Albania has it all that you mention here unspoiled beaches, wild mountainous areas and lake shores, but above all it has its own unique culture. And the top of the list are these antique, in fact magical cities like Gjirokastra and Berat. Thank you Giulia, once again you nailed it.
Despite its beautiful nature and its rich cultural heritage, Albania is still not such a touristic destination: most of the time we were the only two foreigners enjoying unspoiled beaches, wild mountainous areas and lake shores. The only two times when we weren’t the only foreigners around –besides of course in the capital town Tirana- there were in the two UNESCO listed ancient towns of Gjirokastër and Berat. Both Gjirokastër and Berat are well-known for their ancient neighborhoods preserving historic Ottoman-era architectures, a style originated in Turkey between the 14th and 15th centuries and arrived in Albania during the 18th and 19th centuries, but that's not the only reason why I found them both very fascinating!
The ancient town of Gjirokastër
In Gjirokastër you can spot tourists by the way they face Gjirokastër’s steep cobbled streets.For this time I was definitely not acting as a local by taking ant-steps and being constantly so terrified to slide that sitting in a bar was usually a huger consolation to my paranoid mood rather than to my feet. Locals –instead- do climb their streets as they were goats: old ladies more often than not overtook me, even if they were carrying their grocery; kids ran so fast up and down the alleys that I almost wanted to scream them to be careful. Streets are narrow and curvy, the town itself keeps climbing over the nearby mountain year after year and its urban plan, from above, looks like a maze.
The ancient town of Berat
Old Berat is divided in two parts by the river Osumi and on those two banks there are the the two old neighborhoods of Mangalem and Gorica, both inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list to protect their old Ottoman typical houses. These ancient neighborhoods are characterized by picturesque cobbled alleys and houses with beautiful wooden structure, bright white walls and so many windows that Berat’s epithet is “city of a thousand windows”.
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