BERAT, the City of a Thousand Windows, in South – Central Albania, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2008).
The Balkan-style houses climb up the side of the hill upon which the 13th century BERAT CASTLE is situated. These houses, belonging to the late 18th and the 19th centuries, typically have two floors with a ground floor mad of stone and a prominent upper floor painted white and roofs covered with red ceramic tiles. They have large wooden windows which, because of the steepness of the hill and the construction of the houses, appear to be stacked one over the other This view has earned BERAT, the moniker The City of a Thousand Windows.
The name of the city, in Albanian, is BERAT or BERATI, meaning “White City”. According to local legend, the TOMORR Mountain, was originally a Giant who fought with another Giant, called SHPIRAG, over a young woman. They killed each other and the girl drowned in her tears, which then became the OSUM River. Mount Shpirag, named after the second giant, is on the left bank of the gorge. Berat is also known to the Albanians as the City of One Above Another Windows or The City of 2,000 Steps.
(1) BERAT CASTLE
The co-existence of religious and cultural communities, over several centuries, is apparent in Berat. The main entrance, on the north side, is defended by a fortified courtyard and there three smaller entrances. The fortress of Berat, in its present state, even though considerably damaged, remains a magnificent sight. The surface that is encompassed made it possible to house a considerable portion of the town’s inhabitants. The buildings inside the fortress were built during the 13th century and, because of their characteristic architecture, are preserved as cultural monuments. The population of the fortress was Christian and it had about 20 Churches and only 1 Mosque for the use of the Muslim Garrison (of which there survives only a few ruins and the base of the Minaret).
(2) CHURCH of Saint Mary of BLACHERNAE :
Dating from the 13th century, it has 16th century mural painting. In a small tree-planted square, on a hillside in side the walls of the fortress, stands the 14th century CHURCH of the HOLY TRINITY. It is built in the form of a Cross and has Byzantine Murals. Outside the ramparts, is the CURCH of SAINT MICHAEL (13th century) which is reached by a steep but perfectly safe path. Near the entrance, after a guardhouse, is the CHURCH of SAINT THEODORE. The most interesting is the CATHEDRAL of SAINT NICHOLAS, which has been well-restored and is now a Museum.
(3) GORICA BRIDGE , which connects the two parts of Berat, was originally built from wood in 1780 and was rebuilt with stone in the 1920s. The seven-arch bridge is 423ft long and 17ft wide and is built about 33ft above the average water level. According to local legend, the original wooden bridge contained a dungeon in which a girl would be incarcerated and starved to appease the spirits responsible for the safety of the bridge.