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Sarandė (Albanian: Saranda or Sarandė, IPA /sa'ɹanda/ or /sa'ɹandə/; Italian: Santi Quaranta, 'Forty Saints'); Greek: Άγιοι Σαράντα or Įgii Sarįnda /'aʝi: sa'ɾanda/), is the capital of the District of Sarandė, Albania, and it is one of the most important tourist attractions of the Albanian Riviera.
It was named after the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste traditionally commemorated by the Orthodox Church on 10 March, during Byzantine times. Situated on an open sea gulf of the Ionian at 39.88°N, 20.00°E, it has a population of about 15,000. Part of its original Albanian and Greek population moved to Greece during the large exodus in the early 90's. Opposite Sarandė is another tourist attraction, the Greek island of Corfu. There are daily ferries between them.
Saranda, Jonian Pearl
Saranda is situated in an open sea gulf, opposite the island of Corfu. The sea panorama, the variety of flora, favored by the soft climate, make Saranda the preferred center for rest and recreation and an important tourist town. Most Albanian couples come to spend their honey-moon in Saranda. That's why it is known in Albania as the town of the honey-mooners.
There are today, daily ferry services to and from Corfu. Saranda is rapidly developing into the southern gateway for tourism into Albania.
Near Saranda stood the ancient Illyrian city of Onchesmos, mentioned as a port in the 1st century B.C. In the 4th century A.C.. the town was fortified with walls. Inside the walls have been excavated the remains of dwellings, water cisterns and an early Christian Basilica of the 5th and 6th century, containing a beautiful multicolored floor mosaic. Other mosaics are to be found in the district museum. The ruins are also preserved of an early Christian Monastery, of the 40 Saints, from which the modern name of the town (Saranda) is derived.
Saranda has had several names in its long history. In ancient Greek it was called Anchises Harbour, in Roman times, Onchesmus, then Hagia Saranda, "Forty Saints": Saranda is Greek for Forty, a mystical number in both Islam and Christianity (40 days or years in the desert, and so on). So the Saints are either Sufis, or (less likely) the Forty Armenian Martyrs of the fourth century whose story is told at the bottom of this page. Later the Italian form Santi Quaranta became more commonly used.
It was an important base in World War I for the Italian navy between 1915 and 1918. In this pre-war period, Albanians called the town Pirro. The port was called Porto Edda after June 1939 under the Italian annexation, to honour Mussolini's daughter Edda. The population at the time was about 2000 people. The town of Saranda is only a few kilometres from Corfu across the straits, and the town has often been linked with the island in history.
Although originally developed by Greek colonists as the port for Phoinike, and mentioned by Strabo and Ptolemy. Saranda only really became a place of any importance in Roman times, as a stopping point on the sea route between Italy and Greece. Cicero, returning from the east, notes 'a favourable wind from Onchesmus'. It was occupied by Ostrogoth invaders in 551. Most of the remains from this period have disappeared, owing to changes in the sea level. It continued as a small port into Byzantine times, then followed the common pattern of decline of most Albanian coastal centres under the Ottoman occupation. Under Ali Pasha it became the port for the trade to Ioannina (Janina). Between the wars its principal export was dried mullet roe, to Italy. In the Second War Saranda was one of the few places in the Balkans to experience an assault by a British landing force, when in October 1944, 40th Royal Marine Commando captured the port to prevent the evacuation of the German garrison on Corfu.
Saranda is a pleasant place to stay for a day or two, with long hours of sunshine at all times of the year, very mild winters and shelter from strong winds thanks to the surrounding Eremece mountains.
The sunsets are particularly famous, when the island of Corfu seems to float on the surface of the Adriatic. There is a good swimming off the rocks 1 kilometre south of the town. It is also a good base to visit Butrint 15 kilometres south. There are interesting remains of the Roman period in the small town museum, among the shops above the front, which has been built around a mosaic which was discovered there. There are also some exhibits from ancient Phoinike displayed, principally a marble statue of a woman, and a bust of Artemis, dating from the 2nd century AD.
