On the bus I began chatting with a Canadian couple from BC who were passengers on the ship. They asked if we were too, when they saw me taking photos of it. I said, no but that was the closest we’d get and I was living vicariously!
A number of people got off the bus in the village of Ksamili which was about halfway to Butrint. It’s known for its beautiful beach with several small islands you could swim to. Ksamili is now heavily developed, with a large number of partially completed properties. It was extraordinary to see that some of these new buildings were toppling over. This is believed to be where buildings have gone up without permission, and the police have sabotaged the building by pulling out a couple of upright pillars, leaving the owner to clear up the damage!
The sign at the ticket entrance to Butrint National Park was certainly thought provoking. It stated that in 2014, there were 20,000 more visitors than in 2013; in 2015, nearly 40,000 more than 2014. In 2014, the number of visitors exceeded 100,000. They estimated that there would be more than 150,000 this year and asked rhetorically, is this success? It’s hardly surprising that Butrint is the most visited cultural tourist destination in Albania.
Shortly after we entered the site, the path led to Butrint’s 3rd century BC Greek Theater that was secluded in the forest under the acropolis. Also in use during the Roman period, it could seat 2,500 people. There were waves and waves of tourists who arrived from the ship, almost all of whom were led by tour guides carrying paddles aloft to keep their charges in tow so they wouldn’t stray; oops, I mean get lost!
I enjoyed listening to the guides at times so I could derive important nuggets of information about what we were seeing. But we were lucky not to be on any schedule so we could linger in the theater as long as we wanted. The amphitheater is used as a performance venue by world amateur theater troops at the annual festival.
The Roman Forum was the civic and commercial center of the city and also used for worship. The remains of the forum, first discovered in 2005, included a 2,000 year old stone pavement that measured about 9,000 square feet! Most of the forum still lies under about six feet of soil.
The forum was once lined by major Roman buildings including temples adorned with frescoes and marble. It was destroyed by a major earthquake in the 4th century AD.
Butrint had many townhouses and villas. One original townhouse was deveoped into the great Triconch Palace around 400 AD with the expansion of the original courtyard and a new wing.