Posted by: Alex MacGregor | April 25, 2010

The City of a Thousand Windows

After being surprised by the colorful and hip Albanian capital, we headed for one of country’s most beautiful cities: Berat.

It is set at the foot of one of Albania’s tallest mountains, with a swift river running through the center. But the location is only part of the draw; the white houses that look down on the river through their multitude of windows give Berat its title: “The City of a Thousand Windows”.

Since the area around the river is mainly Muslim, we decided to check out some of the old mosques in the area. Although president Hoxha destroyed most of Albania’s mosques in a quest to remove religion from the land, the ones in Berat were considered too important and beautiful to destroy.

However, we quickly discovered that the mosques are all closed due to lack of interest. It seems Mr Hoxha’s quest turned out somewhat successfully; the country is one of the most secular in the world.

The front of this mosque was apparently made into a clothing shop!

Like any self-respecting fromer Ottoman city, Berat has the ancient stone bridge over its river…

…and the Turkish bath.

But the most surprising thing about Berat is its magnifcant walled city, peering down over the valley and the rest of town.

The mainly-Christian walled city grew to be very large due to Berat’s excellent defensive position until it was finally captured by the Ottoman Turks. Thereafter, the newer part of the city grew in the valley below.

The result is an incredible old quarter with a lost-in-time feel, and spectacular views in every direction.

At the highest point lies ruins of the inner fortress, which apparently makes an ideal spot for wedding photos.

At the fortification on the east side of the fortress, you get the full picture: the river with the roofs of the Muslim quarter on the hill below, the communist-era high rises where most of Berat’s people now live, and snow-capped Mt Tomorri in the background.

To get up to the fortress and old town, you have to earn it. Not only is it a 15-minute walk straight uphill, but a group of local boys all somehow had obtained whistles, which they excrutiatingly blew at passersby of all ages and nationalities.

Going back to new town is also going back to Albania’s real world, which you can’t escape even in quaint Berat.


  1. […] Eastern Europe (or the Balkans, specifically): SS prides itself on its old bridge. Just like every Balkan city. The bridge in Sancti Spiritus is definitely a lot more out of context, sitting on an island […]

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