What made this stand out was each bus ticket taker stood in the middle of the parking lot yelling out his particular destination as passengers walked into the center of the fray. It sounded like an auction with the cacophony of announcements from the competing ticket takers. I shall not soon forget one man constantly shouting 'Durres, Durres' as if he were hoping people might change their minds and want to go there instead of some other place!
We had gotten there earlier than we needed to but I was glad we had as it was as if we were watching street theater with all the hubub going on around us. Then, there was the man below carrying bags of bananas trying to sell half a dozen or more of them to people waiting for their buses to leave. I could see people wanting to buy one or two but who would want or need six for a bus journey?
We were finally on our way at 11, passing the large eagle monument one last time on the outskirts of Tirana.
The reason we had decided to come to Berat was because of views like this one. The most striking feature of Berat is the collection of white houses climbing up the hill to the castle. That is why it has earned the title of a 'town of a thousand windows.'
Berat is undergoing a major construction boom so much of it was torn up. Almost finished being built was Berat University that was all of three minutes from the villa.
Ivy: I couldn't keep from smiling and thinking of your mom when I saw this graffiti in Berat of all places. Please let her know I was then, and am now, hoping she is well. When the building boom is completed, the downtown core will look amazing, I am sure. It seemed to have a huge amount of construction going on in such a small area relative to the size of the town.
A brief background about Berat, courtesy of Lonely Planet: A large fortress was built here in the 3rd century BC by the Illyrians on top of an earlier settlement. The Byzantines strengthened the hilltop fortifications in the 5th and 6th centuries as did the Bulgarians 400 years later. The Serbs, who occupied the citadel in 1345, renamed it Beligrad or White City. In 1450, the Ottoman Turks took over the town. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the town began to thrive as a crafts center after going through a period of decline. For a brief time in 1944, Berat was the capital of a liberated Albania.
In the main square was a large new Orthodox church and a mosque in a sign of religious harmony.
Unfortunately, the adjacent Lead Mosque, so named because of the lead coating on the domes, was closed both times we tried to enter. It was built in the first 30 years of the 16th century and was considered to be one of the best preserved architectural structures from that period of Ottoman occupation in Albania. The mosque was in the town's traditional Muslim quarter called Mangalem.
The Helveti Tekke behind the mosque was erected in 1872. The Helveti are a dervish order of Muslim mystics. It had a beautiful carved ceiling which was especially designed with acoustic holes to improve the sound for meetings held there. It was also stunninglly painted in multiple motifs. We have seen several other tekkes this trip but there were never any performances or shows held in any of them that we knew about unfortunately.
Photos of the Tekke: