Gjirokaster (or Gjirokastra) (Albanian: Gjirokastra and Gjirokastër. In greek Αργυρόκαστρο / Argyrocastro), is a town in southern Albania. It has a population of about 25 thousand inhabitants with a small presence of a community of Greek origin. It is the capital of the district of Gjirokastra.
The old town is included in UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gjirokastra is one of the oldest cities of Albania, its name means Silver Fortress and the city clearly shows the meeting of Greek, Roman, Turkish and Albanian. Girocastro was built on a hill 300 meters high, overlooking a lush valley in the mountains Mali Gjerë and the Drinos river.
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Gjirokastra is a historic city known as “the City of two thousand steps” or “the city of stone”, known for its fortifications. The traces of an Illyrian settlement date urbanization in the first century BC. The castle, which overlooks the strategic area between the Ionian Sea, the interior and the border with Greece it was built in the IV century BC. Gjirokastra, developed along the sides of hills, rised, however, in the eighteenth-nineteenth century and now is one of the best examples of architecture in Albania. The style of the houses is similar to that of Berat, but retains his character developing buildings along the hillsides. The top of the buildings is open with large windows and the characteristic “Cardak” wooden frame, and the walls are decorated. Gjirokastra can be visited in a day from Saranda or from Vlora, the two renowned tourist resorts in Albania. The city is also known as the birthplace of Enver Hoxha, and with him to a substantial part of the communist leader of Albania. You can see very large and decorated villas in the hills of the city, very nice to see. Gjirokastra is surrounded by mountains.
Things to see in Gjirokastra:
Gjirokastra Castle is one of the most popular tourist destinations all over Albania. It is a huge, panoramic castle overlooking the entire valley below, where the river Drina flows. On the top there is the Weapons Museum, which houses guns of World War II, traditional weapons and conventional weapons, which cover a long historical period. Must-thing to do is a walk in the city, among the houses, the Byzantine church of St.Michael Archangel, the Mosque, the bazaar and the beautiful courtyards.
Gjirokastra is one of the important cultural and tourist centers of South Albania. Because of its unique architectural and historical values, from 2005 Gjirokastra is part of UNESCO World heritage sites. The Castle is the largest building of the historic center of Gjirokastra. It was built on a large boulder with rock that resembles a huge ship. Within it there are galleries, covered with barrel vaults that occupy the central part of the fortification. According to historians, the castle had their origins in the fifth century AD, but according to the UNESCO this castle need archaeological studies to correctly verify his history. The characteristic bazaar is another great thing to visit, next to the inhabited part of the city. The museums are the National Weapons Museum at the castle, the Ethnographic Museum, historic houses such as Zekate House(1812), Skendulate, Angone, Babameto and Kabilate. Valuable building is also the architectural complex in the historic districts “the Vjeter Pazar”, “Partizani”, “Dunavat” and “Hazmurat”.Besides the buildings in Ottoman style, really interesting are the buildings in the historical center of Gjirokastra in the Italian XIX century style, like the hotel “Royal”, the former “Banco di Napoli”, the former shopping center Ziga, the High School, Villa “Kokalari” and Villa “Papavangjeli”.
Sources: wikipedia.org, valona.altervista.org