BERAT - ALBANIA - OCTOBER 2004
Berat , a town located on the right bank of the river Osum (just a short distance from the point where this is joined by the Molisht river) in south-central Albania, has a population of around 45,500 people and is the capital of both the District and the County of Berat.
According to Wikipedia (from where most of this information was taken), «the town is thought to be one of the oldest in Albania, with a settlement having existed there since at least the 6th century BC, when it was a fortress-settlement of the Illyrian Dasaretes tribe on the old border between Illyria and Epirus. Known as Antipatrea, it was captured by the Romans in the 2nd century BC». It was named Pulcheriopolis during the Byzantine period, was captured by the Bulgarians under Simeon I in the 9th century, passed to the Serbs in 1345, who renamed it «Beligrad» ("white city"), to be finally conquered in 1450 by the Ottomans, who retained it until 1912. It represents a remarkable example of an Ottoman town, with beautiful buildings of architectural and historical interest.
Berat was also the centre of the Albanian nationalist movement in the late 19th century, becoming a major base of support for the League of Prizren, and is known as the site where took place the meetings in October 1944 in which the Albanian Communist Party formed a provisional government headed by Enver Hoxha. It has a mixture of Muslim, Orthodox and Vlach inhabitants and was proclaimed a «Museum City» by Hoxha in June 1961. It's definitely a worth-visiting place!
"THOUSAND WINDOWS - Berat is renowned for its historic architecture and scenic beauty, and is known as the «Town of A Thousand Windows» (as Gjirokastra is named «The City of Two Thousand Steps») due to the wonderful large windows of the old decorated houses built on terraces, one over another, in the steep hills overlooking the Osum. It seems to be unclear whether its name actually means "Thousand" (një mijë) or "One over Another" (një mbi një) Windows"
"THE CITADEL - The Osum River has cut a 915-metre deep gorge through the rock on the west side of the valley to form a natural fortress, around which the town was built on several river terraces. The Citadel, built on that rocky hill on the left bank of the river overlooks the river and the modern city as well as the old Christian quarter across the river"
"MODERN BERAT consists of three parts divided by the Osum River: Goritsa ("little mountain" in Old Slavonic), Mangalem and Kalaja, the latter being a residential quarter within the old Byzantine citadel that overlooks the town. The town also has a 15th century mosque and a number of churches of the Albanian Orthodox Church"
"WEDDING - The Square was almost empty when we got there. As soon as we went to the terrace of a Hotel to see the views and have a drink, cars arrived at the square and started turning around, making a hell of a noise. Then we perceived a bride in one of them..."
"INSIDE THE CITADEL we find a very well preserved area containing narrow streets, Turkish houses and Orthodox churches. The initial walls of the Citadel were burned down by the Romans in 200 B.C. Then, they were strengthened under Theodosius II (5th century), rebuilt under the Justinian (6th century) and again under the Despot of Epirus (13th century)"
"TRADITIONAL LIFE - It's quite interesting the visit of the Citadel because people still live in the traditional houses within its walls. Of course, they use some more recent means to get up there, though sometimes not the last word in car transportation..."
ONUFRI MUSEUM - According to the site Travel in Berat that I linked at the beginning of this post «the most interesting place to visit is the cathedral of St. Nicholas, which has been well restored and is now a museum dedicated to Onufri. Onufri was the greatest of the 16th century painters in Albania. Not only was he a master of the techniques of "fresco" and "icons", but he was the first to introduce a new colour in painting, pink, which was considered by the French critics as Onufri's red. In addition, Onufri introduced a certain realism and a degree of individuality in facial expression. The first inscription recording Onufri's name was found in 1951, in the Shelqan church. The church has a date 23 July 1547 and has a reference to Onufri's origin: Une jam Onufri, dhe vij nga qyteti i shkelqyer i Beratit (I am Onufri, and come from the town of Berat). [...] In Onufri's museum are to be found works of Onufri, his son, Nikolla and other painters. There are also numbers of icons and some fine examples of religious silversmith's work (sacred vessels, icon casings, covers of Gospel books, etc). Berat Gospels, which date from the forth century, are copies (the originals are preserved in the National Archives in Tirana). The church itself has a magnificent iconostasis of carved wood, with two very fine icons of Christ and the mother of God. The bishop's throne and the pulpit are also of considerable quality». Don't lose it. It's worthwhile visiting..."
"ORTHODOX CHURCH - The population of the fortress was Christian, and it had about twenty churches and only one mosque, for the use of the Turkish garrison. The fourteenth century Church of the Holy Trinity is built in the form of a Greek cross and has Byzantine murals"
"MAGNIFICENT VIEWS from the top"
"THE CITADEL seen from the other side of the river Osum, near the eighteenth-century seven-arched stone bridge"
"GUESS WHAT is written in colossal letters at the top of the rampart"
"CHAPEL - Outside the ramparts is the Church of St. Michael, also built in the thirteenth century"
"RESTAURANT - When we went to have lunch at a restaurant on the top of one of the hills surrounding Berat, we found out that the site, with pine trees all around, provided a magnificent view towards the mountains on the other side"