Nobody else can describe this beautiful city with this special morbid charme better than the famous Albanian writer Ismail Kadare who was born here:
"... and for sure this was the only place in the world where somebody who slipped at the roadside ditch would not plunge into the ditch, but would maybe fall onto the roof of a tall house. The drunkards were the ones who knew that better than anybody else. It really was a queer and bizarre town. If someone wanted, it was possible to go along a street, stretch out the hand a bit, just to pull his cap over the tip of a minaret. Many things were ... like in a dream." (Ismail Kadare ... translated from "Chronik in Stein")
The city of Gjirokastër looks back on a 2000 year old history from Greek to modern times. The name goes back to Greek Argyrokastro, "silver castle" and may be associated with the silvery stone tiles which are used here to cover the roofs.
For a long period, the city was an important Turkish administrative centre and still is one of the most important fortified cities on the Balkans.
At the end of the 19th century this city was taking the lead of the Albanian resistance movement.
Ironically, the city was preserved to a great deal because the dictator Enver Hoxha was born here and declared the town of his birth a museum city in 1961 (which still did not stop him destroying 13 of the remaining 14 mosques during the cultural revolution in 1967).
Today, many of the old buildings, especially the "Kulla" buildings, fortified residential houses, are falling into ruins because either the many owners (due to division of the estates) cannot agree on a collective decision concerning the future of their houses or simply because there is no money to restore them according to the terms of the UNESCO, as the city is a World Heritage Site.
The hostel we stay in at the moment, the Babameto-House, home of the Babameto family, one of the influential families of Gjirokastër, is one of these houses, which was restored with the help of a foundation. Today, this beautiful and impressive house is used completely as a hostel and from our point of view it is one of the most beautiful and spacy hostels existing. Adults can stay here for the very reasonable price of 12€ for b&b and thereby help keeping this building in the shape it is in (please see our accomodation and camping page).
We would strongly recommend this city and accomodation to everybody visiting the South of Albania!