Berati and the Citadel
Republic of Albania
May 12, 2015
Mirëmëngjesi – Good morning,
“I wish I had planned to stay here longer.”
Haven’t we all have expressed that sentiment at one time or another?
That’s exactly how I feel in Berati. I’m here on a day trip from Tirana, but I wish I can stay longer.
My guidebook is quite correct:
“Berati is one of the oldest cities in Albania and one of the most attractive; the view of its white houses climbing up the hillside to the citadel is one of the best-known images of Albania. Its ancient mosques and churches were protected from the worst ravages of the atheism campaign.* In 1976, the government designated Berati as a “museum city” which saved the town center from communist urban planning.”**
The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
And so, following my guidebook, my first stop is the citadel. (The site dates back to 200 BCE.)
The road heads up the hill to a parking lot, but there’s still a bit of a hike to the main gate and yet another hike to the summit. On the way up I pass the souvenir shops and the local women knitting cotton table cloths. (How can I resist?)
Inside the walls of the citadel, the main attraction is the Onufri Museum and the St. Mary of Blachernae Church, 1797, (Kisha e Shën Mëri Vllahernës). The small church is filled with the most vibrant paintings, icons and carvings.
On my way down from the summit I pass a home where a “young man” is tending his roses. (About three dozen families actually live within the walls of the citadel.) We chat a bit. I ask his age. He says 81. Since I am not that far behind him, I tell him my age. He responds, “You are just a spring chicken!”
There are rooms for rent in the citadel. Perhaps one day I will fulfill my wish to “stay longer.” Besides, there’s a guy there who thinks I’m a spring chicken. So, how can I resist?
*After relations with the USSR deteriorated, Albania sided with China. Following China’s lead in the Cultural Revolution, Albania banned the practice of religion and declared itself as the first atheist state.
**Albania. pg 181. Brandt Travel Guides Ltd, UK 2004