On Saturday March 12th, 2011 we took our first day trip to Berat with Ilya, Dan’s coworker, his wife and two children. We set out in the morning, travelling North through Fier, then East towards Berat. At 2400 years old, Berat is one of the oldest cities in Albania and is known for it’s white Ottoman houses climbing up the hillside. Our first stop upon entering the city was the Kala or Castle, situated 200m above the town. At one point in time there were 42 churches and now only 8 remain. We walked up the steep cobblestone road to the castle entrance and made our way to the only church that is open. St. Mary’s, built in 1797, houses the National Onufri Museum. Onufri was a famous icon painter from the 16th century and was known for the red colour in his artwork. After a tour of the church and museum, we walked around the castle for some beautiful panoramic views of the Ottoman town with Mount Tommori in the background.
After our tour of the Kala, we went for lunch in the old town. Our next and final stop for the day was at Kantina e Veres Çobo(ie winery). A little background on this winery. When we finally found our flat to rent, we went for lunch and ordered a nice bottle of Çobo Kashmer wine to celebrate. We really enjoyed it and have not been able to find it in any of the stores, so when we decided to go to Berat, we thought we have to find this winery. The family has a long tradition of wine making dating back to the 1900’s but was stopped in the 1950’s under the communist regime as private enterprises were not allowed. After the fall of communism in 1990, the family revived the wine making business. We picked up a case of the 2008 Kashmer, which is a blend of Kabernet, Shesh and Merlot as well as an assorted case of their other 4 varities including raki. (We will fill you in on the traditions of Raki, the local firewater, later). Our first “touristy” thing we have done since we arrived was a success. We can’t wait to explore more of this country and share it with you.