Red Corner: Corfu to Albania

While visiting the Greek island of Corfu in 1990, I heard a rather frightening story. Apparently two college students rented a little paddle boat and headed out to open waters. They went a little too far, got caught in the current and were swept across the channel. They eventually landed in communist Albania, with only bathing suits and with no identification whatsoever. They were quickly jailed as spies.

Up until 1993, Albania was a Hermit Kingdom cut off from the rest of the world, both East and West. Although the country was only a short boat ride (two kilometers at its closest point) from the shores of Corfu, it remained mired deep in the past.

Today, a hydrofoil now zips across the divide, taking tourists from the charming, narrow streets of Old Town Corfu to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Gjirokaster in Albania. Both, according to a recent article in The Times (UK), are very well worth your time. And for those slightly intrepid about travel to the former Hermit Kingdom, you can jet over for just a few hours and be back in Old Town Corfu dining on calamari before the sun sets.