bigger imagination overtaken by the gladiator sword matches and the seats up the stairs above arena.
Carolyn Perry laughs at me as the mother of a winner in the school race.
“You did not expect it, did you?” She smiles.
“No, I did not expect it. None of us had predicted. “In the first visit, Durres is exactly what it expects from the second largest city in Albania. Freight ships have filled the port, which zooms and roars in front of the heart of the city, the ferries waiting in line to describe the Adriatic to Bari and Ancona.
Traffic blocks the narrow streets of the city. Tourists fill the multi-storey hotels surrounding the beach areas to the southeast, which have risen with the bustling construction boom when the country was freed from communism control in 1992.
But the Amphitheater of Durres shows a story with many chapters. Not only the Roman period (it was built during the reign of Emperor Trajan), but also the later Byzantine era (mosaics of the 6th century, from the time the theater was used as a church, two rooms decorated on the first floor and the Ottoman period that followed in century XV (the arena was covered in the XVI century by massive homes).
And this is just a part of the tale of a city that was founded as the Epidem of Greek colonizers in 627 BC – although the distant period is recalled in statues and pottery pieces that are exhibited in the splendid museum nearby.
Even so significant was the city in the conquest of Rome, known as Dyrrahu, when the road “Egnatia”, which continued 70 miles (161 kilometers) east of today’s Istanbul, began. Surprisingly, one of the old gates leading to this important road across the Balkans still exists, as part of the “Portiku” wine cellar entrance, on Skanderbeg Street.
There are so many details to fix, but we will try later in the evening, at the dinner at Tirona’s restaurant, away from the docks and the harbor, in a resort area of Durres.
We are 13 from the beginning of the ’40s to over 70 and we have a few traveler stories to show each other as we taste wine glasses. From trips to less interesting states such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, in quieter times, to troubled places like Afghanistan, Syria and Libya. But despite our passport stamps and the great desire to travel, none of us had a previous experience in Albania, a place we quickly realized that there is a complicated and glorious past.