Ksamil / Εξαμίλια – is a small town situated on the South of Albania, close to the border with Greece, about half way from Saranda to Butrinti. What makes it unique is a beautiful bay with four little islands. It is a true heaven on earth! Here, you will find beautiful sunny weather, clear warm water, pleasant beaches and delicious cheap food. Not to mention the beautiful views – because of them this part of our guidebook is less wordy, you will get more pictures instead, the ones that will hopefully be a better representation of this charming place.
You may reach Ksamil both by your own car and using public transport. As I have already mentioned, Ksamil is situated on the way from Saranda to Butrinti – the ancient city that can be found on the UNESCO World Heritage List – because of that buses and minibuses run regularly on this route. You may easily reach Saranda itself by ferry from Corfu or by bus from any place in Albania.
It is best to visit Ksamil off-season. We visited this place at the turn of September and October. The weather was continually beautiful, the temperatures varied from 25 to 30 degrees centigrade and it did not rain for once. As the beaches were deserted, we enjoyed comfortable rest. From the number of beach chairs folded up we guessed that in high season it is impossible to get to the sea without stumbling over somebody’s feet! In Sempteber it was very peaceful and family-like there, the children were playing cheerfully on the beautiful clean beaches and we could take a rest. The beach chairs and sunshades most often belong to the owners of the restaurants situated by the beach. We were not asked to pay for using them, on the contrary, the owners encouraged us to choose their beaches as it was consequently very probable it would be their restaurant that would be our choice as well.
Restaurants are practically by any of the beaches. There, you will find fresh fish, octopuses and clams, that is in one word anything you can eat at the seaside. You can also try typical Italian cuisine, including spaghetti and pizza, as Italians very often spend their holidays in this region. Everything is fresh, tasty and – compared to Poland – cheap. To give an example – a big bowl of boiled clams with vegetables cost only 300L that is equivalent to 2,5€. It also happens very often, especially at some family restaurants, that right after the meal the owner brings some dessert free of charge! For example a plate of fresh fruit in honey.
There are actually countless hotels in Ksamil, you can hardly walk a hundred meters not to come across the next construction site! We, yet again, decided to stay at the very first one we saw after leaving the bus. A quite big room for four people, with a bathroom and a kitchenette at the Ardiani hotel costs only 20€ per night. The room was equipped with air-conditioning, a cooker, fridge and the dishes. There was a view of the sea from the balcony and it was a 10-minute walk to our favourite beach.
Some people, while travelling to distant countries, can sometimes spend a whole week not sticking their heads out of the hotel swimming pools. It is something I find difficult to understand. What is most interesting is actually way beyond the places crowded with tourists. We personally like to peep at the Albanians and their everyday life, we are watching the people hanging up the laundry or preparing the wedding reception…
We are watching a greek orthodox church building and a mosque. We are watching hotels being built, new roads, solar batteries – not only on houses and hotels, but also on newly put up street lamps, that work on just such batteries. We are watching children playing and a cow rummaging the bins.
An interesting Albanian custom is to hang soft toys on unfinished buildings. They are to scare the ghosts and bad spells away. I must admit that some of them really look scary! And it is difficult not to notice them, as, as I have already mentioned, there are plenty of construction sites in Albania.
Another curiosity is Albanians’ fondness for Mercedeses. There are no cash machines in Ksamil, so, out of necessity, I had to take a trip to Saranda. Waiting for a bus, I decided to do a little research and count the cars. In the first hundred there were 83 Mercedeses! Aside from them, there were three Nissans (that was probably an accident) the rest of the car makes were represented at the very most by one car. Of course, a hundred vehicles is a relatively small sample, but even if we assumed the statistical error was around 10%, we still get the minimum of 73% of Mercedeses!
The hotels keep springing up like weeds, and there is a promenade being built along the coast. When we visit this place next year, the path will probably already have been illuminated by the street lamps… The pace of developments taking place in this small Balkan country is really enviable!
We like giving sophisticated names to different places and in Albania we have e.g. – The City of a Thousand Windows – Berat, The City of a Thousand Stairs – Gjirokastёr, and if we were to say something similar about Albania as a whole, the most suitable name would be The Country of a Thousand Bunkers. In 1967, on the initiative of Enver Hoxha, the Central Committee of the Party of Labour of Albania decided of the building of 75o thousand bunkers, in order to protect the people of Albania for example from the possible imperialist aggression of the Soviet Union. The whole venture cost 3 billion dollars. Today, the bunkers are one of the symbols of Albania, you can see them anywhere, also in Ksamil, where they bravely protect the country from the side of the sea. They are actually “revitalized” and redone in a shape of mushrooms, suns, etc. It is a must to bring from a trip to Albania an ashtray in a shape of a bunker – you can buy it in any decent souvenir shop.
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