It was almost 1.30 AM when we went to bed after a fun night in Saranda, and only then I thought of checking the timetable for the busses to Berat the next day… To my great annoyance, it only leaves twice a day from Saranda, at 8 AM and 2.30 PM. If I caught the later one, I would arrive in Berat just after sunset, as the bus ride takes about 5 hours, so I had to catch the early one. So that meant getting up extremely early, but thankfully, I got an early night in Berat and had a good – and long – nights sleep there!
The bus ride was the most expensive that I’d been on in Albania, costing me 1200 lei (9,5 USD), and it was also the longest going through the mountainous center of the country, so I was glad to do it in daylight, so I could enjoy the beautiful Albanian countryside as we went by.
I had originally planned on heading to Tirana in the evening after exploring Berat, but because the busses don’t run to Tirana after 4 PM and more so because of how tired I was, I decided to stay in Berat for the night and catch an early bus to Tirana the next morning instead. I chose to stay at Hostel Mangalem, located in the old neighbourhood of Mangalem, which cost me just 1400 lei (11 USD) including breakfast.
Staying overnight in Berat meant that I had plenty of time to explore the city and see everything that this ancient pearl has to offer – it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site after all and also one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, so it deserves to be thoroughly explored!
I started the day off by having a much-needed pizza at a local restaurant on the main pedestrian area, which is a really nice area. I hadn’t had time to eat much while I was travelling in Albania because of my busy schedule, so it was really nice to just sit down and enjoy a meal for once!
After having my lunch, I walked across the Osum River to the Gorica neighbourhood on the west bank.
I had decided to climb a mountain on this side of the hill in order to get a great panorama of Berat and the castle on the other side of the river.
Walking up the mountain didn’t take long, but it was as steep as anything! The view from the top was very worth the climb, it was nothing less of spectacular!
I met some mountain boys there, which unfortunately wasn’t a pleasant experience. I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying (more like shouting…) to me, but they ended up more or less stealing my water and leftover pizza, as they wouldn’t let me pass without me giving them something… The youngest of the boys wanted my phone, so I guess I got off lightly!
After running back down the mountain in a rush to get away from the boys, I walked across the river again and back to the Mangalem neighborhood. I walked up the steepest road ever (!) to Berat Castle, from where I wanted to watch the orangy pink sunset. On the way up to the castle, I met the cutest goats and sheep – unfortunately, they weren’t up for cuddling 😉
Berat Castle is a fortress, which overlooks the city from a rocky hill at an elevation of 214 metres. It dates from the 13th century and contains many Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques.
The view from the castle was good, but not quite as beautiful as the view from the other mountain, so I’m definitely glad that I decided to do both – and that I decided to take the time for it!
My stay in Berat was great and it was made ten times more pleasant by the owners of Hostel Mangalem, which I really recommend staying at!
The owners are a nice little family, and I especially loved the grandfather, who didn’t speak a word of English, but still tried so hard to communicate with me and Akio, a Japanese guest, and he often managed to – he even did a Japanese gesture to Akio, haha! I explained to him that I study archaeology, and then he started telling me about museums to go to and gave me a book to read about Berat Castle – he was so sweet! I want to go back to Berat mainly to stay at that hostel again, but also to do some more hiking!