Berat Castle, a fortress landmark in the city of Berat, Albania, lies high above the Osum River. The castle dates back 2,500 years and records of its first conquering were accomplished by the Romans in 200 B.C. After many centuries of stone reinforcement, the exterior (perimeter) was enlarged slowly over time, under Byzantine conquerors, in the 5th, 6th, and 13th centuries. Currently the castle is in restoration due in part to a UNESCO World Heritage Site acknowledgement. (This is a welcome "gift" for the the residents of the castle who have been left under served as the city below has gotten much attention.)
Inside Berat castle houses many historical elements. A Mosque, "Red Mosque", which can be identified by it's lonely minaret (a staircase inside provides access to the top), more than 20 Christian churches, and a central museum which surrounds one of the largest Orthodox churches with many 16th century paintings, by "Master Onufri", and a decorative alter inside. (Many churches in Albania were destroyed during the Communist years as an "Atheist State" was declared during Enver Hoxha's reign.) Other architectural elements are court yards, a large cistern in the center, and numerous houses of stone in which the residents of the castle still occupy today; this is an absolute specialty in castle heavy Europe as it's one of the last remaining!
Accessing the castle easily can only be done from the Southern side. Many people who continue to live in the castle enter and exit the Southern entrance as the Northern is a drop off to the Osum River, over 100m. If entering by foot, a 200m walk up the steep cobble stone hill from downtown Berat will be rewarding. Many residents of the castle prefer to take an afternoon bus that departs from the opposite side of the city, straight through town, and up a back route.
Touring Time: 2 hours
|1. Observe the heavily fortified entrance from the South side.
|2. Enter the maze of residences and possibly visit the Museum.
|3. Relax in the courtyard with a refreshment.
|4. Sight-see on the corners overlooking the downtown of Berat.
|5. For the adventurous, climb the Red Mosque's minaret, at your own risk, for a 360 degree view of Berat Castle and the city of Berat. (Additional churches outside the castle can be seen and the hill across the river holds the ruins of Gorica Castle.)
Berat: Berat, Albania