Ali Pasha’s Castle at Gjirokastra

Gjirokastra, originally uploaded by jhoko.

Gjirokastra is a historic city in south-central Albania, about an hour and a half from Saranda by bus. It has “museum city” and UNESCO status, which keeps the old part of the city really nicely preserved, though the new part is much like any of the crummier parts of Vlora or Tirana. The old part is incredibly steep and hilly, and at the very top of one of the hills lies another of Ali Pasha’s crazy fortresses.

There is an admission fee of about 500 lek, if I remember correctly, but it is a really cool castle! You can basically roam around wherever you want, though some of the darker recesses are actually home to a variety of horrible spiders and snakes, so you shouldn’t wander too far off. There is also a surprisingly large collection of large guns and tanks captured from the Germans and Italians during the Second World War. Outside the castle, overlooking the city there is even a U.S. Air Force plane, captured during the 1950s and rumored to have been a spy plane, though the information provided at the castle on the plane doesn’t really sync with those rumors.

All in all, one of the most awesome castles I have ever seen. Bring a flashlight!

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