It looks innocent enough. This road to the citadel in Berat has been ascended by thousands of others over the centuries. And while climbing UP the hill, towards the amazing castle and its collection of churches, mosques, museums and active homes, it seems long and graceful. Our first clue should have been when the tires of our car started spinning.
We chalked it up to the weak engine, found a parking space and decided to hoof it. Not all of us made it to the top, but those who did explored it well. And then the time came to head back down.
That’s when the road showed its true colors. The eons of wear and tear on the stones have polished them to a shiny smoothness. Combine that with the just-right pitch of the path, and you’ve got yourself a seriously slippery slope. Gravity was not a force for good on this occasion. My 40-something knees and calves did not appreciate the decision I had made that morning to wear loose sandals. Attempts to walk alongside the road were met with thistles, so rather than inch my way down cautiously I eventually chose to let my feet go au naturel and was able to quicken the pace a bit.
The aches and pains did have a positive side effect though. I paused a lot during the descent and really did take the time to soak in the panorama of the valley below. A cold beverage at the base of the hill also helped my feet to forgive me.