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South | Vranisht


First Impressions

HORA Vranisht , is an Illyrian center of Epirus – once known as “white stone “ synonymous with “ good stone “ or “ divine stone “ …That is where “ Sofra* of God “ or “Stone in Heaven “ is found. (*Sofra- low round table made of mahogany timber) Vranisht is located on what is essentially the backside slope of Mount Çika: the peak that looms above the top of Llogara Pass like an impossible addition to an already impossible height. Vranisht is one of the few villages set on the eastern slope of the valley. It is a shorter walk to the sea, but it feels worlds away because the shadows fall there early. Like Gjirokastra, Vranisht spends the ends of each of its days looking at the fading sunlight on the hill across the valley, long after its own buildings are dark and need electric light. To face east means to be in a different world. But to be in a different world suits Vranisht very well. The village is home to a mysterious cult monument, possibly the only artifact of its kind in the entire Balkans, which sits quietly today, though it casts a certain feeling of real age, and perhaps even mysticism onto this tiny village. Vranisht occupies an interesting edge in Labëria as it is so far removed from the sea, and of the culture the sea has given rise to after communism. In some sense, Vranisht remains incredibly Albanian. One continues to feel there the isolation and control of communism that was imposed on an already desolate place. Now, as it is left bare with nothing to do and nowhere to turn, Vranisht, like many of the villages in this valley, represents a kind of pure Albanian village disconnected to the pink drinks and pounding bass of the globalized culture that is so rampant just on the other side of Mount Çika.

The people - economic activity

The locals in the past were mainly involved in agriculture and animal husbandry, as the natural and climatic conditions are favorable for grazing cattle and herds of small livestock. Wheat and corn
has been cultivated and continues to be cultivated, as well as fruit trees such as figs, apples, pears, and grapes.

The people - the history

Local residents of Vranisht consider themselves to be indigenous, with roots dating back many centuries. The roman historian Titus Livy (64 or 59 BC – AD 17) in his book “The Illyrians and Illyria”, ancient authors, vol.1, pg.131 states mentions “Horreas”, that is presumed to be the current Hore-Vranisht. Yet, the first document written (known with certainty) about this settlement is the Ottoman Cadastral Register of early the fifteenth century. More specifically, the Ottoman Cadastre in 1413 in Vranista (as was called Vranisht at the time) evidences only sixteen families registered—large, medieval, patriarchal families. Loom weaving is a well-known tradition of the village, especially woolen handicrafts. Historically, local people have been noted for their military aptitude and contributions in uprisings for freedom and independence—including the Norman and Azhuine invasions, as well as in the resistance and in anti- Ottoman wars.

The roots - the history

The etymology of the name Vranisht seems to be associated with the ancient Illyrian word vrane, or overcast sky (urana), and with a god of the ancient Illyrians, who was the god of the sky, of the weather, of the overcast. In a document from 1274, the settlement is mentioned by the name Uranishta. In antiquity this settlement was included within the territories of Kaonia. Not far from the present-day village, sit the ruins of an ancient settlement called Hora of Vranisht. Hora is the abbreviation of the name Horea, meaning inhabited settlement, village, town. The linguistic root of the word Horea is of ancient origin (pellazge) and means “beautiful, impressive, magnificent place”. The ruins include preserved fragments of surrounding walls, the remnants of a ruined aqueduct that furnished the city with water in the Lake of Hora, Liqeni i Horës. At 700 m height of the mountainside is found a rocky limestone conglomerate massif known as “Urban Stone,” Guri i Qytetit. (differently known as the divine stone). Hora of Vranisht on the flat field and the Urban Stone up in the mountain, present a magnificent historical settlement symbiosis.

The legend of HORA Vranisht & the Stone in Heaven

Hora of Vranisht on the flat field and the Urban (divine) Stone up in the mountain, present a magnificent historical symbiosis. According to the legend, when the castle of Horea down in the field was surrounded and besieged by the enemies, the people would make use of an underground tunnel that offered exit on the edge of Kauri Valley (by a stone mill) and would find shelter and protection up in the Urban (Divine) Stone.

The setting - Urban fabric

Nowadays Vranisht is located in the southwest region of Vlora. To the east it is bordered by Kallarat; to the south, over the mountain range, is the village of Vuno. On the west side it is bordered by the village of Tërbaç and on the north side by the village of Bolena. The territory where the residents of Vranisht live is located in the river valley of Shushica, mostly on the left side of its flow.

The setting – architecture

The houses of this mountainous village preserve the building characteristics of the area. The dwellings are built with domestic stones and roofs are mostly covered with stone slabs and with roof tiles as well. Hospitality and generosity have been and are still well-known characteristics of the inhabitants of this village.

Stone in Heaven - Guri në Qiell

There is a giant stone at the top of the mountain of Mesimeri, which weighs many tons, and is set horizontally and stands on two other stones set vertically in shape of the Greek letter π. Natives refer to it as the “Stone in Heaven,” and researchers estimate it to be a dolmen—early prehistoric, and related in form to Stonehenge and other sites throughout Europe. It has been a cult object of worship for the ancient inhabitants of these areas.

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