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Berat - City of Albania

Berat is a town located in south-central Albania. It has a population of around 45,500 people (2003 est). It is the capital of both the District of Berat and the larger County of Berat. The old town was inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2008.

According to 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, above the district of Gorica. Berati is known to Albanians as 'The City of a Thousand Windows' a similar epithet to that sometimes applied to Gjirokastra, The City of Two Thousand Steps, and has a mixture of Orthodox, Muslim inhabitants. It was proclaimed a 'Museum City' by the dictator Enver Hoxha in June 1961.

The Bulgarians under Simeon I captured the town in the 9th century and renamed it "Beligrad" (White City).They were eventually driven out in the 11th century. During the 13th century, it fell to Michael I Ducas, the ruler of the Despotate of Epirus.

Latter in the 13th century Berat again fell under the control of the Byzantine Empire. In 1280-1281 the Sicilian forces under Hugh the Red of Sully laid siege to Berat. In March 1281 a relief force from Constantinople under the command of Michael Tarchaneiotes was able to drive off the besiging Sicilian army. It passed to the Serbs in 1345.

The Ottoman Empire conquered it in 1450 and retained it until 1912. However, it did not retain direct control for the whole of this period – in 1809, the tyrannical Ali Pasha, who was himself of Albanian origins, seized the town and refortified it. In 1867, Berat became a sanjak in Janina (Yanya) vilayet.

The Fortress, is built on a rocky hill on the left bank of the river Osum and is accessible only from the south. After being burned down by the Romans in 200 B.C. the walls were strengthened in the fifth century under Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II, and were rebuilt during the 6th century under the Emperor Justinian and again in the 13th century under the Despot of Epirus, Michael Angelus Comnenus, cousin of the Byzantine Emperor. The main entrance, on the north side, is defended by a fortified courtyard and there are three smaller entrances. The fortress of Berat in its present state, even though considerably damaged, remains a magnificent sight. The surface that it encompasses made it possible to house a considerable portion of the cities 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 (most built during the 13th century) and only one mosque, for the use of the Turkish garrison, (of which there survives only a few ruins and the base of the minaret). The churches of the fortress were damaged through years and only some have remained.

The town is still renowned for its historic architecture and scenic beauty and is known as the "Town of a Thousand Windows", due to the many large windows of the old decorated houses overlooking the town. It is unclear whether it really means "Thousand" or "One over Another" windows. Indeed, the quarter is built in a very steep place and windows seem to be one over another. Same views can be admired also in Gjrokastër (Albania) and Catanzaro (Italy) where once an Albanian minority lived. The Citadel overlooks the river and the modern city as well as the old Christian quarter across the river. It is a well preserved area containing narrow streets, Turkish houses and Orthodox churches.

Modern Berat consists of three parts divided by the Ossum River: Goritsa ("little mountain" in Old Slavonic, Mangalem and Kalaja, the latter being a residential quarter within the old Byzantine citadel that overlooks the town. The town also has a 15th century mosque and a number of churches of the Albanian Orthodox Church, whose autocephaly was proclaimed there in 1922.

Area : 6.3 km (2.4 sq mi)

Elevation : 58 m (190 ft)

Density : 10,317/km (26,720.9/sq mi

Area code : 32

ALBANIA National Bird : Eagle
ALBANIA National Game : Football
ALBANIA National Holiday : Now-Roz (New Year)


 

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