In Berat, we will eat burqa and spend the night talking over rakija. We will not let the power of the drink, reaching up to 70%, knock us off our feet. We will leave the city without a hangover, but remembering the kindness of its inhabitants.
Albanian Berat is one of the most beautiful cities in the Balkans. It is located in the central part of the country, on the banks of the Osum River, at the foot of the Shpirag and Tomorri Mountains. The attractive location became the source of a legend telling about two giants who had feelings for the same girl. Both relatives rushed to fight for their beloved and dealt so strong blows that with each subsequent one they fell into the ground. There was no winner in this skirmish - exhausted, they died of their wounds. The girl mourned them for so long that a river emerged from the tears she had shed.
A city where nobody is in a hurry
Since 2008, Berat is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Perhaps this is one of the factors influencing the cleanliness of its streets, which positively distinguishes the city from other Albanian centers.
The life of the inhabitants flows slowly like the Osum that cuts through it. You walk around the city, not counting the time, taking your time. Cars are not allowed on the main street from 5:00 pm to midnight . The crowd glides along the promenade like a school of fish, changing direction as you reach the end of the street. And the other way, just as lazily.
Due to the characteristic buildings (part of the old town is situated on a hill and the buildings are concentrated on top of each other), Berat is called the City of a Thousand Windows . Next to Gijokastra, it is the second Albanian city-museum. The district located in the river valley consists of new buildings, including not very pretty (euphemistically speaking) block-shaped blocks left over from the communist period.
A bustling castle
One of the most important attractions of Berat is the castle towering over it ( Kalaja e Beratit ). It covers nearly 10 hectares of historic houses that are still alive - literally, still inhabited by people. Many work as tour guides around the fortress, some rent rooms to tourists, others have found themselves as souvenir sellers.
There is a Museum of Onuphrius Icons in the castle, devoted to the famous icon painter Onuphrius. Not only connoisseurs of sacred art know the concept of Onuphrius ' red, meaning a bright shade of red, characteristic of the 16th-century artist's frescoes. Admission to the museum costs 200 drugs.
Walking around the castle grounds, we will see the Orthodox Church of St. Trinity Church and the remains of the White and Red Mosques. We can also see an intriguing thing - an inscription carved on a mountain slope. 150 meters high letters form the word "NEVER". Not everyone knows that this word is proof of the doggedness of a man who by all means tries to erase from the hill the name of Enver Hoxha, the hated dictator, that was originally visible there. Ironically, the name wouldn't go away despite being treated with dynamite and napalm. Finally, like a tattoo intended to cover an earlier work, "ENVER" was changed to "NEVER" . There is even a documentary about the fights carved in the rock.
Burek and partying without a hangover
You cannot be in Berat and not eat a burqa. This name stands for stuffed puff pastry, which you can buy in the so-called byrektore , counterparts of fast food points. Practically anything can be used as a stuffing, but the most popular is burek with meat, cheese and spinach.
Mostly coffee is ordered with a meal in cafes and restaurants. It is also worth getting acquainted with the traditional Albanian alcohol, i.e. rakija. The anise-flavored drink fully deserves the name of fire water, and unlike Polish customs, it is not overcome with a quick "shot", but sipped. Cheese, olives and qofte (fried meatballs) serve as meze (appetizer). Remember, the night is long and it is not proper to get drunk here.
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