The city of Berat is locate d in South-Central Albania, 120 km south of Tirana. It has a population of around 64.000 people . The old town was inscribed in the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 8th of July 2008 as ‘’a rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period ‘’. Berat was declared a Museum City in 1961 by the Government of Albania .
The town is one of the oldest in Albania, with a fortress-settlement- the Castle, having existed since at least the 4th century BC with a continuous life until nowadays . It was the settlement of the Illyrian Desaretes tribe , who were the first to built fortifications in the city – the bas ements of the Castle. Known as Antipatrea, it was captured by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. Tit Livy – a famous Roman historian, describes it as a strong big town, settled in a narrow rocky strip of land. Livy tells for the cruelty of the Roman legions who “ … killed all people from sixteen and up , destroyed the city walls and put the city on fire “. The Romans called the city Albanorum Oppidum ( Albanian Fortress ).
During the Byzantine period in the 5th century, the city was known as Pulcheriopolis (from Pulheria ) after the name of the sister of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius who took the town . This name Pulheria , that meant ‘’ beautiful, wealthy, strong city ” , was given to the city not casually ; it was becoming a key center with a high cultural growth .
In the 7th century began the Bulgarian inva sions , which lasted until the year 1018, naming Berat as Belgrad – White City.
With the Byzantine imperially decline, Berat became one of the most important centers of the religious authorities of Epirus . It was the residence of Mikele Angelo Komneno , lord of Epirus clerical center. At the Castle entrance, in its southern gate, is found a monogram of stones , a cross with four letters where is written : M.H.L.K. , that is the name of the despot : M (i) .H (a) .L.K. (omneni) .
In the 14th century the town was transformed into the capital of a big principality ,under the rule of the Albanian noble family of Muzaka.
In 1417 Berat was under the Turkish occupation. During the Ottoman invasion , Berat remained one of the biggest cities in Albania . Until the beginning of the 20th cent. , the city had a solid infrastructure and it was a link toward East to Constantinople, but also toward South to Ioannina in Greece .
The town is known for its cultural heritage , historic architecture and natural beauty and is known as the “Town of a Thousand Windows”, due to the many large windows of the old houses overlooking the town.
It is a remarkable scenic town, wi th beautiful buildings of high architectural and historical interest. The city has a mountainous and hilly relief with the highest peaks of Tomori mountain ( 2.416m) and Shpiragu mountain (1.218 m) which combined with the valley of Osumi create a beautiful landscape in the town .
Berat bears witness to the coexistence of various religious and cultural communities down the centuries. The old historic part consists of three quarters divided by the Osum River: Castle ( Kala ) , Gorica and Mangalem . The town also has the Medieval Center which consists of old religious monuments of Bektashi sect and a 15th century mosque .
The Castle is one the most marvel ous sight of the city . It has remained faithful its plans which date back to the 4th century BC. From time to time ,it has performed some changes during the 6th, 8th, 15th and 19th centuries.
It is not only one of the biggest inhabited Castles , but also a stone archive , that offers a variety of styles and contributes of different époques : Roman-Byzantine, Albanian and Ottoman .
The buildings inside the Castle were built during the 13th century and because of their characteristic architecture are preserved as cultural monuments. The Castle has many Byzantine churches, as well as some mosques built under the Ottoman era which began in 141 7.
Gorica castle is another castle in the city that belongs to the same period ( IV BC) , positioned in the opposite hill .Today are found only the ruins of this castle.
The old quarters of Mangalem and Gorica across the river connected with each other by the Gorica bridge, are well preserved areas containing buildings with characteristic architecture with a great number of windows, narrow charming paths and religious objects.
The Codices of Berat
The “Purple Codex of Berat “ (called Beratinus) , contains extracts from the Gospels and it is one of the oldest variants used for the text of the New Testament .At the time it was written in the 6th century it was one of the five existing codices throughout the world. The Codex Aureus represents the second most important codex of Berat ,is a manuscript of the 9th century . UNESCO has shown a great attention toward the protection of this unique heritage of the old liturgy literature in the world history . The Codices of Berat are inscribed in the Register of the World Heritage List .
Regional Attractions :
Mountain Tomorri National Park- is the largest protected wildlife and outdoor recreation area. Visitors to the Park environs will find an abundance of nature’s gifts ripe for exploration and outdoor recreation .
Cascades of Bogove : The Cascades of Bogove are a light hike up from the village of Bogova. The trip along the river banks , takes approximately 45 minutes to reach the cascades and natural springs .The cascades of Bogova are the region primarily source for fresh drinking water. Hidden in the cool shade of the forest of the foot of Mountain Tomorri , the cascades offer a popular retreat from the summer heat of the region. The village of Bogove is about an hour ride from Berat .
Canyons of Corovode :
The canyons of Corovode are standing evidence of the active geological history in the area .Corovode is about half an hour trip outside of Berat and the canyons mainly trails and areas for outdoor recreation are only moments away from the town of Corovode.