And now, Berat.
Tirana is very well connected with the Albanian pearl, the town of Berat. There are buses leaving more or less every half hour from the main station called Dogana (an Italian word meaning Custom). Nevertheless I try to start my day early because I would like to be in Berat as soon as I can, so to be able to follow the now usual visit schema made of a first day dedicated to town where I am and the second for some excursion that in this case is yet to be defined. Trip should last about 2,5 hours and so, since I’ve got the bus leaving at 9:30 I do expect to be at my destination around noon. I’m eager to reach this town that was depicted by anyone who I’ve talked to, as likely the nicest in Albania. Trip is quite boring with nothing remarkable on the way. Route is going through Durrës and then southward. At least road isn’t bad. Berat’s bus station is located few kilometres from the historical centre but there is a very efficient shuttle service that for only 30 Albanian Lek, brings me in town. I took some time to find my B&B because they don’t have any sign outside the door and at the address I have there is an historical house. Shortly I found that the address is right. The place where I’m going to spend next two days is by far the best where I’ve been so far: an house of at least three centuries ago with an incredible view on the river and the houses laid on the hill on the other bank.
Introduction to Berat.
Before telling about my visit to the town, it would be good to spend some word for a short introduction. Berat is a pretty big town for Albania, since it counts about 50.000 inhabitants. It lays along a river called Osum for several kilometres but the interesting part for tourists can be reduced to three quarters. Mangalem and Gorica are facing each other on the two river banks, sharing same structure made of white houses climbing up the hill. Mangalem, that is the oldest of the two and it is where I’m sleeping, is right under the Castle area. The third quarter is actually the castle itself as I will better explain. Berat is world famous and it was included in the UNESCO heritage list because of its beautiful ottoman houses granting it the title of ‘town of the thousand windows’. There is actually another way of calling it that likely led to the current name and it is ‘white town’. This name was used at the time of the Serbian domination. Is not hard to think that from the Serbian “Beligrad” we came to Berat.
I decide to start my visit from the castle on the top of the hill that can be reached following the directions from Mangalem. Climbing up there is not so hard because in the end the distance is reasonable. Once I’m in I realise that more than a castle this one is a citadel meaning with this that there are people living within the walls. As a consequence the visit takes long because there are many places to explore. I didn’t say it yet but today it is a nice day with mostly clear sky. Not having a map I just walk around trying to cover the entire area not to miss anything. From one point there is an exceptional view of Gorica and of the modern part of town where it stands as main landmark the dome of the University. I walk back on my footsteps and I reach the museum Onufri that is located in the beautiful church of Virgin Mary and I have to say that more than the work of the local master after who museum is called, the real sight here is the church itself with an incredible carved out wooden altar. Unfortunately in the museum it is not allowed to take pictures. Keeping going around I find other orthodox churches mostly closed. After some time more spent going around between ancient walls and modern chickens I head to the lower part of town. This post continues to next page