RTW Timeline: 4th Century BC

After seeing so many interesting sites and learning many facts about places all around the world, we thought it would be interesting to arrange the different places and events on a timeline to provide more of a context for the different highlights.

Towards the end of the fifth century BC, Athens lost the Peloponnesian War to Sparta and the classic era of Athens came to an end. However, Greece was still a major player in the events of the world, with the conquests of Alexander the Great spreading its influence far and wide.

380 BC – Butrint Fortified With a New Wall

The city of Butrint in present-day Albania was a Greek city that grew in importance during this era, enough so that a large wall was built to protect the inhabitants of the island. We walked through this wall on our visit to the ruins on a day trip from Saranda. This site was later a major Roman city, so the Greek ruins were mixed in with those from later time periods.

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375 BC – Temple to Aesclepius constructed at Epidavros

The Greek city of Epidavros was a pilgrimage site for those looking to be healed of physical ailments. Therefore, a temple to Aesclepius, the god of health, was built here. Not much is left of the temple today. We visited Epidavros as a day trip from Nafplio.

The temple

The temple

360 BC – Tholos at Delphi Built

One of the most iconic ruins at the Greek city and pilgrimage site of Delphi is the partially reconstructed ruins of a tholos, a circular temple. Archaeologists are still debating the purpose of this structure.

In front of the Tholos

In front of the Tholos

Mid 4th Century BC: Stadium at Olympia Moved to its Current Location

The city of Olympia was the site of the ancient Olympic games, a Panhellenic competition between athletes from all over Greece. We spent a nice afternoon in the ruins of this stadium.

Racing the track

Racing the track

350 BC – Tomb of Amyntas built by the Lycians in present-day Fethiye, Turkey

The Lycians were a civilization based along the “Turquoise Coast” of southwestern Turkey which existed concurrently with the Greeks and Romans. They were known for creating elaborate tombs in which the rock was carved to look like wood. A grand example of one of the tombs is carved into the hill overlooking Fethiye.

The Tomb of King Amnytas

The Tomb of King Amnytas

Sometime in the 4th Century BC – King’s Tomb built in present-day Kaş, Turkey

Another type of Lycian tomb we saw was in the style of an elaborate sarcophagus elevated off the ground on a large platform. There is an impressive example of this style of tomb called the “King’s Tomb” in the middle of the modern city of Kaş.

King's Tomb Jelfie

King’s Tomb Jelfie

340 BC – Antikythera Ephebe sculpted

This bronze sculpture was found as part of the Antikythera shipwreck, hence its name. It is considered one of the classic Greek sculptures. Since we can’t see what object the subject is holding, we aren’t sure who it is, but many people believe it is Paris holding the golden apple. We viewed this sculpture at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Paris

Paris

338 BC – Phillippeion in Olympia constructed

Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father, had a monument constructed at Olympia to celebrate his victory in the Battle of Chaeronea, in which he defeated an alliance of Greek city states including Athens.

The Phillipeon

The Phillipeon

330 BC – Temple of Apollo at Delphi rebuilt after an earthquake

The main attraction at Delphi was the Temple of Apollo from which the oracle would issue prophecies and give advice.

Jelfie in front of the entrance to the temple

Jelfie in front of the entrance to the temple

330 BC – Initial Construction of Theater at Epidavros

As mentioned earlier, Epidavros was a pilgrimage site for those looking to be healed. Its main attraction today though is its large Greek theater, which has been amazingly well-preserved. We enjoyed taking turns standing on stage while the other person ran to the top to test the amazing acoustics.

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329 BC – Panathenaic Stadium rebuilt in marble

This large stadium in Athens was the host site for the Panathenaic Games, another Panhellenic festival held every four years. It was extensively renovated and reused for the first modern Olympics as well. We stayed in an Airbnb just behind this stadium during our second visit to Athens.

The view from the end of the stadium. They were setting up for the marathon finish line

The view from the end of the stadium. They were setting up for the marathon finish line

Last Quarter of 4th Century BC – Doric Tomb built in present-day Kaş

In addition to the King’s Tomb mentioned earlier, Kaş also has another impressive Lycian tomb on a hill overlooking the city. It is called the Doric Tomb based on the shape of the column outlines carved into the wall.

Cube Tomb Jelfie

Cube Tomb Jelfie

323 BC – Alexander the Great Dies

We didn’t see any artifacts related to Alexander the Great, but his death was such a large event that we thought it was worth putting onto the timeline for context. He had stretched his empire from Greece all the way to present-day Pakistan. He died at the age of 32.

After Alexander’s death, Greece entered into what is known as the Hellenistic period. Greece’s influence remained strong, but its art and culture would not continue to make the great steps forward that it had during the classical period. In addition, a new power began to arise in the Mediterranean which would shape the next few centuries.

