Sunday, June 4, 2023

Berat is the magical city of Albania

Berat, just a few seconds are enough to fall in love with him. The jewelery city in Albania fascinates you with its atmosphere, architecture and cultural treasures for which it is a fanatical caretaker.

The historic center is a place with white houses superimposed on the hill giving it the nickname “City of one on one windows.” A country that is fanatically preserved not only by its citizens but also by UNESCO. Berat belongs to the world heritage (along with Gjirokastra and Butrint, all Albanian wonders).

Berat: The ancient city
The rugged landscape in which Berat is located is one of the most interesting landscapes in Albania. The mountains come out of nowhere!

Drive the car through alleys and curves that offer mysterious views frozen in time.
Park the car in the parking lot near Republic Boulevard, or, as it is otherwise called Pedestrian. It is a renovated long pedestrian crossing.

Although the city has recently become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Albania, fortunately it has not lost its originality and charm. To understand this, it is enough to reach the Castle of Berat (entrance fee: 100 ALL). A maze of stone streets, dry stone walls and centuries-old houses still inhabited by local families. These houses have been turned into guest houses where you can spend the night. Is there anything more unique than sleeping inside the walls of an ancient castle?

Get lost among mosques, churches and religious cults
Visit the Church of Mary Dormitories, which today houses the Onufri Museum dedicated to the famous sixteenth-century Albanian icon. Photograph the remains of the Red Mosque, which is said to have been built in Berat in the 14th century.

Then do not miss visiting the picturesque Church of the Holy Trinity, scenically positioned and superimposed on the hill.

We advise you to walk along the secondary roads because inside the walls you have places that offer stunning views. Beneath Mangalem Castle is a cluster of alleys and buildings dating back to the Ottoman era, with ancient mosques, such as the Skapol Mosque. According to ancient legends, boys went there to look for girls to marry.

King’s Mosque
The King’s Mosque is another fascinating site, built in the late ‘400s by order of Sultan Bayezid II. The latter was noted for its hospitable policy towards the Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. The Jews were ordered to settle in the territory of the Ottoman Empire, in present-day Albania. About five centuries later, the Muslim-majority country in the Balkans welcomed again a large number of Jews, helping them, this time, to leave the Nazi concentration camps. They were welcomed according to the code of honor, besa. The trust which was made (and still continues to be) in keeping its word to help, even at the cost of its own security, anyone in need of support.
The history of the Jewish community in Albania is told in the rooms of the Solomon Museum which is two steps away from the mosque.

Gorica and surroundings
Finally is Gorica, the less touristy area of ​​Berat, almost hidden, without tourists, but with a unique beauty. To get there you have to cross the bridge in front of the Skapol Mosque. The latter crosses the Osum River and accompanies the visitor to the Church of San Tommaso and the historic Antigone Restaurant.

The restaurant offers from its terraces an incomparable view of Mangalem. Then, through the narrow alleys end at the Monastery of San Spiridone. The coexistence of religious buildings of different religions is one of the peculiarities of this city and the whole country.

So, to fully understand the spirit of Berat, and all of Albania, after hearing the call to Islamic prayer and looking at the medieval icons of the churches, simply walk along Osum to admire the city with all its beauties.
The most beautiful moment is dusk, when the sun slowly begins to set. At this moment, the magic of Berat lights up slowly after every light that shines like sparks through the windows of houses on the hill.

Where to eat:
Antigone, the most famous restaurant in the city from the terraces of which you can admire splendid views over the Mangalem district.
Muzaka with tables along the Osum River and typical Albanian cuisine, or let’s say typical Berat cuisine

Where to sleep:
Vasili Guest House, the ideal solution for those who want to live an authentic experience. Vasili is a traditional house built of stone, inside the Berat Castle, which has been turned into a guest house. At this link you can book the hotel.
Hotel Mangalemi, a stone throw from the Sultan Mosque, in a splendid building from the Ottoman era. Beautiful stone and interior terrace with panoramic views.
Hotel Onufri, perfect for those looking for stylish accommodation. The superior double room offers an incomparable view over the roofs that Berat has.


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