A large semi-circle of modern high-rise buildings, cradled in the arms of a blue-gray mountain range, the southernmost Albanian town of Saranda (often spelled "Sarandë") is separated from the popular Greek island of Corfu by roughly 3 km (2 miles) of Ionian Sea. Massive regeneration has been taking place since the country’s communist government collapsed in 1992, although many of the gray concrete tenement buildings remain as a reminder of the way Albania's leaders once housed their subjects in easily contained blocks. The area nearest the port, however, has seen the most redevelopment, and many new and more upscale hotels have been built flanking the long, palm-lined promenade that leads to several beaches along its south side. Cafés, bars, and restaurants intertwine with tourist shops and stalls, and it is a pleasure to while away a morning seated at one of these bars watching the pace of Albanian life.
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