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March, 2017

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Berat is one of the best preserved Ottoman towns in Albania and a lot more attractive than “Gjirokastra.”: It also tends to be less busy with tourists. The town grew up on either side of the River Osum and is dominated by the “castle”: at the top of the hill. The typical white plaster and stone Ottoman house climb up the hillside.

The area has been settled since the C4th BC when a walled settlement was built on top of the cliff. This was one of the largest settlements in the region with links to “Apollonia”: and “Byllis.”:

It was sacked by the Romans around 200BC and was conquered by Julius Caesar. Little is known about its history in Roman times but it continued to be an important ecclesiastical centre in Byzantine times. It was taken by the Bulgarian Empire in 860 and they held it until 1018 when it was retaken by the Byzantines. It survived an attack by the Angevins in 1280. Byzantine power waned and it eventually came under Ottoman rule in 1471 and remained in their hands for 500 years.

Berat was a strategic point on trading route where route from south met the lowland plain. There was a rapid period of urban development in the C16th when new housing grew up below the castle.

Today Berat, along with Gjirokastra, is one of the best examples of Ottoman architecture with houses with white washed walls and tile roofs scrambling up the hillside. It is often referred to as the ‘City of a thousand windows”. Berat was declared a Museum City in 1961 and escaped destruction during Communist times. It is now a World Heritage site. The old Ottoman city, the Mangalem quarter, is compact and a wonderful place to explore on foot with its narrow cobbled streets lined with traditional houses.

We stopped in “Hotel Mangalemi”: which is in the heart of the Ottoman city. It is a typical Ottoman house with a lot of character. The stone ground floor would originally have been used for storage with the living quarters above, with open balconies. It is in the heart of the Ottoman city with narrow cobbled streets.

Just down from the hotel is the Gate of the Pasha. Inside are the ruins of the Pasha’s house which was bombed during the Second World War. It was originally a splendid building with two floors. In the grounds is a Communist era Middle School.

Along the river front from here is the Bachelor’s Mosque which was built in the early C19th for the Bachelor’s Guild who were unmarried artisans who guarded the city at night. It has a portico, prayer hall and minaret. Around the top of the walls are murals painted between 1827-8.

The Ottomans were muslims and the remains of the old muslim quarter now forms the The Islamic centre is just to the east of the hotel. It consists of the King’s Mosque which was in danger of collapse in the V19th and has been completely rebuilt. There is the C15th Tekke of Helveti the mosque of the Bektashi Liberal Sect of Muslim and has a small prayer hall with a beautifully painted ceiling. Behind this is the C19th Inn of the Dervishes. These are Muslim Holy Men belonging to the Bektashi sect. This was originally their guest house with storage rooms and stabling on the ground floor and guest rooms above. It is now is used for the offices of the directorate which manages the historic environment in Berat.

Allow plenty of time to just walk and enjoy the old town, before heading up to the castle.

There are more pictures “here.”:


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