Very brief historical overview.
Favorite thing: Berat has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, for more then 4.000 years. In the 4th century B.O.T the Illyrians built the first fortress on the site. It has been fought over eversince with intruders like the Romans, Bulgarians, Byzantines, Serbs, Greeks, Ottomans, Italians and the Germans.
In ancient times Berat was called Antipatrea after Antipater, one of Alexander the Great's generals. The Romans called it Albanorum Oppidum, which means "Town of the Albanians". It later got the name Pulcheriopolis after the sister of Emperor Theodosius II during the first half of the 5th century. And so, during the Second Bulgarian Empire in the 10th century, it got the name Bel Grad, "White Castle" which has over time been altered to Berat.
Berat was declared a museum city in 1976 which luckily saved it from much of the destruction vawe that went over Albania at the end of last century.
- Historical Travel
Favorite thing: The post office is located along Rruga Antipatrea, about 100 m east of its connection with the street going up to the fortress. It is open also on Saturdays and is, as I understood, the only place to buy stamps.
Favorite thing: Albania has a very long history of wine making, in fact one of Europe's longest. Already Pliny the Elder, who lived in the 1st century, talked about the Albanian wines, and in a very positive way. Berat and Korca stand out as the best regions. The most famous vine yards around Berat are Cobo and Luani.
I post two links to the Cobo winery here, and here.
- Wine Tasting
Three museum zones.
Favorite thing: Berat has neighbourhoods that are declared as museum zones: Kala, Gorica and Mangalem. Kala is the fortress area with its inhabitants, Mangalem is the town centre on the same side of the river as Kala. In Mangalem you will find most of the sights, like the mosques. Here you will also find most of the hotels and service, like the bus stations and a post office. Gorica, across the river, developed in the 16th century. Until recently connected to the other side of the river only by the old stone bridge built in the 18th century.
The Purple Codex was found in Berat.
Favorite thing: Berat's period of documentation began with the writing of the Purple Codex in the 6th century. It is one of the oldest remaining books of evangelical literature in the world, written with silver letters on red parchment. The Codex contains two gospels on 190 pages. Unti the middle of the last century the gospels were used once a year, on the day of the saint who wrote it - Luke or Mark.
There have been three attempts to steal the Codex. Firstly by the Serbian Tsar Urosh on the 6 July, 1356. Secondly by the Austria-Hungarian army during the WW I and lastly by the Germans during the WW II.
There was a second codex written in the 9th century, called Codex Aureus Antimi. It was written with gilded letters on 420 pages of parchment and includes the four gospels. All in all only seven Codexes have survived until today.
For a long time the codexes were thought to be lost but during restoration works in 1968 they were found beneath the floor behind the iconostasis in the Church of the Dormition of Mary. They were sent to China for restoration in 1971 and are now in the National Albanian Archives in Tirana.
I put a link to the UNESCO web on the codexes.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
How to find the objects.
Favorite thing: I have put links to Google Map in my tips to make it easier to find the objects mentioned, when possible to get the right position. The links are marked in italics. Unfortunately Google Map isn't very precise and too often points to other buildings than the wanted one.
Favorite thing: The town is divided in three parts: Gorica, Mangalem, and Kalasa. Kalasa is the residential area within the Citadel/fortress. The houses here date from the seventeenth century, are two floors high and present a rich wood carving within. Mangalem is the predominantly Muslim area, it's at the foot of the Kalasa and there are several fine mosques to admire. Gorica is the newer part of town, located past the bridge on the other side of the river.
Fondest memory: It's a very diverse city but, unlike other Albanian city, never grey. It's full of points of interest even beyond the medieval fortress. At timmes it's a bit sleepy - or maybe it's more accurate to say slow-paced.
- Road Trip
Discovering Berati's Kalasa
Favorite thing: Berati is an old town full of interesting white ottoman buildings. Berati is known to Albanians as 'The City of a Thousand Windows' and its citadel/fortress (Kalasa) it is a Museum City protected by the UNESCO.
Originally the population of the fortress was Christian, so there were about 20 churches dating back the the 14th century and one mosque for the Turkish garrison. Of these churches, 12 are still existing.
Fondest memory: The little cobbled alleys and the unexpected finds around each corner: an ancient tiny stone church, a quaint whitehouse, a baby horse lying on the ground. It was a hot day, and around lunchtime when we arrived - so basically we had to town to ourselves... and it looked like we were the only souls in a forgotten town. Eerie, and magical at the same time.
- Road Trip
Legend of Berat
Favorite thing: According to the legend of Berat, she was a beautiful girl, with whom two brothers fell in love. These brothers were Tomorri - the oldest - and Shpiragu. Because neither of them would give up on the girl, they decided to have a duel to decide to gets her. Tomorri had as a weapon a sword, Shpiragu had a spiked iron ball. Shpiragu hit the brother and made a big hole in his chest; Tomorri sliced his brother with his sword. An they both died and become the two mountains on either side of Berat. The girl cried and cried and her tears became the river of Osum that flows through Berat.
Favorite thing: Museums
1 National Iconographic Museum “Onufri”
2 Ethnografic Museum
3 Contemporary Art Galery “Edward Lear”
4 The Citadel
5 The Castle's Water Cistern
6 Red Mosque
7 The Southern Tower
8 St Mary of Vllaherna Church
9 St Contantine and Helena's Church
10 St Trinity's Church
11 St Spiridon's Church
12 St Thomas' Church
13 Bachelors' Mosque
14 King's Mosque
15 Medieval Art Center
16 The Fortress of Gorica
17 St Michael's Church
18 Gallery Wall & Donjon
19 Gorica's Bridge
20 Tabja - Flag Tower
21 The Archeological Center of Gorica
22 City Hall (nearby: the Leadden Mosque and the New Orthodox Church)
23 The Public Library
24 The Police Station
23 The City's Hospital