Tbilisi’s Nodar Dumbadze Professional State Youth Theatre will become the first Georgian troupe to perform for theatre-goers flocking to the UNESCO World Heritage Site city of Butrint in Albania to attend International Festival of Theatre ‘Butrinti 2000’.
Presenting their stage adaptation of William Shakespeare’s 1623-published play Much Ado About Nothing, the company will celebrate the 15th edition of the festival that has hosted over 60,000 local and visiting theatre-goers since its founding.
Director Dimitri Khvtisiashvili’s staging of the Shakespeare work will go on stage of the Ancient Amphitheatre Butrint on July 17, with the festival launching four days earlier.
The Georgian company was invited to perform at the festival along with local and international theatres including the Albanian Dance Theatre Company, Thesis Theatre Company from Greece and National Theatre of Beijing.
Albania’s coastline has grown in popularity as a budget sun destination for Italian families. We should follow their lead for a unique, culturally distinctive travel experience, says Ellie O’Byrne.
“ARE you from Cork? I recognised your accent. I used to live in Wilton. My wife is Irish.”
Living up to the ultimate cliché of the Irish abroad in the vertiginous UNESCO world heritage city of Gjirokastër, 70km inland from the Albanian Riviera, as dusk falls on the cobbled streets, is a satisfying feeling.
Stopping for a chat, chairs are gathered around and our near-neighbour joins us for a coffee.
Was the wall that I was sitting on really part of the oldest structure on Earth? Older than the Pyramids or Stonehenge? Did I really have it entirely to myself? There was no sound in the surrounding rocky countryside, save the bees buzzing and larks singing. In the distance, the azure Mediterranean shimmered around the island of Filfla, a few miles south of Malta.
The early morning sun burnt down from a cloudless blue sky to bring out the rich golden colour of the limestone that built Mnajdra temple. They certainly knew where to site a ritual centre, those Maltese builders, 5,000 years ago. But why? And how?
Fast forward 50 years. A car park now welcomes visitors to this Unesco World Heritage site. Barriers and walkways keep visitors away. A vast canopy provides protection against erosion. A tourist bus arrives every half-hour.
As the door closes on 2016 and people begin to look to up and coming destinations in the New Year, should we be looking to Albania? According to a report in Voice of America News, the World Bank just extended a $71 million loan to the country for tourism infrastructure.
“The World Bank said on Tuesday it had given Albania a $71 million loan to upgrade infrastructure in four southern towns to help attract foreign tourism but also urged local authorities to avoid unsustainable over-construction,” reports VOA.
Two of the four towns are UNESCO World Heritage sites, Gjirokaster and Berat, and the Port of Sarande and the southeastern town of Permet will also be getting makeovers.
(I travel to Albania with BikeTours.com’s President Jim Johnson on a specially constructed “President’s Tour” itinerary that modifies the regular “Albania’s UNESCO Sites with Rivers, Valleys, and Gorges” trip. (See: Come to Albania Now to See Emergence of a Young Country-Best Way to Experience Albania is on Bike Tour. This is 5th in the series.)
Our ride today, the 6th of cycling (7th of the tour), will bring us into the historic city of Gjirokaster – an Ottoman-era city carved into the hillside overlooking a spectacular river valley.
Today’s 46 km ride is one of the easiest – almost steadily downhill or flat – for a total elevation gain of just 200 meters and a loss of 360 meters. We follow the Vjoca River to Kelcyra Gorge.
When we decided to travel to Albania, we had absolutely no idea what to expect. We’d heard a few sound bites about bad roads and transportation challenges and a few vague assertions that it was an inexpensive place to visit – nothing to help us form any good ideas about what we would be experiencing. For us, as for most Americans, Albania was a completely dark place on our mental maps.
What we found in Albania was a mix of remarkable natural beauty, deep history, tempting food, and some of the nicest people you’ll meet anywhere. It’s like Italy with limited public transportation and the French Riviera with more partially-constructed buildings and less attitude. Albania is like its neighbor to the south, Greece, but with far fewer tourists and a whole lot of Cold War bunkers.