Vlora’s main claim to fame is that it is where Albanian independence was proclaimed in 1912. On a free day we decided to visit the town’s three museums, which included the Historical and Archaeological Museum located in the former Town Hall. Our tickets, 100 Lek/75p, were sold to us by a rather serious looking girl, who told us photography was not allowed, although rather naughtily we sneaked a couple.
It was only 9.30am and as we were the first and only visitors, she hovered behind as we looked around. She had the most incredible hearing and if we made a comment or asked each other a question, she came in with the answer.
As Vlora has been continuously inhabited, there has been very little excavation. However, when builders or contractors dig more than a couple of metres deep, they inevitably find Roman artefacts and a small sample of these were displayed in a case at the entrance. There were also a few stone columns, and a canon, in the stretch of grass outside the museum.
The room to the left of the entrance had Neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts and display cabinets with archaeological finds from the surrounding areas with Miss Big Ears pointing out this was a local, not national museum. Maps showed where the various sites were and explained the most significant finds. Many had been discovered as recently as 2009 from Karaburuni. When I whispered to Roy I didn’t know where this was, Miss B E told me it was the peninsula where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas join.
There were lots of amphora (jars) and those excavated from Puerto Palermo, still had visible traces of shells attached. Others had been found at Orikumi, a naval base, and Olimpas Movrove. Each exhibit was well labelled in Albanian and English and described the object, period it was from and where and when it had been discovered.
Across the entrance was a second ground floor room, with similar artefacts but which also included coins, jewellery and tombstones (one apparently in good condition had been discovered by accident).
Upstairs was the historical section and again, there were two rooms. Here were a huge number of photographs and documents pertaining to the independence of Albania in 1912, whilst the second housed a selection of very old musical instruments and perversely, guns. There was also the empty coffin and a bust of the hero Ismail Qemali, regarded as the Founding Father of modern Albania and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. There were 15 photographs of both men and women, who a voice behind us said were heroes of Vlora during World War 2.
We spent about 40 minutes in the museum and at the end of our visit, our new friend added value by telling us the nearby Ethnographic Museum was closed, although it was not clear whether this was just for the day, temporarily or permanently.