By now we were accustomed to the easy hitchhiking in Albania so we anticipated that the journey from the forest where we had slept in Spille to the UNESCO World Heritage Town of Berat would be relatively quick. This was, however, before we got a ride from a ‘tankesque’ converted fire truck which decided to take the scenic route on a dirt track. The body of the truck was over 2 m from the ground and set on the wheels of a monster truck. Inside, the driver’s cabin resembled that of a fire truck with its numerous levers whilst onto the back had been attached, what I can only describe as, an upturned metal dome which housed the sleeping quarters. The vehicle was the work of the married couple and took them over 2 years to complete. The path on which we were driving was no wider than two bicycles, on which we had to dodge men on donkeys. The jerky acceleration and hard braking, whilst all the while leaning over the precipice was quite scary I can tell.
The couple that picked us up were from Bavaria and they were holidaying with their two young sons, and at one point we stopped to pick blackberries which were the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. I admired them for their relaxed manner and the fact they never seemed to be in rush, oblivious to where they were going to sleep that night. Although all to soon we hit the main road and it was time to bid them adieu.
The next ride with a young guy who spoke a little Italian took us to a petrol station, still a city or two from Berat. We stopped for a quick coffee then hit the road just in time to get picked up by a guy who offered to drive us all the way there. It was only when he dropped us off in the town and turned around to go back did we realise he had driven out of his way to help us get closer to Berat. Nice chap!
We found accommodation at Berat backpackers and pitched our tent in the garden at the cost of 7 € each per night. The hostel was ok but after enjoying the delights of Trip’n’Hostel in Tirana we were a little disappointed in the under-lit decor and more muted atmosphere but breakfast was included and the showers working fine.
As we had arrived in Berat later than we had wanted we quickly grabbed something to eat and headed up the extremely steep hill to the town’s major attraction Berat Castle. The fortress stands high on the hill above the more modern city and has been inhabited since antiquity. The sheer amount of empires that have claimed possession of the hill is displayed in its unique collection of Byzantine churches and Turkish built mosques. What really amazed us was the fact that people were still living within the Fortress‘ walls as they herded their animals on the grass and children ran around kicking a ball and playing pretend gun fights.
Down in the town, below the houses of the Mangalemi Neighborhood creeping up the hill to the castle, is also very picturesque. The town is very small and revolved around two parallel bar and cafe streets running from below the castle to the mammoth University building which is unmistakable on the city’s skyline.
Time was making fools of us again and we had to leave Berat earlier than we would have liked. Our time in Albania had been far too short and our hunger for the country had not been sated by our time there. However, time and tide waits for no man and it was the moment to head on to our next destination, Ohrid in Macedonia, a place we had visited when we first met 6 years ago and the place where I was planning a little surprise for Ania.
written by: Jon
Follow our 2 month hitch-hiking trip across the north of Italy and the Balkan Peninsula:‘The Balkan Peninsula by Thumb 2013′. It’s happening now!
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
|Our first experience of hitch-hiking in Albania, camping wild and getting lost in the forest||Entering Albania, the Albanian capital and when assumptions makes an arse of you and me|