Whilst staying in “Berat”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/accommodation/201573-review-rezidenca-desaret we visited the “Castle”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/201645-review-berat-castle with its stunning “Onufri Museum”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/201756-review-onufri-museum and toured the “town”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/place/201853-review-berat. We also had time to take a day trip to the Osumi Canyon with our driver, Edmond.
The drive took us through the town of Poliçani, one of Albania’s communist regimes main arms production centres. Here we stopped to see a huge, virtually derelict factory complex, which had once employed 4,500. Having produced Kalashnikovs, it now only produces ammunition for the Albanian police and other clients (according to Bradt).
Back on the road, we drove through an area known for quarrying and spotted a mountain stripped bare and neatly stacked stone tiles at the roadside awaiting collection. We also overtook several slowly moving lorries transporting huge marble blocks.
On reaching the canyon, we stopped several times for different vistas.
Firstly, Flag’s Panoramic Loop viewing area, which we accessed via a camping ground and a flight of steps down. Built in May 2017, the information board described it rather grandly as ‘a sightseeing trajectory, above the magnificent Canyon of Osumi, that invites visitors on an initially shaded resting place and accompanies them continuously from one breath-taking view onto another culminating in its extremity with a walk above the edge of the millennial rock to best perceive the superhuman dimension of the Canyon, finishing off again at the resting place’. More simply, it was a sightseeing platform with a circular walk and superb views. As it could only accommodate 10 people, we were lucky to be the only visitors.
Our second stop was at a small stone building: the wall plaque inscribed ‘Gjurma Abas Aliu’. Inside we found holes in the concrete floor of a footprint, horses hoof, and a walking pole. A Google search later revealed it as the footprint of “Saint Abaz Aliu”:http://www.visitskrapar.com/stay/what-to-visit/the-footprint-of-abaz-aliu/.
Next, was the Bride’s Hole, a hole in the rock surrounded by a metal collar which told the story of an Albanian legend. A beautiful bride was forced against her consent to an arranged marriage. As she was being accompanied by the groom’s relatives across the village, the bride begged them to take her home, but the relatives ignored her and kept walking. As desperate as the bride was, she started praying unconsciously to the Canyon Rock saying, ‘Oh magnificent rock, I beg you to open up so I can become free of this great burden in my soul’. The rock heard her plea and all of a sudden, a large hole appeared in the heart of it. The bride immediately jumped from her horse into the hole, hiding her away for ever. Apparently after that, young brides wishing to become pregnant entered the hole fully clothed, took them off in the hole and re-entered fully dressed.
We then drove down to the level of the Osumi River. Having parked up, we found two guys on the shore grilling a whole lamb over a pile of charcoal. They were constantly turning it and said it would take 1.5 to 2 hours. Bearing in mind the remoteness of the location, it wasn’t clear who was going to eat it.
We continued walking and climbed a little before eventually crossing a rickety wooden foot bridge onto the opposite bank. Edmond told us about a cave church and as the ideal viewpoint was up a steep and rocky path, he volunteered to scamper up with our camera which was much appreciated. A stone plaque at the side of the bridge, was engraved with a picture of the original bridge which had been destroyed and inscribed Ura Dervish Muhamett Hasanaj.
On the journey back we stopped at an Ottoman bridge over the Corovoda River. Although this once linked trans-continental trade routes, it is now in the middle of nowhere.
We also noticed giant deforested tracks down the mountainside which were caused by the laying of the Russian gas pipeline. It was certainly creating a blot on the landscape.
Driving back through the village of Bogovë, Edmond suggested stopping for raki and coffee as the district of Skrapar that we were in, was famous for the quality of the raki (we had seen large raki making factories from the communist era). At Shamo, we sat on an outside terrace overlooking a bubbling brook watching the ducks. We were served by Mrs Overall who got the order totally wrong: Edmond’s espresso had milk added, our macchiato came black and our plum and mana raki (a white fruit similar to a long blackberry) arrived in double shots, which virtually filled a tumbler. Our coffee went back but was returned with cold milk: apparently it was the barista’s day off.
On the 90 minute journey back, I began feeling a little queasy. In my defence, this had started in the morning and was due to the narrow twisting road, rather than being raki induced.