A party of soldiers who suffered a cruel death for their faith, near Sebaste, in Lesser Armenia, victims of the persecutions of Licinius, who, after the year 316, persecuted the christians of the East. The earliest account of their martyrdom is given by St. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea (370-379), in a homily delivered on the feast of the Forty Martyrs (Hom. xix in P.G., XXXI, 507 sqq.). The feast is consequently more ancient than the episcopate of Basil, whose eulogy on them was pronounced only fifty or sixty years after martyrdom, which is thus historic beyond a doubt. According to St. Basil, forty soldiers who had openly confessed themselves Christians were condemned by the prefect to be exposed naked upon a frozen pond near Sebaste on a bitterly cold night, that they might feeze to death. Among the confessors, one yielded and, leaving his companions, sought the warm baths near the lake which had been prepared for any who might prove inconstant.
One of the guards set to keep watch over the martyrs beheld at this moment a supernatural brilliancy overshadowing them and at once proclaimed himself a Christian, threw off his garments, and placed himself beside the thirty-nine soldiers of Christ. Thus the number of forty remained complete. At daybreak, the stiffened bodies of the confessors, which still showed signs of life, were burned and the ashes cast into a river. The Christians, however, collected the precious remains, and the relics were distributed throught many cities; in this way the veneration paid to the Forty Martyrs became widespread, and numerous churches were erected in their honour. One of them was built at Caesarea, in Cappadocia, and it was in this church that St. Basil publicly delivered his homily. St. Gregory of Nyssa was a special client of these holy martyrs. Two discourses in praise of them, preached by him in the church dedicated to them, are still preserved (P. G., XLVI, 749 sqq., 773 sqq.) and upon the death of his parents, he laid them to rest beside the relics of the confessors. St. Ephraem, the Syrian, has also eulogized the forty Martyrs (Hymni in SS. 40 martyres). Sozomen, who was an eye-witness, has left us (Hist. Eccl., IX, 2) an interesting account of the finding of the relics in Constantinople through the instrumentality of the Empress Pulcheria. Special devotion to the forty martyrs of Sebaste was introduced at an early date into the West. St. gaudentius, Bishop of Brescia in the beginning of the fifth century (d. about 410 or 427), received paticles of the ashes of martyrs during a voyage in the East, and placed them with other relics in the altar of the basilica which he had erected, at the consecration of which he delivered a discourse, still extant (P. L., XX, 959 sqq.)
Near the Church of Santa Maria Antiqua, in the Roman Forum, built in the fifth century, a chapel was found, built, like the church itself, on an ancient site, and consecrated to the Forty Martyrs. A picture, still preserved there, dating from the sixth or seventh century, depicts the scene of the martydom. The names of the confessors, as we find them also in later sources, were formerly inscribed on this fresco. Acts of these martyrs, written subsequently, in Greek, Syriac and Latin, are yet extant, also a "Testament" of the Forty Martyrs. Their feast is celebrated in the Greek, as well as in the Latin Church, on 9 March.
According to the famous Albanian historical writer Mr. Neritan Ceka (Minister of Interior 1997-1998) this town took its name from the Trojan Prince father "Anchises".
The name of Agii Saranda according to the Legend comes from the Christian time of the 15th century, when 40 monks, soldiers, were decapitated by the Turks because they wouldn't change their religion. So, the folk and the church declared them as Saints. The origin of the name of Agii Saranda comes from two Greek words. Agii means Saints, Saranda means the number forty. Today the city is called only Saranda. The town has a population of 30.000 inhabitants. This number triples during the summer time because Saranda town is very well organized. The inhabitants of all Albania and Kossovo like to spend their holidays in this town, which is lying next to the Ionian Sea. We have to mention that as far as religion is concerned, Albanians are 60% Muslims, 30% Greek Orthodox and 10% Catholics. The climate of Saranda is mild Mediterranean and sunny most of the year. The economy of Saranda town is based mainly on its agricultural products from the valley of Valtos, on the cultivation of mussels from the salt lake of Vouthrotos (Butrint ).
Fishing is another source of wealth and finally tourism, which has been growing slowly but steadily during the last nine years. The town of Saranda is built in amphitheatric style with three parallel roads. Four series of step stairs lead from the top of the hill of the town down to each promenade. After the revolution of 1990 this town was rebuilt in a modern style. Modern Hotels with the 5 stars Hotel "Butrint" being the top one, bars, restaurants and cafeterias and also a promenade with palm trees. Several arts of roses and bougainvilleas next to the Ionian Sea give to Saranda the air of a cosmopolitan town. Therefor Saranda is the most touristic destination of all Albania .The inside of the town is a combination of top new buildings, old taverns, cafeterias and houses built in the traditional impressive stone style, even with top roofs of stone plates. Albanian and northwest Greeks are the best carved-stone workers in the world.
