Monday, November 30, 2015

Berat - The Best Little Town in Albania, and Some Final Beachtime

After our little trip south, we came back to Vlore for one more night and stayed with the Rrokajs. They were so wonderful and there was so much I wanted to express to them about their graciousness, bu that language barrier just got in the way. Lots of smiles and hugs instead.

I desperately wanted a bit more beach time before we left the coast. It rained and rained all. night. long, so I wasn't expecting too much in the morning.

But we woke up to clear skies, so before driving to Berat, we spent a couple hours at a beach, just south of Vlore. As one does in Albania, we just parked at a random spot on the side of the road that was probably far enough to the side by Albanian standards, and ran across the road to the water.

I had to soak up as much of this as I could - I was so sad to leave this gorgeous water that we basically had to ourselves, except for that guy in the photo.

Bye bye, beach, we had to get a move on. Off to Berat, where I'd fall madly in love with this little town. But first, some roadside attractions.

Doesn't Albania have the coolest flag? A double-headed eagle is fierce! Yeah, Republika e Shqipërisë!


The roads here are pretty narrow - not a lot of room to pull over on the side. Police officers catch speeding drivers by standing off to the side of the road in a bright vest, then they hold up this popsicle stick thing with a red circle, and that's your clue to pull over. We saw a lot of police, but never got the popsicle stick thrown up. 

We got into Berat as it was raining, and eventually found the place where we'd booked a room. It was basically up on a sidewalk, but turns out that was actually a road, so after Meghan went inside, she came back to the car a couple blocks away and told me to drive up on the sidewalk. Pretty nice rooms here.

And here's where I parked. Multi point turn around and parallel parking up a hill - I am the king of the world.

We let the rain stop then headed out to explore. Berat is one of the oldest cities in Albania, and it thrived during the Middle Ages (though apparently it's been inhabited for 4000 years). The castle is probably the biggest attraction here, so that's where we went first. We walked out the door and up the hill, where the rain had just washed out some of the road. 

People were out and about, moving the rocks.

So many lovely doorways here. I loved them all. 

We started up this path to the castle - it was pretty run down.

And lots of trash.

This was our first sight of the castle. According to my guidebook, there are guided tours or audio tours you can rent, but we saw none of this.

We walked inside the gates and found no one and nothing of description to tell us about the place we'd just entered. There's also a gate where you're supposed to pay an entrance fee, but we apparently came in the back way. It was all in such poor condition.

Also up near the castle was this abandoned house.

I have so many questions about this place, but there were no signs or people around to tell me!

Inside the fortress walls - nothing.

My books says there were 42 churches in here at one point, but only eight still stand.

Great views from the top.

We were really baffled as to why no one was around. It's like Albania doesn't even realize what they have, or they don't have the money to clean this up and really make it into something. I could totally be wrong, and I'd love to chat with a local resident about this, but no one was around!

We left the grounds through the proper entrance/exit and headed back into the city.

So many colorful doors. I was a little obsessed.

And lots of grapes.

We headed over to the Gorica neighborhood, which gives the city its nickname of "The City of a Thousand Windows." Berat is also another UNESCO site.

You can see the word Never written into the mountain, and it previously said Enver, the name of the dictator who ruled Albania for about forty years.

These little streets were so delightful.

It started to rain a bit, so we  headed back inside, but not before passing more abandoned buildings and livestock.

Such a cool flag.

For dinner we went to the fanciest hotel in town and had a fancy dinner. I had a huge Greek salad, a lamb and okra dish, a beverage and some ice cream, all for a whopping total of eight dollars. Our waiter was all excellent and fun to chat with. 

A cat joined us for dinner.

Try out Antigoni if you're ever in town.

Isn't this place just lovely? I wish we'd had a bit more time here. One rainy afternoon wasn't enough. 

We wandered a bit more through the town, seeing a cathedral and a university before calling it a night. One more city to go!

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