Friday, April 15, 2011

The Albania: Berat

Deciding to leave Tirana took far too much effort. Where to go next? Bulgaria? Greece? Back to Ohrid? Stay in Albania? My mind was made up by Malvina who told me Berat was quieter than Tirana but still beautiful. Plus it only takes 3 hours by bus whereas getting from Tirana to any other country is a hassle-and-a-half. So I was sold. When I arrived in Berat this is what I found: First I found a great hostel, then I found out that everyone staying there that night had one thing in common: they had all met me at some point during my 4 night stay in Tirana (yes I was there for quite a while trying to make up my mind). In fact, some of them had made it through 2 other cities before arriving in Berat.

View from the top

The Citadel and the town below

A trip through the Balkans just isn't complete without Albania and it isn't fair to base one's opinion of a country on one city. Especially the capital city. So here I am in Berat and it's been a busy few days. In the first two days here I climbed to the top of both hills (mini-mountains sounded like too much of an exaggeration), made it to a waterfall, and saw a different side to Albania than I had seen in Tirana.

The Citadel in Berat sits at the top of the hill and surrounds what remains of the castle. Have I mentioned how GORGEOUS it is here? Yeah? Well, in case I have some non-believers.

Cooooold water
On my second day in Berat I went on an adventure with two boys from England (Tom Sawyer and Justin Beiber) to a smaller town called Bogove. In Bogove there is a gorgeous, freezing cold, water fall. I'll give you an idea of how cold the water was: jump in, the shock of the cold paralyzes you for a moment, when you finally get out everything is numb and you turn bright red. The water is literally melting off of a mountain, literally. The ride up to Bogove was interesting. The first bus we boarded apparently didn't go all the way to Bogove so we were motioned to get off at a smaller town and ushered into a smaller mini-van whilst being introduced to the locals in the bus (yes the driver actually said this) as, "One American and two English." It made me feel important for 2.5 seconds. Then this cute old woman motioned for me to sit by her. And then she started asking me questions... in Albanian. So I answered her in English. Languages collide!

Jesus tattoo

Beiber and Tom Sawyer

You wanted a pony? Well, how about a donkey instead?

Things I've learned in Berat

1. Technically I knew this before coming here but it still confuses the heck out of me. Po means yes Yo means no, shaking one's head side to side means yes and shaking one's head up and down means no. Why? Just, why.

2. People, mostly older women, don't care that you don't speak Albanian, they will talk to you regardless of any language barrier. They will speak only in Albanian and expect you to know what the hell they are saying. So I've gotten really good at just pretending I know what the hell they are saying and replying in English. It's actually quite interesting. I'm sure they think we're talking about the same thing but I could literally be saying, "Today I saw pigs flying and I am going to the moon tomorrow morning." And they would shake their heads and keep saying whatever the heck they're saying. 

3. Hitch-hiking is completely normal and people do it all the time. The American in me keeps saying, "you will be robbed, or murdered if you get into a car with a complete stranger." I just can't bring myself to do it. 

4. There is this awesome thing called a Giro or Xhiro in Albanian. Basically at about 6pm every night (every night) the entire city walks from one end of the street to the other. The pros are usually old men, looking very dapper, crossing their hands behind their backs. They stay until about 9pm or so while women generally head back before 8pm.

5. Don't drink the Raki. Just don't do it. Unless you put in coffee like the locals.

6. You should never be bored. Nothing to do? Water the pavement. Everyone here waters the pavement.

7. If invited to a Manu Chao concert... GO. 

Number 7 brings me to my next post...
After I left Tirana the first time I was certain I would never see it again... at least not for a while. Two days later I found myself on a bus heading back to Tirana to see a Manu Chao concert. We arrived an hour before the concert began, just enough time to settle into the hostel, find tickets, eat and find the stadium.

To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Our xhiros in Berat are much more fun over summer...when EVERYONE goes out lol over winter as you said you can only see old men and some's a small city so we know everyone and xhiro is just a place to meet up with friends and interact..we also go to "lokale" as you said like Palma, Ajka, Guva, Shpetimi which are mostly for younger people during summer :) and yes Summer is probably the best time to visit Berat, It's packed !lol hope you had fun visiting my city!