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My friend took me to Durrës for the day, where he and his family have an apartment. One of his daughters went with us to see the old Roman amphitheatre and walk around the nearby town square that sits right on the water. The water and beach in Durrës aren’t very beautiful, but it is the second-largest city in Albania, and is practically a suburb of Tirana (based on its proximity), so it is crowded in summer nevertheless. However, it was definitely the history aspect that I found appealing about Durrës. Known as Dyrrachion or Epidamnus in Greek and Dyrrachium in Roman, it is one of the oldest cities in Europe and at various points was part of ancient Illyria, the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire.

The view of the amphitheatre from the entrance gate

The amphitheatre was unknown and rediscovered long after lots of construction had gone up over and around it, so the atmosphere is unique–ancient ruins surrounded by communist-era apartment buildings, buildings that are in such bad shape they are almost falling down, a mosque minaret, and streets. My friend told me there is probably much more really amazing structures left unexcavated under the surrounding structures.

These old walls unearthed to the side of the amphitheatre hint at what else might be hidden beneath the surrounding buildings.

A Communist-era relief sculpture we noticed on the side of an abandoned, Italian-style building near the amphitheatre.

In addition to the amphitheatre, ancient city walls can be found in this area of Durrës. They are remarkably thick and I think that is a reflection of the importance of this city in the ancient world.

This doorway in the city wall leads from the main street of this part of the city into the area where the amphitheatre is located.

Supposedly, this cavern-like tunnel is where the gladiators waited for their turn in the arena. I was also told that this tunnel used to lead into another part of the city, but was blocked off.

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