Once upon a time Berat was a city of churches. There were 20 or so churches in the castle area alone, although someone told me there was double that number at one point. That’s hard to believe considering how small the castle is but apparently there was a church on more or less every corner. Unfortunately communism put an end to that and all that is left now are a couple of 13th century churches and the ruins of the Red Mosque.
The communists weren’t the only ones to destroy parts of the medieval castle. The collapse of a pyramid scheme in 1997 led to civil unrest and gang warfare around the country including in Berat. This led to one of the most famous Ottoman style buildings in the castle being gutted by fire.
Nowadays though, it’s just neglect and abandonment which have led to the castle literally falling down in some parts and becoming a rubbish tip in others. It’s a shame to see a UNESCO World Heritage Site in such poor condition.
Most of the medieval castle walls are still intact and are a sign of what was most likely a magnificent structure in its day.
Berat is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Albania. It’s a shame to see it neglected in so many ways but it’s worth dodging potholes to get to the city and taking the steep walk up to the castle. See my guide for more information on visiting Albania.