“Are you going to the Xhiro tonight?” he asked. “It’s Monday so it should be good.” He pointed down to the town.
The Xhiro (pronounced ‘giro’), as it turns out, is one of the most curious rituals I have come across. At a time when we might be watching primetime TV the inhabitants of Berat are walking back and forth down a closed off boulevard, dressed to the nines like its 1987. Furtive glances are exchanged as Europop seeps from the cafes. This is dating, Albania-style. In a country where pre-marriage relations are frowned upon and the Western version of ‘going out’ is non-existent, the nightly Xhiro is the one opportunity to size up potential partners. Like someone? Your relatives can talk to their relatives.
We joined in – the walking, not the dating – and amongst the fried sweetcorn hawkers and popped collars you could sense the locals enjoying themselves.
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Captured a sweet moment of a little boy insisting to carry his mother's purse down a steep hill. At the top of the hill sits Berat Castle, a fortress from the 13th century that residents still inhabit. I stumbled into a man watering his plants and was a little shocked he lived there.