If we could choose the one place where you will have your most memorable encounter with history in Albania, it would have to be the ancient city of Apollonia, founded in the sixth century B.C. Situated in southwestern Albania, about 13 miles from the city of Fier, this city was built by Greek colonizers on the lands of the Taulantii Illyrian tribe. It was considered to be one of the most prominent cities at the time, selected from over twenty other cities throughout the Mediterranean, to receive the glorious name of Apollo, the god of music and poetry. Thanks to the monuments and ruins scattered on the hills of the Archaeological Park, the largest in Albania, you will have the opportunity to come in intimate contact with the splendor of the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
Apollonia Monumental Complex
Imagine what the French archaeologist, Leon Rei, may have experienced when he first discovered the cluster of public buildings that compose the Monumental Complex of Apollonia in 1925! Forgotten by time but most definitely not ruined by it, the ruins and monuments of the city, which at the height of its prosperity boasted about 60,000 residents and which Cicero wrote extensively about, are one of the most important tourist attractions in Albania. The Monumental Complex includes the Buleuterion, one of Agora’s most impressive objects, dating back to the 2nd century B.C., which today is one of the emblems of antiquity in Albania. This building served as the headquarters of the City Council, and is also known as the Monument of Agonotet, in honor of the two brothers mentioned in the inscription of the lintel. This monument, along with the ruins of the Arch of Triumph, the Library, the Sanctuary and the surrounding stairs of the Odeon, immediately catapult you into another era. Ready or not!
Journey into the Classical Period
Several beautiful ruins and important monuments, such as “Promenade B” with its 4th century B.C. Doric columns, the Nymphaeum’s magnificent fountains, and the largest preserved monument of the Park, the Gate of Temenos with the grand Obelisk sitting across from it, as well as many other artifacts and remains, will immerse you in the past and make you forget about any notion of the present.
Monastery and the Church of St.Mary
As if all these archeological treasures from the Park do not suffice, within its walls, you will find the Monastery and the Church of St. Mary, which, along with the Archaeological Museum located inside the monastery, add yet another layer of history, architecture, and culture to the Park. The monastery complex of Apollonia is one of the best preserved in Albania, and it dates from the 13th century. The strategic position of the Monastery, overlooking the Myzeqe plains, where the horizon meets the Adriatic Sea, transforms the journey to Apollonia into an experience that will leave its echo long after you depart.
It really could not happen otherwise as you realize that these same over-2000-years-old roads have been well-trodden by legendary figures such as Octavius Augustus. Prior to becoming Emperor and changing the course of the world’s history, he was a student in the famous Academy of precisely this city, the city of greatness.
How to get there: Take the Fier-Pojan Bus line, whose daily last trip is at 2:30 PM. Changes may apply during the summer season.
For the map-guide in English click here.