Do you want to experience all the periods of Balkan and Albanian history at one go? Then, you should visit Berat. “The town of a thousand and one windows”, as it is usually called, is one of the mostly visited cities in Albania. According to the most recent archaeological data, the town is more than 2,400 years old. It still maintains the architectural features of a typical town of the later Ottoman period late 19th century and early 20th century which is one more reason to visit it, since it allows one to relive the spirit of those times, which were a turning point in the history of the Balkan Peninsula. Berat a Museum City is legally protected by the Albanian State. UNESCO Heritage Committee nominated Berat as part of World Heritage, and since then Berat is in the World Heritage List. The modern neighbourhoods are a combination of communist architecture and the more recent buildings that have risen after 1990. Its old history, numerous attractions, healthy climate and many trails in which one can get to know the real Albania are among the many things Berat has in store for you.2. Geographic position
The District of Berat is located in part in the Albanian Central Mountainous Region and in part in the Albanian South-eastern Lowlands. It is 122 kilometres away from Tirana, the Albanian capital, 92 kilometres from Durres, and 81 kilometres from Vlora, which are both Albania's main seaports. By booking a hotel in Berat, your will ensure a very good basis from where you will start to discover Albania.3. How to arrive
By Air: You can reach Berat by air, via Rinas Airport, which is 30 km from Tirana.
By Sea: From two major ports of the country: Durres and Vlora.
On Land: From the airport you have about 110 km to cross, and then get to Durres axis Sspan, then follow SH4 Kavaja axis, once you have reached Lushnje axis, you should take SH72 to Berat.
-For those coming from Kosovo (273 km) you should take the highway E-852 Durres-Kukes-Morine, and then continue to follow the axis SH4 to Kavaja, once you reach the axis Lushnje take SH72 to Berat.
-If you come from the Greek border Kakavija you should get axis E-853-Ballsh Fier, Berat, (152 km)
-If you come from Macedonia or Kapshtica border, you should take the axis E-852-Elbasan-Lushnje Rrogozhinë-Berat, 100 km.
Several prehistoric findings suggest that the current town territory has been a settlement since the Bronze Era, ca 2600-1800 BC. Berat was the central settlement of the Illyrian Dasaretes tribe, who were the first to build fortifications for the protection of the Valley of Osum River. Titus Livius the famous Roman historian wrote a description of an invasion of Berat by Roman legions led by legatus Apustius in 200 BC. Later, the city was called Antipatrea, although it was in times also called Albanorum Oppidium.
The Romans built a secret tunnel in the direction of the Osum—its tracks are still visible today—which would help the city cope with long sieges. So, little by little, from an exclusively military settlement Antipatrea transformed into a well-fortified town. In 440 AD, the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II took the town and called it by his sister’s name, Pulcheria. Hence, the town bore the name Pulcheriopolis for some time. This, however, is the hypothesis mostly accepted so far. There are other opinions on the identification of the ancient fortification of Berat.
In the 7th century the town was occupied by the Bulgarians, who called it Beligrad (“white city”), from which the present name is derived. Then, the town went through a lot of troubles and turmoil, passing from one invader to another, including Bulgarians, Byzantines and hordes from Anjou. The Church of St. Mary of Vllaherna was built on the occasion of Byzantine recapturing of the town, when they defeated the Anjou troops, in 1271. In 1345 the Serbs captured the town, which was later transformed into the capital of a big principality, under the rule of the Albanian noble family of Muzaka, stretching as far as Kastoria in northern Greece. The name of the biggest field in Albania (Myzeqeja) also derives from the name of the ruling family.5. Population, Religion, Economy
Population The population of Berat is 71,000, and its number has declined significantly since 1990, when the big industrial enterprises were shut down. Until then the town lived on the textile industry and agriculture processing industry.
Religion The communities of three religions live together in this city: Sunni Muslims, Bektashis and Orthodox Christians. The older neighbourhoods, such as Kala, Mangalem and Gorica are mainly Orthodox. The other old quarters at the foot of the hill are populated with Muslims, while the newer ones have a mixed population, including Bektashis, who moved here later from Skrapar. The religious coexistence is an interesting feature of Berat. The 40 churches and 30 mosques in a relatively small area make Berat an important religious and cultural crossroads.