History of Saranda and Vouthrotos (Butrint)
The Albanians belong to the Indogermanistic race. Traces of human life are placed in the Paleolithic Era. 35.000 B.C. The first inhabitants of Saranda area were of the Tirrino-Pelasgian race. Offspring races of the Tirrino-Pelasgians were the Illyrians and of the Pelasgians were the Epirots and the Macedonians. Remands of human life are placed in the Neolithic Era 3000-1200 B.C. The legend has it that, the ancient inhabitants of Saranda area were offsprings of the Greek ancient hero Achilles. Epirus King Neoptolemus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles and the greater of the "Aeachidon Dynasty", which lasted for 1000 years, after the fall of Troy held captive Andromache,(widow of Trojan Crone prince Hector). Their union resulted in four sons. One of them that was named Mollosus created the Molossian race.
Olympias mother of Alexander the Great was an offspring of the Molossians. After King Neoptolemus Pyrrhus's death, Andromache married the Trojan Prince Helenus (Hectors brother), who was also held as a captive of the Epirus King, and they built a miniature town of Troy giving to it the name "Vouthrotos". 26 km away of Saranda town very close to the borders with mainland Greece, opposite the eastern shores of the Strait of Corfu Island, into a natural Park of 20 sq. km, surrounded by the magnificed channel "Vivari", which connects the salt lake of Voutrotos (Butrint) with the Ionian Sea, are situated the breathtaking ancient cities of Vouthrotos (Butrint).
According to one of the many legends of those cities in the 12th century B.C. Helenus, son of King Priamus of Troy after the fall of his patria sailed west to establish a new settlement. On his journey he landed in the island of Corfu and decided to sacrifise a bull to the Olympian God Apollo who was one of the six God protecters of Troy. During the ceremony of the sacrifising the bull escaped from the knife of Helenus half wounded, swam across the Ionian Sea, landed in mainland Epirus and died by hemorrhage (sever bleeding). Helenus who followed the bull by his ship and landed also in the mainland Epirus took this as an auspicious sign of Apollo and built there a miniature town of Troy, giving to it the name Voutrotos, that means in the ancient Greek language "the wounded bull". Vous=bull. throtos = vulnerable. According to Mr. Neritan Ceka ,Voutrotos (Butrint) was a flourishing city with a harbor, a Theatre, and a sanctuary dedicated to the God of health Asclepius. By the time of Alexander the Great two centuries later the Romans made it a supply base for their Balkan campaigns. In the year 49-48 B.C. it was serving as a base for Caesar's army, tied up in fighting against Pompeius army in Apollonia and Dyrrachium. (In formations from Mr. Neritan Ceca's books, son of Hasan Ceca who was "the father of Albanian archeology". A unique harmony of four civilizations of four ancient cities of the Hellenistic period, the Roman period, the Byzantine period and the Venetian period built one above the other and next to the other in the still undiscovered country of the "eagle" or in origin Shqiperje.
25 km away from Saranda town, near the traditional impressive stone built village of Musina, into a forest of hazelnuts, walnuts, cherries, pines and fir trees 177 meters above the sea level 18 springs come out the bottom of the earth and great a rare beauty the famous "Blue Eye", which is a geological phenomenon.
Because of its oval shaped form and of the water, which is coming out of the earth, deep blue in the center and the light blue at the sides it looks like a human eye. Nobody knows how deep it is. Divers who tried to reach the bottom because of the pressure of the water have managed to go only 45 meters deep. It has a rate of flow of 6 cubic meters of water per second and a water temperature of 13 Celsius degrees. Visitors throw a stone into the center of this spring, and after a while they see the same stone coming up again on the surface of it. This geological phenomenon is of tectonic origin. The water of it is believed to be a filtration from Drinos valley. These 18 springs provide water to "Bistrica" rive which is 25 km long and by an artificial channel built in 1958, its waters flow into the Ionian Sea.
In the area of the "Blue Eye" wild life is rich and varied too, wild animals exist, like the fox, the fowl, the reptiles and the marten. "Blue Eye" is Albania's small treasure. Visitors on a one-day organized trip can relax into its peaceful landscape. Next to a picturesque waterfall opposite the "Blue Eye" spring, there is a traditional wood and stone built restaurant you may enjoy Albania's snaps named "Raki".