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Pronounced Gee-roh-kahs-tra and one of the most famous Medieval towns of the region, this stone city is perched high on the eastern side of the Drino valley.
Early settlement dates back to the 3rd century BC and its name may derive from a local Illyrian tribe. The modern city was founded in the 11th or 12th centuries as the fortress of the Zenebishi family, who ruled as Byzantine lords. It was taken by the Turks in 1417 and became a centre of Islamic learning and culture in a Christian countryside. During the 17th century the city was trading in embroidery, felt, silk and its famous white cheese. The castle was rebuilt as today’s mighty fortress in the 19th century by Ali Pasha of Tepelena, when most of the great stone mansions, bazaars and mosques were constructed.
The fortress became a prison in the 1920s and was used by the Nazis during the Second World War. In the city centre we shall see the statue of Cerciz Topulli, an early Albanian patriot who with his band of seven fought against the Turks, shooting dead the local commander in a famous incident, still marked by a plaque. Our visit will include a trip to the fortress to the new Museum of Gjirokastra and we can take in the wonderful view of the city and valley form this superb location before our return to Saranda.
Tour of the Ottoman City of Gjirokastra.
Images from the tour