Ermak Travel Guide

 

 

Durrës

Durrës

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transportation

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

Interesting information and useful tips

 

Description of Durrës

Location: 33 km to the West from Tirana

 

Durrës is one of the largest cities in Albania with rich history and plenty of historic sites that date as early as the Antiquity to magnificent, but abandoned palace of the Albanian monarchs of the early 20th century. Durres is located 33 km west of the Albanian capital Tirana. Durres was originally called Epidamnos (Επίδαμνος) and Durrahion (Δυρράχιον), which means "bad rocky shore." This name was given to him by Greek colonists from Corinth and Corcyra in 627 BC. The Greeks found a common language with the local Illyrians and were able to establish friendly and trade relations from which both sides benefited. The city grew and grew rich. Many armies seized and burned it. Gradually, the Greek name Durrahion turned into Slavic Durres or Italian Durazzo. After the liberation of Albania from the Turkish yoke, Durres became the Albanian capital from March 7, 1914 to February 11, 1920.

 

 

 

Destinations in Durrës

Churches
Shen Lucia Catholic Church (Kisha e Shën Luçia), Rruga Don Nikoll Kacorri (Center). built in 1907 edit
Shen Gjergji Orthodox Church. built in the 19th century
Saint Asti and Saint Paul Orthodox Church (Katedralja ortodokse e Shën Palit dhe Shën Asti).

Mosques
Fatih Mosque (Xhamia Fatih), Rruga Xhamia. built in 1503.
Great Mosque of Durres (Xhamia e Madhe e Durresit).
New Mosque. built in 1937
Vogel Mosque (Xhamia e Vogel).

Museums
Archaeological Museum (Muzeu Arkeologjik), Rruga Taulantia 32.
Popular Culture Museum, Kavaje village, Rruga Skuraj (S 18 km).
Alexander Moissi Museum House (Shtepia e Alexander Mois).
World War II Relics Hall.
Koloseo Art Gallery. showcases some of the best work of local painters.

Roman monuments
Durres Amphitheater, Rruga Kalase. The biggest in the Balkans it also features renovated iconography works.
Durres Ancient City Wall, Rruga Sotir Noka (Next to the Amphitheater). Medieval Hammam and the Tophane Well located inside and around the wall.
Venetian Tower (Rotonda, Kalaja). is a circular tower at the city center built in the 16th century. edit
Shen Mehilli Hill (Kodra e Shen Mehillit). where on 18 October 1801, Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos confronted Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard. A basilica built in the 6th century AD with a beautiful mosaic is found here. edit
Byzantine Forum (Macellum). built in the 5th century AD and Public Baths around and beneath Alexander Moissi Palace of Culture

Others
Municipality (Bashkia), Sheshi Liria, 15.
King Zog's Villa (Vila e Zogut), Rruga Kont Urani (located on top of a hill overlooking the city). This arguably used to be the most luxurious crib in all of Albania, but it was looted in the 1997 uprising and isn't open to visitors now. Reportedly prince Leka has plans to renovate the villa "in the near future", but this has been reported for quite some time. Endure the steep climb up the hill for one of the most spectacular views over the city.
Kavaja Rock (Shkembi i Kavajes) (SE 5 km). is a historic landmark in Golem where once caravans used to pass along the ancient Via Egnatia. This is where a battle between Pompey and Julius Caesar is said to have taken place.

Further afield
Lalzit Bay Area (N 27 km). Visit Ishem Castle and Rrushkull Nature Reserve (Rezervati Rrushkull)
Rodoni Castle (Kalaje e Rodonit) (Cape of Rodon).
Scanderbeg Castle (Sebastia s Castle), Rruga e Sebastes, Laç village (N 33km).
Shen Ndout Church (Kisha e Shna Ndout), Rruga Kisha e Shna Ndout, Laç.
Culture Palace, Bulevardi Dyrrah. Events
Evening walk (promenade). Go for an evening walk along the sea front promenade or along the beach where you can see families walking around or even men with bears on a leash or with snakes entwined around their necks!
Villa Hill (Kodra e Viles), Rruga Currila. Panoramic view of Durres seaside at Currilat from top of a newly reclaimed hill
Seaside Large Steps (Shkallet tek Brryli), Intersection between Rruga Currila and Rruga Taulantia (Brryli area). Sit and admire the sea from up close on these large steps descending into the water

Beaches
Lalzit Bay Beach (Gjiri i Lalzit), near Hamallaj village (25 km north of Durres). Popular weekend retreat and exclusive wealthy beach area. A small resort can be found here.
Portez Beach (Plazhi Portez), Bishti Palles (13 km north of Durres). Nice beach, bar, and wooden bungalows north of Currilat
Golem beach (Plazhi Golemit/Mali i Robit), Golem, Mali Robit, Kavaja Rock (Shkembi i Kavajes) (Follow SH4 and enter secondary road at Plepat roundabout (SH56, SH85) or continue along SH4 and exit at Golem/Mali Robit exit). This is the main seaside resort south of Durres with long sandy beaches popular among Albanians and foreigners alike. Tirana inhabitants have their beach houses and villas in the area for weekend and summer retreats.

