I wanted to post this to my blog earlier this month, but as it was raining for weeks (see picture above) I decided to wait until the weather got a bit better.
So, a virtual walk through the city of stone. Of course, I am not going to show everything, because what fun would it be to see really everything from your couch? No, the reason I made this post is to show how special I think this place is and to give an impression, things there are to see and hopefully it will get you curious to visit the town itself someday.
Gjirokastra is a city in the south of Albania and thirty minutes away from the Greek border. It is beautifully situated on the foot of the mountains in the Drino valley and at the highest part of the city you can enjoy a spectacular view over the new city, the valley and the mountains.
The city exists of two parts. The old town, with its old Pazar and castle, and the new town down in the valley which was build during the 70s and later. I am not going to show you the new part, because of all the new buildings, which is not really very interesting. As I said earlier, I do like to show you the old part and tell a bit about what’s going on around here.
Gjirokastra is known for its gobbled streets. As the town is situated on the foot of the mountain. Some streets are a bit hilly, but other streets are extremely steep (and for people who are badly coordinated, like me, a true adventure). The typical streets are paved with white and light grey stones and sometimes have a nice pattern in them.
On the picture down here, you can see another typical asset of the city. And not to forget one of the most important reasons why Gjirokastra is called the city of stone: The rooftops. Made of grey stone, it’s a true craftsmanship in this city.
I have seen a lot of European castles in my life. And I can truly say that I think Gjirokastra has one of the most impressive. Not only it is a very large castle, but you also have the greatest views over the mountains, the valley and of course the city itself from every side. It’s partly ruined and there a a lot of places where you can wander around overgrown towers, have a picknick on the grass or visit the museums in the castle itself. There are two museums: One is the Armory museum, where you can see all kinds of armory and tanks (dramatically exhibited in the great hallway of the castle) and learn about the wars. The other one just opened and contains the history of Gjirokastra itself.
The Ethnographic museum is the most ‘dressed’ museum in Gjirokaster and is settled in the birth house of former dictator Enver Hoxha. Here you can see how people lived and as said before (in dutch though) on my blog, the museum has a beautiful costume collection. See my earlier post to see more pictures of the museum.
Another beautiful house. It is situated across the Ethnographic museum and although it is not as richly decorated as the Ethnographic museum, it is worth to see this house anyway. It has a lot of rooms where you can wander around and at all these small hallways where you can almost get lost in.
Then there is also the Zekate House. Also very beautiful and has, in my opinion, the most beautiful room to show. The house is in private ownership, so the house is not in the very best condition. Hopefully the owners will have the opportunity to do so in the future. Unfortunately it had spring-cleaning when I went there last week, so no pictures. But it’s very nice and definitely worth a visit!
The old part of the town doesn’t only contain the Old Pazar and the castle, but also a couple of pretty districts as well. One of them is called Dunavat and is reached by walking past the castle up the mountain. When I made a little walk through this neighbourhood, it seemed quite idyllic. As it was in the middle of the day, it was very quiet. Some children were playing soccer and some people were drinking a coffee at the local cafe. When I got to the higher part, I walked by a couple of cute streetcats who where roaming the streets. It was quite a hot day (well, for a day in early spring it was anyway) that day, so I didn’t walk all the way up. When I turned around, a nice lady walked up to me and started chatting to me. She in Albanian, me in english. We didn’t understand each other, but that didn’t matter. It was a nice chat anyway. (:
There are still a couple of nice buildings very much ruined. The Gjirokastra Foundation and Cultural Heritage Without Borders are doing their best to restore and maintain these buildings. This is a hard thing to do here, because of the ownership problems in this city. Some houses have multiple owners. Most of these owners do not live in Gjirokaster, but in other parts of the country, or not in Albania at all. They have to be tracked down and if they are, there a no official papers anymore to sell the properties.
Overall, I think this place is wonderful! After a month I still come across really nice parts of the city that I didn’t see before. The town is very beautiful and also the people are very hospitable, nice and helpful. The food is great and also in the area there are a lot of other things to see.
Une te dua. (: