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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10/1: Berat: White City of Windows

Our first morning at the villa, the owners treated us to a huge breakfast that was sure to last us most of the day. The wife was so incredibly friendly and made us feel so at home in their villa. She kept saying to Steven, ‘One more egg, one more egg!’ But she hadn’t realized he had already eaten four fried eggs as I don’t care for them and had given him mine. I did really liked the frothy, apple drink she made fresh for us but I couldn't appear too enthusiastic lest I would have several more glasses appear in front of me right away!
We spent the morning just relaxing on the patio in between my doing a load of laundry in her washer. It took forever as the cycle she had put it on must have been an extra long one. What a luxury having clothes cleaned with laundry detergent and in a washer and not just washed with hand soap in a bathroom sink. Oh, the things you take for granted when you travel. Another one is having a toilet seat as opposed to sitting one’s derriere directly on the cold porcelain!
I mentioned in my last post about Berat that there is a lot of construction going on in the central area. This was the temporary path used to get into town fastest; great as long as you didn't fall and hurt yourself, that is!
We walked along the waterfont for a while looking at the great views of the marvelous Ottoman homes on the hill that Berat is so well known for.

A view of the area on the other side of the Osum River.

Unfortuantely, as good as the English-language signs were elsewhere in Berat, there was no indication who this statue was of.

The UNESCO plaque:
The 19th century Bachelor’s Mosque was just opposite the river and was built for unmarried store clerks and some craftsmen. We couldn’t enter it then because we had just heard the call to prayer.

Photos of the Bachelors' Mosque:

Instead we climbed up to the little chapel called Shen Mehilli or St. Michael that was located halfway up the mountain.
Views from half way up the mountain:

 Sure glad we had pretty sturdy shoes on as the climb was, once again, pretty steep. Once we got all the way up, guess what – the church too was closed.

From the church, we spied a number of caves in the mountain that we hadn't been able to see from town.
A better view of St. Michael that we had just climbed to but we couldn't see this perspective until we were on our way down.
Once down in town again, we continued walking along the waterfront of the muddy and often trash-strewn Osum River to the Gorica Stone Bridge. It was mentioned for the first time in the 17th century by an Ottoman traveler who wrote that it was constructed initially of oak beams on stone supports. 
The seven-arched bridge was once the only way to get to Gorica, another Christian quarter across the river.
Steven found another church on the Gorica side of the river on his app for Berat so off we went in search of it. I wondered if this church would be open as there were certainly a lot of closed churches and mosques in Berat. But of course, it’s the journey, not the destination that is important as some wise person once said.
Loved the white washed stone and mortar walls in the narrow cobblestoned alleys. I could certainly understand why Berat is also known as the White City.

We had some difficulty finding the church but we had assistance from this local woman who motioned us to follow her. We knew we were getting close when she made an Orthodox sign of the cross upon passing by the side of the church just ahead from here.
As like pretty well all religious institutions we had attempted to visit in Berat, the 19th century Monastery of St. Spyridon was also closed.

I could only surmise that this little spot on the outside wall was used to light candles for loved ones.
Gorica is tucked away under a steep hillside and never sees the sun in winter. That means it’s also one of the coolest places to be in the blisteringly hot summers. Luckily, we weren't there for either of those extremes.

We next found the little Church of St. Thomas located next to the river. An older, local man stopped us there and said, in his quote passable English, there were some gorgeous panoramic views ‘just ahead’ he wanted to show us.  
Of course, just ahead ended up being a ten to fifteen walk along more sweet passageways with our ‘guide’ pointing out the specific architecture unique to Berat. 
A fig tree:

Our 'guide' mentioned that, when it rains, this narrow area betweeen two buildings becomes essentially a river with the water gushing downhill.
He was so proud of this style of architecture that I took him to mean was unique to the Berat region. He was adamant that I take photos of this and the views from his panoramic spot. I had nothing to lose and it made him happy.
An unusual looking door knocker: 
He was certainly right that the views were stunning from the Gorica side of the river.

The man talked about tough the economy was in Berat and showed us pictures of his dearly departed mother, all to soften me up for the requisite tip, I say from experience. After thanking him appropriately, we walked back into town on the footbridge.

Another view of the Bachelors' Mosque that we couldn't enter previously.
Just before we saw this gypsy family, I had told Steven I thought I heard sleigh bells and, sure enough I had! Our only view of life from a bygone age during our stay in Albania was this one in Berat. The couple had to turn around here because construction had closed off the road ahead.

Our last night out on the town in Berat: Shishkebabs and fries.

We were so glad we had stopped in Berat for a couple of nights as it was the perfect length of time to wander around the fortress, admire the city of windows and look for, if not in, a number of churches and mosques!

Posted from Athens, Greece on October 11th, 2016.

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