On the other hand, for most of the first half of the drive, until the road turned north again, we were driving along next to the most beautiful river valley. The river was this gorgeous, bright pastel blue. I'm not even sure pastels can be bright, by definition, but this looked like someone had got all the sticks of blue chalk in the world and crumbled them up to make a river. And then surrounded it all with jagged, imposing mountain ranges.
Oh, and the cicadas! That's such a summer sound to me, it really reminded me of home. I don't know whether there are fewer cicadas in Europe or it's just that I spent most of my time here in cities, but it's a noise I didn't even realise I was missing until we went to Albania and encountered the world's loudest. Usually on car trips, we'll be talking and/or listening to music, but the roads in Albania demand a lot of concentration, so often the only noise in the car was the loud, insistent buzz of a million cicadas.
|Beautiful, but not quite as blue as I remember|
Once we turned away from the river, the road wasn't quite as picturesque, and we were both pretty tired and sick of being in the car by the time we got to Korce. Korce hadn't been on my original itinerary, but we added it in partly because my guidebook raved about it as a cultural centre and particularly a centre for medieval religious art, and partly to break up what would have otherwise been an even longer drive across to Macedonia.
I think it's fair to say Korce was a bit of a disappointment, or at least, both of our least favourite destination. Circumstances were partly against us - we arrived on a Monday, when the Museum of Medieval Art was closed, and we had already driven for so long that neither of us wanted to get back in the car to see some of the apparently beautiful and old churches and prehistoric sites in the surrounding villages. So we spent the afternoon having lunch, doing a quick walking tour of the city and then sitting in a café reading.
|Korce cathedral and (presumably) communist statue|
|The interior of the cathedral was lavishly-decorated, and obviously very new - the original was destroyed by the communists|
|All over the city were dilapidated and ruined houses. This one must have been something special, because it was all fenced off. Looks like it must have been beautiful in its day|
The next day, we made sure to go to the Museum of Medieval Art nice and early. We were the only visitors - the staff (after giving us a lovely introductory talk in perfect English) even followed us around switching the lights on and off in the different sections as we made our way through. It was a good collection, with more of the Onofri icons amongst many others, but unless you have a particular love for icons and Byzantine art, Korçë can probably be skipped off the itinerary.
|Photos weren't allowed inside the museum, but I snapped this hungry horse out in the lobby|