Weeping in the name of overwhelming charm and beauty is a thing, right? Well it was for me: I definitely had to hold back a tear or two. They might have been tears of general happiness in combination with the setting I was walking around in. Berat was deserted as the tourist season had completely ended. It was the best autumn weather you can imagine; warm, sunny and slightly golden.
As I was walking through Berat’s narrow UNESCO protected alleys, I thought of this incredible solo trip I was undertaking. I had stumbled from one unexpected beauty onto the next. A certain peace came over me, I knew this was the end of an era. I knew this was the closing of my 20’s, even though that chapter wasn’t officially over 6 months from then. I smiled. I thought about everything I had done during the past decade: the people I had met, the unique place I had visited… No regrets, well maybe just a few. But I’m getting into another story here. Back to Berat. Loved it. Undoubtedly a place to put on your radar.
It’s quite a low key town, so you won’t have that pressure to tick off must see items. The best way to explore is just by wandering the streets.
During the day you meet children at play, grandmothers carrying big baskets of fresh produce, grazing donkeys, fruits sellers and the odd bystander who curiously asks why you came to Albania and, of course, if you like the country. Though people don’t speak much English, the younger generation loves to practice the few key phrases they’ve been learning at school. When it comes to slightly older Albanians, you have a better chance at communicating in Italian or German.
A relatively easy hike to the top of the town’s hill will bring you to the castle overlooking Berat. Inside the castle is an entire neighbourhood called Kalasa. Imagine white washed stone houses with pretty flowery yards and fruit orchards, old ladies selling bobbin lace and home made jams from seasonal organic fruit… So pure.
Get lost in the picturesque streets and at one point or another, you will find yourself on the top of the hill, by the ruins of the Inner Fortress. That’s where you take in the magnificent views over Berat and its surroundings. A stop in the tiny Onufri museum is worth the €2 if there aren’t many other visitors.
Don’t forget to take lots of breaks to replenish with some Albanian coffee and delicious food. I was invited several times by locals for a coffee at their house. Free coffee with a moral obligation to at least buy some sweet home made jam.
Each time I’d head back to my hostel, I’d stop by the fruit stand to contribute (a little) to the local economy by buying some pomegranates and apples. Dirt cheap and incredibly juicy, how could you resist?!
I don’t know what Berat looks like in summer (probably full of tourists) but I do know that October was a perfect time of the year to visit. The “Town of a Thousand Windows”, what an enchanting place.
Does Berat seem like a place you’d want to go?