Dear Diary

From Pelenë (the ë is found in many words here and is sometimes an ö or an a) it turns into a desolate overland trip south to Berat. We boys originally wanted to go to the north of the country, but in favor of the guide Rovena – there are hardly any marked hiking trails in the mountains and no hiking maps on the internet either – we change our plans without further ado. We didn’t even have Berat on our radar, but we’re incredibly happy to be here.

The medieval city is beautiful and is also called the “City of 1000 Windows” for obvious reasons. It is located in a valley through which a tranquil little river flows without haste. Whitewashed medieval houses with many small windows cling to the slopes on both sides of the valley. In between there are small minarets or church towers.

We stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets over which wine is grown. An older couple watches us and I greet them in Albanian. They then speak to me in Albanian and at that point Rovena has to step in. The couple invites us to climb up onto their roof, because from there you have a nicer view of the valley. From there we see that there is also a path leading up the mountain, where there is also an old fortress. It looks steep and full of thorny bushes and cacti. The idea of climbing up there is completely insane, so we have to do it.

Completely out of breath, but full of thorns, we reach the top and stand in front of the fortress wall. Rovena resolutely climbs up the crumbling masonry; after initial very justified doubts, we all climb behind and finally stand on top of the old walls, which used to be a bulwark against the Turks.

From the walls we can watch the sunset over the valley, but then have to drive through the mountains in the dark in search of a place to stay. Rovena still wants to get to a place called Skrapar, but I am against driving through potholes in the black void and having to avoid unlit carts, goats or cows near a slope at night. So it is that we end up in a small place called Bogovë and Rovena asks around something.

It turns out that the large and only hotel in the village is occupied by a wedding. After some further research, however, she finds out that there is another accommodation directly behind the village exit, which welcomes us with joy. We are the only guests there, music, food and raki are made extra loud for us and Rovena teaches us Albanian dances more or less successfully. She LOVES to dance!

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