German/Albanian couple promoting Berat’s Sites, Secrets, Scenes and Extremes
By Richard GIBSON-SHAW
A hidden treasure exists in the middle south of Albania which few tourists have discovered. Berat and its region are being promoted by a unique couple. Enkeleda Olldashi and Martin Heusinger may come from diverse cultures but the German who met the Albanian Enkelenda in Munich found their way back to her roots to attempt to get Berat and the region on the tourist map.
The two appear undaunted in their attempt to attract foreign visitors and Albanians alike to the many attractions and incomparable hospitality of Berat. They’ve single handedly made it their mission to expose Berat’s culture, ancient castles and constructions as well as its homes stacked up like cordwood, terraced into the hills. It is proabaly a good combination since Martin is schooled in social geography with a degree in public relatins and marketing research and Ankeleda has studied economics.
With GTZ backing they started an idea to get a regional development strategy put together and with Besnik Alia’s moral support developed a 4-year project to "get the municipality to buy into the idea", she said.
Mr. Heusinger added, that the CO-PLAN NGO chipped in 10,000 euros to get things in motion but the local government dragged its heals somewhat. "City planning combined with tourism should be encouraged integrated with regional development", he said. They added that the "clan factor" comes as part of the development equation since as soon as a project of this beneficial nature gets started some people want to hoard territory and keep all of the proceeds for themselves.
They continued to explain that "If you use tourism as a leading industry it leverages other economic sectors such as agriculture, arts and crafts. In the end everyone in the region benefits with economic spin offs.
The two stressed that Berat is just a hop skip and a jump from Tirana and it offers cleaner air, fantastic venues and homey accommodation not to mention great food and diligent service. "The sad thing is many Albanians have never discovered the riches of the region", said Enkeleda.
The team has put together practical and affordable tourist packages, mostly but not exclusively centered on weekend retreats under the banner "Berat Welcomes You to a Discovery Weekend".
For example the price per person for a 2 overnight stay including breakfasts 2 dinners and a lunch in Bogova runs 75 euros. You don’t have to pay entrance fees on the tours of Berat castle, the museums or for specialized tour guides.
While many folks have maybe stopped over in Berat for a couple hours, few have truly explored the city and region’s wonders. If you leave Tirana for instance on a Friday you’ll arrive during the late afternoon. For dinner you will enjoy the traditional Berat delicacies. Then you can take an after dinner stroll on the traditional promenade/gyro. Then you rest comfortably in the charming and traditional land hotel.
Saturday’s highlights can include a guided tour of the old town which is architecturally fascinating and then a hike up to the famous Berat castle and the Onufi museum. On the trek down to lower town there’s a visit to the ethnographic museum and the Kings mosque. After that you can have a great lunch take a tour around or just take a relaxing siesta followed by a relaxing dinner at the hotel.
Sunday can offer other experiences included in your package. Take off in the morning for a panoramic scan of the Berat area country side ending up at the fascinating Canyon of Bogova which gives you an easy 2-hour stroll. However, there a few adventurous travelers who will drive into the cold spring there. Once back in the village of Bogova a true Albanian spread is put on featuring Bogova lamb. Then it is back to Berat in the early afternoon and after a coffee break you can head back home with memories, meals and history you’ll remember forever.
There are outdoor and fitness packages as well and even special activities such as wine a wine tasting excursion to the Cobo winery, "aperitivo" with tasty snacks included.
Martin Heusinger & Enkeleda Ollashi can be contacted at Regio-Berater-Tourism Incoming Services at 069-20-65-239 or 355/0-69-2065-239 or [email protected]
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