Gjirokastra, in south west Albania, is noted for its Old Bazaar, known locally as ‘Qafa e Pazarit’ or Bazaar’s Pass. It was established in the 17th century, when the town had 2,000 houses, and was the heart of the town for both social and economic reasons. Most of the buildings are in the Ottoman style although the bazaar was destroyed by fire and reconstructed in the 20th century. It is now a UNESCO national and world heritage site.
Unfortunately, at the time of our visit, major ‘re-cobbling’ of many of the main streets was taking place both at the entrances, and in the middle, known as the ‘neck’ where five roads meet. An intricate pattern of squares using white cobbles was being included which must have added considerably to the cost and time taken.
The shops have three floors: the ground floor for trading, the first floor for storage of goods and the second, for resting as they lived outside the bazaar area.
There was a huge range of artisan shops selling carpets, lace, white Albanian felt hats, knitted wear, gliko (fruits preserved in syrup), honey products, plus the usual souvenirs including fridge magnets. Many goods had the Albanian flag on them: red with a black double-headed eagle.
Our guide took us into one shop, known as the ‘Well Shop’, where the owner showed a deep well only discovered a few years ago when the shop was being renovated.
It was a lovely area to wander particularly at night when the lights came on and the “castle”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/201003-review-gjirokastra-castle on the hilltop was beautifully illuminated. There were numerous small bars with a few tables on the narrow pavements. At one, Bar Kafe Mene, we had pre-dinner Korça beers and on paying, were invited to sample their home-made raki, a fiery, clear spirit, poured from a second-hand plastic bottle – they are concerned that this will all have to stop if their bid to join the European Union is successful, due to EU regulations.
This is undoubtedly a very tourist-centric area, but it is a must see.