Diving
Sea Resort of Golem, Xixa Resort, Rruga Kompleksit (S 7 km), ☎ +355 69 378 8696. Take a dip in the Adriatic Sea water in the biggest sea side resort of Golem

 

 

History

Ancient
Though surviving remains are minimal, as one of the oldest cities in Albania, the city was founded as Epidamnos in the ancient region of Illyria in 627 BC by ancient Greek colonists from Corinth and Corcyra, modern-day Corfu. The Romans replaced the rule of Teuta with that of Demetrius of Pharos, one of her generals. He lost his kingdom, including Epidamnus, to the Romans in 219 BC at the Second Illyrian War. In the Third Illyrian War Epidamnus was attacked by Gentius but he was defeated by the Romans at the same year.

For Catullus, the city was Durrachium Hadriae tabernam, "the taberna of the Adriatic", one of the stopping places for a Roman traveling up the Adriatic, as Catullus had done himself in the sailing season of 56.

After the Illyrian Wars with the Roman Republic in 229 BC ended in a decisive defeat for the Illyrians, the city passed to Roman rule, under which it was developed as a major military and naval base. The Romans renamed it Dyrrachium (Greek: Δυρράχιον / Dyrrhachion). They considered the name Epidamnos to be inauspicious because of its wholly coincidental similarities with the Latin word damnum, meaning "loss" or "harm". The meaning of Dyrrachium ("bad spine" or "difficult ridge" in Greek) is unclear, but it has been suggested that it refers to the imposing cliffs near the city. Julius Caesar's rival Pompey made a stand there in 48 BC before fleeing south to Greece. Under Roman rule, Dyrrachium prospered; it became the western end of the Via Egnatia, the great Roman road that led to Thessalonica and on to Constantinople. Another lesser road led south to the city of Buthrotum, the modern Butrint. The Roman emperor Caesar Augustus made the city a colony for veterans of his legions following the Battle of Actium, proclaiming it a civitas libera (free town).

In the 4th century, Dyrrachium was made the capital of the Roman province of Epirus nova. It was the birthplace of the emperor Anastasius I in c. 430. Sometime later that century, Dyrrachium was struck by a powerful earthquake which destroyed the city's defences. Anastasius I rebuilt and strengthened the city walls, thus creating the strongest fortifications in the western Balkans. The 12-metre-high (39-foot) walls were so thick that, according to the Byzantine historian Anna Komnene, four horsemen could ride abreast on them. Significant portions of the ancient city defences still remain, although they have been much reduced over the centuries.

Like much of the rest of the Balkans, Dyrrachium and the surrounding Dyrraciensis provinciae suffered considerably from barbarian incursions during the Migrations Period. It was besieged in 481 by Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, and in subsequent centuries had to fend off frequent attacks by the Bulgarians. Unaffected by the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city continued under the Byzantine Empire as an important port and a major link between the Empire and western Europe.

Middle Ages
Durrës and the surrounding coast became a Byzantine province, the Theme of Dyrrhachium, probably in the first decade of the 9th century. The city remained in Byzantine hands until the late 10th century, when Samuel of Bulgaria gained control of the city, possibly through his marriage with Agatha, daughter of the local magnate John Chryselios. Samuel made his son-in-law Ashot Taronites, a Byzantine captive who had married his daughter Miroslava, governor of the city. In circa 1005, however, Ashot and Miroslava, with the connivance of Chryselios, fled to Constantinople, where they notified Emperor Basil II of their intention to surrender the city to him. Soon, a Byzantine squadron appeared off the city under Eustathios Daphnomeles, and the city returned to Byzantine rule.

 

In the 11th–12th centuries, the city was important as a military stronghold and a metropolitan see rather than as a major economic center, and never recovered its late antique prosperity; Anna Komnene makes clear that medieval Dyrrhachium occupied only a portion of the ancient city. In the 1070s, two of its governors, Nikephoros Bryennios the Elder and Nikephoros Basilakes, led unsuccessful rebellions trying to seize the Byzantine throne. Dyrrachium was lost in February 1082 when Alexios I Komnenos was defeated by the Normans under Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemund in the Battle of Dyrrhachium. Byzantine control was restored a few years later, but the Normans under Bohemund returned to besiege it in 1107–08, and sacked it again in 1185 under King William II of Sicily. In 1205, after the Fourth Crusade, the city was transferred to the rule of the Republic of Venice, which formed the "Duchy of Durazzo". This Duchy was conquered in 1213 and the city taken by the Despotate of Epirus under Michael I Komnenos Doukas. In 1257, Durrës was briefly occupied by the King of Sicily, Manfred of Hohenstaufen. It was re-occupied by the Despot of Epirus Michael II Komnenos Doukas until 1259, when the Despotate was defeated by the Byzantine Empire of Nicaea in the Battle of Pelagonia. In the 1270s, Durrës was again controlled by Epirus under Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas, the son of Michael II, who in 1278 was forced to yield the city to Charles d' Anjou (Charles I of Sicily). In c. 1273, it was wrecked by a devastating earthquake, but soon recovered. It was briefly occupied by King Milutin of Serbia in 1296.