Monthly Recap: Month 4

Wow! Month 4! The month was characterized by slower travels and more connections! We are also so pleased to announce that we have become first-time uncle and aunt this month. Congrats to Eric’s sister Suzanne on the birth of her beautiful baby girl, Sofia.

Here are our stats for this month.

Countries visited: 3 (Montenegro, Albania, and Greece)

Beds Slept In: 12

UNESCO Heritage Sights Visited: 7 (Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastra, Butrint, Meteora, Archaeological Site of Delphi, Archaeological Site of OlympiaArchaeological Site of Mystras, Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns) Total on RTW: 30

We traveled by 0 planes this month!

We traveled by 0 trains this month!

We traveled by 20 long distance buses.

Top Moments:

~ Our first top moment came at the very beginning of the month! We had been looking forward to our visit to Kotor for a long time. We really enjoyed slowing down in Kotor at the end of last month and the beginning of this month. One of the best days we had there was when we climbed the fortress walls. It was an absolutely gorgeous day weather-wise. We waited until the late afternoon to miss the cruise ship crowds. We climbed up the mountain, enjoying amazing views, and even a sunset on the way down. It was lovely!

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~ Our second moment came in Berat, Albania. We knew almost nothing about Albania when we arrived (though learned a lot while we were there) so we didn’t know what to expect. We had heard that it was not really on the tourist track in Europe. We were so impressed with Berat! Our top moment came when we decided to take a tour of the city offered by the worker at our hostel. He was a native of Berat, and knew a ton about his city and the history of Albania. The tour was particularly personalized because there were only 4 of us. The other couple was an amazing pair of bikers from Belgium. The tour started at 10 am and after seeing the beautiful city of Berat, we sat down for Turkish coffee (tea for us) and then dinner with both our guide and the Belgian couple. It was a fantastic way to spend the day, full of everything we love about traveling – new friends from around the world and learning a lot about cultures we didn’t know much about!

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~ We mentioned above that this was a month where we made some really great connections. The first was our Belgian friends in Berat, the next was a couple of Americans from Washington state (and Idaho). There is almost nothing better than seeing another pair of travelers trying to make the same long travel day as you are. It helps with confidence, knowing that someone else is attempting the same trip, as well as company! It is even better when you find out that you have a lot in common and really enjoy chatting with each other. Our top moment was when we were able to visit the ancient site of Delphi with our new friends. Wow, we have to say, it is a wonderful experience to find another couple who enjoy reading Rick Steves (and other informational signs) as much as we do, and who enjoy talking popular culture, TV, and books (even the Wheel of Time series!!!) in the breaks. What luck! We had a great time!

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Runners up for Top Moments:

~ We already mentioned in this recap that we really enjoyed our time in Albania. Another example of this was our time at the archaeological site of Butrint. This was a wonderful place with a lot of history, but the best part was that we got to experience it practically on our own! We didn’t see any other tourists almost the whole day! What was even funnier was that when we got back to our hostel in Saranda, we found out that 4 other people from there had done it as well, separately, but it was big and empty enough that we didn’t even see each other. This is not to say we don’t enjoy company, but there is something special about experiencing an ancient city (and tourist attraction) without having to dodge the crowds.

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~ Our second runner up was in Meteora, Greece. We were pretty excited to finally reach Greece, which we had been looking forward to for a very long time. Della has dreamed of visiting Greece for as long as she can remember. Meteora did not disappoint. We walked among the monasteries taking in the unique, impressive scenery and imaging what it must be like to make your home on the top of vertical pillar, high above the world. It was especially good when we were able to escape from the tourist bus crowds.

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~ We had a wonderful time with our new friends in Delphi, Greece. One of the activities that we did with them was to take a walk from Delphi, down the mountain, through the olive groves, and to the coast. It is actually the reverse of what many pilgrims did in ancient times on their way up to hear their fortune from the Oracle. We had a magnificent day, with perfect weather. The scenery was shockingly beautiful and our company was grand. It was hard to beat!

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~ As some of you may already know, we celebrated 10 years of being together as a couple this last month. We couldn’t have picked a better locale. Delphi, Greece was absolutely beautiful. It is hard to imagine a better way to remember 10 great years with a person you love while overlooking one of the most fantastic sunsets you’ve ever seen!

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Items Missing, Broken, Discarded, or Added:

Discarded/Broken:

1. Simple Wine Opener

Added:

1. New toothpaste

2. More Complex Wine Opener

3. Butter knives

Packing Update:

We got to use our summer gear a bit this month which made us happy! We also have used our winter and rain gear, so we are glad we have it all. Della hasn’t used her dress since Budapest so is wondering if it is necessary. Eric is happy with all of his contents.

Books Read: (Have you read any of these??)

Della has read Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Eric has read The Persian Boy by Mary Renault, The Golden One by Elizabeth Peters, Black Ice by Lorene Cary, Making Money by Terry Pratchett, Crescent Dawn by Clive Cussler.

Eric and Della have BOTH read The Greek Treasure by Irving Stone and Hope of Earth by Piers Anthony.

