first day or two of my time in Saranda, Albania mostly involved getting
acclimated to the pace of things and getting to know all of the new people
including students, instructors of the field school and the local hosts
including the commander of the Military base where our operations are based and
the families who own and operate the hotels where we are all staying. I also
had plenty of time to relax and explore the surroundings.
is a coastal city that forms a semi-circle around the natural bay that extends
up into the mountains in tiered streets with each street occupying a terrace
about twenty feet higher in elevation than the one below it getting
progressively higher from sea level. It is a fascinating place. A mélange of
cultural influences that make it at once recognizably European but with its own
strange unique twists that are almost indescribable.
Nick & Evan
not totally modern, it is still a place that is not like a third world country.
You can tell change has come fast and furiously and that not much thought went
in to planning the infrastructure as high rise buildings, many half-built and
abandoned rise in front of shorter structures totally blocking the views. The
roads and sidewalks are full of hazards, most being broken, at multiple
gradients and often simply not there. Huge holes where manhole covers possibly once were are
everywhere and walking even in the daylight presents challenges.
is also an abundance of trash everywhere as waste disposal, and recycling are
areas of special concern. Littering is not just common, it is prevalent. Also
you have to keep a close eye out for cowpies, as cows have free range and can
be seen daily wondering through the city streets loose, often eating out of
trash piles and dumpsters, it is a very different experience.
Evan, Mathieu and Chiara
might think with all these evident problems that it sounds like not such a
great place, in fact I found it to be a wonderful place. The natural beauty of
the beach and coastline, crystal clear water, blooming beautiful flowers and
plant life everywhere, wonderful friendly and inquisitive people and relaxing
pace of life that just can’t be described all overcome the negatives. I
absolutely love the place.
a group of amazing people to share the experience does not hurt either and the
students at the field school are to a person amazing, accomplished, fun and
interesting people. I guess I should not be surprised, after all what would you
expect from someone who saw an ad someplace for a scuba diving field school in
Albania and thought that is just the thing for me? The kind of people who would
respond to that almost are by definition an adventurous lot and the kind of
travelers that I easily bond with.
the field school not really gearing up immediately, we had a lot of time to
hang out and bond after the initial lectures and preparation. A group of us
spent a second straight afternoon swimming in the beautiful waters of the
Ionian Sea. This time we swam at the rocky beach located right on the base
where our dive operations are based.
Mathieu, Lee & Evan
beach was rocky and there were a plethora of spiny sea urchins, which we
managed to avoid, but the water and weather were both incredible and
refreshing. It was cool to have some time to just hang out and get to know some
of the students who come from incredibly diverse backgrounds but share a love
of scuba and the sea. I am totally impressed by each of them and by the field
Nick, Chris & Howard