In the early 14th century, the city was ruled by a coalition of Anjous, Hungarians, and Albanians of the Thopia family. In 1317 or 1318, the area was taken by the Serbs and remained under their rule until the 1350s. At that time the Popes, supported by the Anjous, increased their diplomatic and political activity in the area, by using the Latin bishops, including the archbishop of Durrës. The city had been a religious center of Catholicism after the Anjou were installed in Durrës. In 1272, a Catholic archbishop was installed, and until the mid-14th century there were both Catholic and Orthodox archbishops of Durrës.

Two Irish pilgrims who visited Albania on their way to Jerusalem in 1322, reported that Durrës was "inhabited by Latins, Greeks, perfidious Jews and barbaric Albanians".

When the Serbian Tsar Dušan died in 1355, the city passed into the hands of the Albanian family of Thopias. In 1376 the Navarrese Company Louis of Évreux, Duke of Durazzo, who had gained the rights on the Kingdom of Albania from his second wife, attacked and conquered the city, but in 1383 Karl Topia regained control of the city. The Republic of Venice regained control in 1392 and retained the city, known as Durazzo in those years, as part of the Albania Veneta. It fended off a siege by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1466 but fell to Ottoman forces in 1501.

Durrës became a Christian city quite early on; its bishopric was created around 58 and was raised to the status of an archbishopric in 449. It was also the seat of a Greek Orthodox metropolitan bishop. Under Turkish rule, many of its inhabitants converted to Islam and many mosques were erected. This city was renamed as Dıraç but did not prosper under the Ottomans and its importance declined greatly. By the mid-19th century, its population was said to have been only about 1,000 people living in some 200 households. In the late nineteenth century, Durrës contained 1,200 Orthodox Aromanians (130 families) who lived among the larger population of Muslim Albanians alongside a significant number of Catholic Albanians. The decrepitude of Durrës was noted by foreign observers in the early 20th century: "The walls are dilapidated; plane-trees grow on the gigantic ruins of its old Byzantine citadel; and its harbour, once equally commodious and safe, is gradually becoming silted up." Durrës was a main centre in İşkodra Vilayet before 1912.

 

 

 


 

Transportation

Get in
By boat
To Bari in Italy on Agemar, on Azzurra Line or on Dimaio Line
To Ancona in Italy on Adria Ferries
To Trieste in Italy on Agemar
... and there are more ferry operators such as Anek, GNV, European Ferries and Ventouris.

By bus
Buses and furgons usually arrive and depart at the bus terminal with the "DURRES" logo on the outside near the railway station.

From Skopje, Macedonia, buses run through Durrës on their way to Tirana. A typical Skopje-Tirana ticket costs around €25 return.
From Kumanovo, Macedonia, there is an everyday direct bus line to Durrës. The cost of tickets is around 20 euros.
From Pristina, Kosovo, in the summer season there are several buses a day. You should check the timetables at the Pristina bus station, but in 2013 the timetable was as follows; 4.00, 5.00, 6.00 and 6.30 and then at 14.30, 15.00, 15.30, 16.00 and 23.00. There are at least a couple of buses going back at 16.00 and 17.00. Return ticket costs about 12€. The trip takes around 4 to 5,5 hours, depending on whether it goes via Prizren. Buses depart and arrive at the northern end of Rruga Pavaresia street running parallel, and very close, to the beach.

By train
Railway Station, Rruga Adria. Currently no link to Tirana (which has been without a train station for some time), nor international links. Daily trains to Kashdar (a suburb of Tirana, several services), Elbasan (twice), Librazhd, Shkoder and Vlora (all once) through the adventurous Albanian railway system. There is a timetable posted outside of the train station.

By car
There is a road between here and Tirana, the SH2, which takes just over half an hour for the journey. You could fly into Tirana, then drive or get a taxi to Durrës, with the airport connecting to the SH2 by the SH60.

Get around
The city centre where the archaeological sites are located can be toured by foot. Many taxis are available in Durrës. You can find them parked everywhere on the streets with a taxi symbol on the top of their car. There are also Public Buses in orange that can drive you around the city although much slower

 

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

 

 

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

 

 

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

 

 

Interesting information and useful tips