We are in Berat, a city located in central Albania with an ancient history: it is considered the cradle of a multiculturality among the most unique in the nation. The city develops on the two banks of the river Osum, and is famous for some place of interests, like the Ottoman white houses, the city’s castle, where many people live still today, and the many mosques opposed to as the Byzantine churches. Just the peaceful division between Muslims and Orthodox Christians has created a curious legend, handed down orally, which concerns the Gorica bridge.
The bridge is the junction between two parts of the city, Gorica and Mangalemi, one of predominantly Christian faith and the other predominantly Muslim, and is one of the oldest and best known Ottoman bridges in Albania. Originally it was made of wood, but during the reign of Kurt Ahmed Pasha was built in stone, only to be completely restored during the 1920s, when Albania had already gained independence, in 1912. The current bridge has seven arches and is 129 meters long, built about 10 meters above the average water level.
While the river in summer becomes completely dry, in winter the fury of the water is hard to combat, and the wooden bridge was subject to continuous damage. According to the local legend, the original wooden bridge contained a basement in which a girl was incarcerated and held to starvation, until the death, to appease the wrath of the river responsible for the safety of the bridge. The new bridge, built at the end of the 18th century, is also surrounded by a curious local legend. The previous wooden bridge was subject to continuous damage, and the construction of the stone bridge began. When only two arches had been completed, even if being summer the river was raging, and damaged the work already done.
To appease the wrath of the river seven lambs were sacrificed, how many should have been the arches of the bridge.
The expedient was useless: in fact the river continued to rage, and the bridge could not be completed. Being the Balkans animated by a strong superstition, they thought to offer the life of a living being much more precious than a lamb: the most beautiful young mother of the city. Although she was the mother of a newborn, the woman was walled up inside the bridge, the waters of the river calmed down and the bridge could be completed.
Only a legend, but even if it’s only a voice passed down orally by the inhabitants of Berat, its echo is still heard today. Every year, in April, a curious greenish vegetation grows on the walls of the bridge. When it is picked or broken, it leaves a white and sticky resin, similar to mother’s milk, between the fingers. According to the legend, this is the milk of the young mother walled up alive for the sake of the city.
This is obviously just a legend. And you know why, I say “obviously“? Because the same legend is told about other bridges around the world, but these curiosities are always willingly read. Or not? 😉
But leaving aside myths and legends, the bridge is undoubtedly of great architectural and historical value, and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes the entire historic center of Berat.