Berat 09/09 – 10/09/2016
After the madness of the ferry ride we thought it best to move on before we became the subject of a blood killing. Our next planned stop was the capital city of Tirana. So, like the previous day we spent the first couple of hours driving the appalling unmade road back before reaching the tarmac. After a few minutes we were praying to be back on the dirt-track. These people drive with a sense of immortality as they routinely engage in a game of chicken. In a matter of minutes we had to leave the road to avoid a head-on.
From our Dashcam
Albania reminds us of Morocco, with its poor quality of buildings, poverty and piss-poor driving. It does have cheap beer and so therefore makes it a far better place. The general scenery of the country is generally very appealing. Unfortunately, where man has got involved he has turned into a cheap imitation of Scunthorpe. It is unpleasant with litter everywhere.
Tirana is famous for having the largest ‘outdoor art’ structure in the world. The ex-mayor was an artist and decided to brighten up people’s lives by painting all the buildings in primary colours. This is carried out in a random fashion without the home-owners consent. The ‘artwork’ usually consists of tower blocks being painted in horizontal stripes while the owners are at work. Apart from this there is not a lot to get excited about. It is also the most polluted city in Europe. This is a result of all the old stolen Mercedes Diesel cars clogging up the inadequate infrastructure. This place has expanded way too fast in the last twenty years and is now a revolting urban sprawl. In 1996 there were less than 2,000 cars in Tirana, now there are 500,000. The place is a manic collection of traffic jams and eye-watering pollution. Tirana is like a lavatory and if I had access to the chain I would flush it away. After about an hour of nerve shredding motoring we turned around and left for Berat.
Contrary to what most believe the roads in Albania are generally rather good. Yes some of the back roads are shabby and the new EU funded, Italian built newer roads are the same quality as Smeg fridge; good to look out but rubbish in operation. Why would you trust a country with the worst roads in the EU to build new ones somewhere else? Of course, corruption. These new pieces of tarmac have already sunk with a gap as wide as Mrs Merkel’s backside between any bridge and its support. Just like Italy.
There is a campsite for Berat about 15Km’s outside which would involve getting a taxi or bus in to have a look around. We took our chances of finding something a little closer and motored on.
Bearat, a world heritage site is known as the ‘town of a thousand windows’. I am no Stephen Hawking but even I can work out that every town in England with more than a couple of hundred houses could sport the moniker of ‘town of a thousand windows’. As we approached the town we had our peelers on high alert looking for a parking spot when a middle-aged gentleman on a bike waived us down. ‘You want campy?’ came the shout. ‘We love campy’ came our response. ‘Follow bikey’ was the final statement in this conversation and after clearing a newly married couple having their wedding photos taken over the bonnet of nowhere near new Mercedes we followed the bikey.
And as you can see we ended up parked up in Mr Bikey’s garden for the night. We were treated to coffee and full use of our host’s facilities. All for €5.
Next morning we trotted down the road for a five minutes to the town centre and first stop was a drink, followed by a shave at the barbers and then a climb up through the old town to the castle. Tracy set a new record today when her fitbit recorded that she had climbed the equivalent of 59 flights of stairs which is about 200 metres in old money.
The windows, roofs and washing lines of Berat
Our first stop was a piece of art in the former Pasha’s Palace. To the untrained eye this might look like a few bits of rubble on the grass but to us, who have been bought up on a diet of meaningless art as found in the Tate Gallery knew it was much more. We could see it was a just a few rocks left behind from a previous house renovation. You can make up your own mind.
It is a hike up but you are rewarded at the top with a commanding view of the valley and an insight into life within a castle.
The Path up
Unlike most places in Europe this is still a living breathing settlement not overrun with tat shops and short people taking selfies and making ‘V-signs’. Of course there is a little bit of commercialism to cater for some errant Russians recovering from Plastic surgery, but apart from that it is all pretty real. So here are our pictures from the top.
Church within Castle
Non-tourist part of town
Opposite view of Church
In the old prison
Town of Berat with University
Retro Postcard look
We topped up with some provisions from the shops before leaving and heading for the coast and our next stop on our journey through Albania. Again we have loved the hospitality of these people and enjoyed the bargain-basement price of everything. But in best balanced BBC reporting we have to say not everything in Berat is as beautiful as the Castle Hill but if you are out this way then it is well worth a detour.
Figure 1 Castle Hill
Love to All