Albania

A nice weekend in Berat, Albania

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As the ladies of the recycle sewing project were going to a market in Berat (Also called the city of thousand windows) last weekend to show people what they have made and sell their stuff, I decided to go along. Berat is on the Unesco list as well, together with Gjirokastra. I also had the opportunity to look at the ethnographic museum and meet the manager to talk about the situation over there which would be convenient for my thesis later on. I booked a hotel for two nights and was in Berat from saturday until monday.

It was great and actually very relaxing. I was there last year as well and maybe it was because it was very hot and I was sick back then, but this time was so much more relaxed. So I decided to make a trip report.

Saturday
At half past 11 we took the bus from Gjirokastra to Berat. Albania is actually not that big, but still it would take 4,5 hours to get there. Most parts of the road were okay, but the last part is pretty horrible. At 4 o’clock we arrived and set up the marketstands. Meanwhile I checked in at the hotel, freshened up and went back to the market. There were a lot of other stands as well. Even the Ethnographic museum had his own stand. The market took place on a bridge over the Osumi river, which looked quite nice at dusk.

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After the marketstands were put away and me and the group had some drinks at a hotel in the new part of town, I went back to my hotel in the district of Mangalem. Berat is known for it’s steep little streets where you can wander around, so I did some nightly wandering by myself. I knew some streets from last year, but this time I made a bigger round through the city. Loved it! As it was dark already I had to watch my step though. With my coordination it was probably not the smartest thing to do by myself, but I survived. (:

Sunday
The first thing I did was taking some pictures of my room I was staying in. So nice!

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The view from the big windows of the room was amazing as you can see.

In the morning I had a meeting with the manager of the ethnographic museum in Berat, so I stood up early, enjoyed the sunset from my room and went on to have some breakfast. After that I walked to the Ethnographic museum, but as I was a bit early I decided to walk through the other part of the old town which I didn’t see before.

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When it was 9 o’clock I went back to the museum and had the meeting with the manager. Had a look around and the museum is very beautiful and worth to see when you are visiting Berat. It’s quite different from the one in Gjirokastra. It has a big veranda upstairs and downstairs they made a reconstruction of an old bazaar. Very nice!

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A must see in Berat is of course the citadel and castle on top of the hill. The road to it is long and steep, but definitely worth it! It is a village on it’s own, that’s how large it is. There are different kinds of special buildings, like churches and big houses where you can enjoy the most spectacular views over the valley and the mountains.

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Inside the castle you can find Muzeu Onufri, a very old church where you can see old icons, mural paintings and different other objects. I looked around in the citadel for a bit, had to buy a souvenir of course and went back down again.

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When I got back in Mangalem I decided to make a daytour through the district first. With it’s white houses it is a mixture between a Greek village and a Turkish/Ottoman city. You can wander around forever (did I already mention I like wandering around cities and villages?) and it took me quite a while to get back to my hotel. It’s possible that I walked through parts twice, because Mangelem is quite compact.

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Back in the hotel I wrote a short part on the museum, but remembered that I still needed to know how to get back to Gjirokastra by bus. So I went back to the Museum and asked the manager where a could find a bus. He needed to go to the new town anyway, so he walked all the way with me and looked for the timetable so I could get the bus early. So kind! He told me I also had to visit the mosque and the teqe and as I learned to listen to the locals when traveling (well, almost), so I did.

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I have never been in a mosque before, so it was very interesting! I didn’t have to hide my hair and could just walk in. After that I went to the teqe. As my guide couldn’t speak English very well he demonstrated that the mosque was for praying and the teqe was for dancing (the derwish kinda way). When I have gathered more information, I will make a post about Bektashism and teqes. The photo’s show the teqe first and then the mosque.

As it was around 2 o’clock I decided to get some lunch at hotel Mangalemi. I remembered the restaurant from last year because there you can have some great traditional food and wine. They have a whole page filled with vegetarian yummies in the menu, so I went there in the evening as well.

The rest of the afternoon I spend in the backyard of the hotel. The owner owns a couple of houses next to each other and developed some cute little rooms around a small garden.

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The people of the hotel were in the garden as well, so I had a little chat and got some tea. There is also a dovecote to be found in the garden. The doves flew back and forth and together with some visiting cats it was a cozy afternoon.

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How cool are these doves with their pawfeathers?

I told the owner I needed to go back to Gjirokastra the next morning. He jumped up, said that he knew the busdriver that would drive to Gjiro on monday and called him, so he would know I wanted to take that bus and I didn’t have to walk all the way to the station. Everybody knows each other in these kind of cities and I must say that it’s a very convenient thing here sometimes. (:

On monday morning I walked to the bus with the owner of the hotel, waited for a little while at just a random spot really. But the bus came by, stopped for me and took me back to Gjiro.

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