Make sure to catch up on all our monthly recaps: Monthly Recap 1, Monthly Recap 2, Monthly Recap 3

Saranda, Albania and Butrint Archaeological Site

Our last stop in Albania was the beach town of Saranda at the southern tip of Albania. We chose Saranda somewhat because we wanted to get in some beach time at Albania’s supposedly beautiful beaches, but mostly because we wanted to see the ancient site of Butrint.

Getting to Saranda from Gjirokaster was pretty easy. We did have to hike back down the large hill, but once we made it back to the bus stop there was a furgon waiting to go to Saranda.

Where We Stayed

SR Backpackers – We had read about the legendary hospitality of Tomi, the owner of the hostel, and we were happy to say that the legends were true! Tomi was an excellent host. He welcomed us with watermelon, cooked up a nice breakfast every day, and hosted a beach barbecue for all of the guests one night. He even was kind enough to show up at the bus stop early on our last morning to make sure we caught the bus out of town smoothly. The hostel itself was a basic hostel with different dorm rooms. We stayed in a four-bed room with one other guest.

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The kitchen. Lots of notes showing love for Tomi

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Barbecue dinner on the beach

What We Did

Butrint – This archaeological site has a fascinating history: it has been the location of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman settlements. Old structures from all of these are scattered throughout this small park located on a peninsula in a lagoon off the Straits of Corfu. There were very few other people visiting on the day we went, so most of the sights we had to ourselves! Getting to the site from Saranda was easy – a city bus leaves every 30 minutes or so and takes you straight there.

The first major area was the site of a Greek shrine to Asclepius, a god of healing – springs on Butrint were thought to have healing powers. This site was eventually expanded to include a theater, the ruins of which still exist today. The theater remained under Roman rule. The area around was converted into a classic Roman village with hot baths and a forum.

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The theater

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Writing in Greek on the walls that showed many people officially freeing their slaves!

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The area of the shrine

We walked past the ruins of some ancient Roman villas, where some of the rich citizens would have lived. Butrint thrived during the Roman period and greatly expanded in size from the Greek period. There even was a suburb across the channel from Butrint, and a large aqueduct bringing water into the city.

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Ruins of a great villa

As the Roman Empire transitioned to become Christian, Butrint began to have some Christian architecture built. We saw the remains of a 6th century baptistery. There was supposedly a grand mosaic on the floor, but it is currently covered in sand to protect it from the elements. We also encountered the remains of a large basilica as well, built in a style similar to many cathedrals.

Looping around the east side of the site, we came upon one of the massive walls surrounding the city. It was interesting because you could see where it was originally built during Greek times, then during Roman times and finally during the medieval period. We walked through one of the main gates, called the Lion’s Gate since it depicts a lion devouring a bull’s head.

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The large rocks on the bottom were Greek, the slightly smaller blocks on top of those were Roman restorations, the small blocks above came even later!

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Lion Gate

We walked up to the top of the hill, which has been the center of the settlement throughout. It was the Greek acropolis at first. Later during the medieval period, battlements were built around it to protect from invaders. Today, there is a tower that is a 20th century reconstruction. From up on the hill, you can also see the Venetian fortifications (a tower and the Triangular Fortress) guarding the channel, and a palace built by the Ottoman Ali Pasha.

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Venetian top of the fortress

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You can see the later fortress out there

There is also a small museum that goes through the history of the site and includes many of the original artifacts found there. There is also a small sculpture garden. Unfortunately, you aren’t allowed to take pictures inside.

On the bus ride back to Saranda, we considered stopping at the beaches of Ksamil, which are supposed to be very pretty, but we decided to skip them since it was somewhat late in the day.

Explore Saranda Beach – We did spend a little bit of time on the Saranda beach. We strolled up and down the promenade a few times and admired the views. We also went swimming one afternoon. Low season had already started in Saranda, so we had the whole beach to ourselves. It is a pebble beach, but the water is nice and clear.

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At sunset

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“Celebrate” Albania’s “Victory” Over Serbia in Soccer – Our last night in Saranda turned out to be the same night as the Albania-Serbia soccer match. We didn’t watch it but could hear cheering from the bar below the hostel. Then, at one point there were very loud cheers. We thought it must be for a goal, but we discovered that it was actually due to a crazy series of events involving a drone carrying a “Greater Albania” flag into the stadium during the game, a Serbian player tearing it down, Albanian players taking offense, and Serbian fans rushing the field. After the game was called off, we could hear many fireworks being set off throughout the city, and car horns honking. Luckily they quieted down after 11 or so.

Where We Ate

We ate at two restaurants on the promenade. Both were good but neither was particularly memorable. We did enjoy a savory crepe we got from a creperie just below the hostel one night.

Final Thoughts

Saranda was a nice town to visit, but we decided it wasn’t our favorite in Albania. We did really enjoy Butrint and Tomi’s hospitality though!