Economy In the current economic development Berat is focused on agro-tourism industry and that of Agriculture. Known for producting high quality of Jam , Honey and Dried fruits.6. Traditions and Customs
The traditional house has a cardak (a traditional loggia found in the Balkans and Turkey) and interior carved woodworks and ceilings. The lower floor is often windowless and whitewashed. Many of the ground floors are built into the solid rock and have water wells. The house walls are high with a lot of windows. Their main doors are made of heavy carved wood.
Traditional Clothing In the lowlands men used to wear brekushe (something similar to Turkish trousers) and poture (traditional white woollen pants), while women used to wear a long white linen shirt and cotton apron and headscarf. Urban garb for men used to be the traditional costume with fustanela (white pleated kilt), and for women was the costume with golden decorations and embroidery work.
Dances are mainly Myzeqar duets accompanied with polyphonic singing. The urban dances of Berat are accompanied by instrumental music.
Songs Berat has remarkable town folk songs. They are a mix of Ottoman tradition and folklore from Central Albania and Tosk polyphonic tradition. Music of Berat is very special in the Albanian musical tradition. You can find audio cassettes and CDs in the numerous music shops in the centre of the town.7. Place to visit
Mangalem and Gorica are two Berat quarters that are known for their harmony with the relief where they are built. Both neighbourhoods and the fortress make the typical view of the city. Most of the houses in the neighbourhoods are Cultural Monuments.
The fortress of Berat is built on a 187-meter-high hill overlooking the town, with high walls marked by 24 turrets of various forms and sizes. The Fortress was built with huge square stones, and it has a triangle shape. Upon entering the Fortress, you will see St. Theodore's Church to your left, which has very beautiful frescos by Onufri the famous Albanian painter. The church was built in the 16th century on even older foundations When inside you will be impressed by the wall paintings showing the open-armed Virgin, the Fathers of the Church, Christ, and angel Gabriel. You will also find several icons in the church: Christ Pantocrator, John the Baptist, and the Virgin Mary with Child, most of which are by Onufri. The Fortress can be visited at any time during the day. The fee is all 50 Lek for Albanians and all 100 Lek for foreigners.
The National Iconographic Museum ONUFRI is one of the mostly visited sights in the town. There you will find a great number of icons by the great Albanian medieval master Onufri and his son Nikolla and other painters. The Museum was first opened in 1986. St. Mary's Church was built in the 18th century on the foundations of another church of the 10th century. It was completed in 1797. Open: Tuesday through Sunday Hours: 9°°-16°° in the winter; 09°°-13³° and 16°°-19°° in the summer; Monday: Holiday; Open Sunday: 09°°-14°° Dt. 1 May - 30 September 09°°-13°° & 16°°-19°° Dt. 1 October - 30 April 9°°-16°°; Price: 200 lek / 2 Euro Tel: +355 32 232 248
The Ethnographic Museum is located on the lower face of the hill, on the right of the road to the Fortress. It is situated in a typical house of Berat, dating from late 18th century. The building itself, the museum exhibits and the housing complex surrounding it are proof of an interesting and rich ethnographic culture. Hours: 09°°-18°° in the summer, 09°°-16°° in the winter, Admission fee: ALL 200 Tel: 032 232
Bogova Falls shfaqet is found in the lower quarters of the village with the same name, near the road for Skrapar. The excursion route follows the soft flow of the river, and it takes about 45 minutes to go down to the waterfall and its natural spring. On your way there, you can stop at a few picturesque villages along the road. Villages in that region are well-known for growing fruit and grapes. On the Osum banks one can enjoy an unforgettable view.
Çorovoda Canyons The Çorovoda Canyons are a living proof of the active geological history in the region. Çorovoda is half an hour away from Berat, and its canyons and the recreational grounds are only a few minutes away from the small town of Çorovoda. The Osum Canyon is 26 km long, 140 meters wide and 30 meters high. During the 13-kilometer-long tour you will be able to see the Canyon Cathedral, the Devil's Gate, the Canyon Eyes, eight waterfalls and two ancient caves. To get to the canyons you can take the Berat-Çorovoda line minibuses, which travel in the day. Rafting is a recreational activity that is done only in the area of Çorovoda in the Osum Canyons, to be more exact.