In Antigone and Varosh, the second earliest neighborhood of Gjirokastra

St Michael Varosh

Antigone, a city that arose out of love for a woman, and that was completely burned by hatred. We will also visit the Varosh neighborhood in Gjirokastra, where the house of the Cico Family turns 200 years old.

The first destination will be Antigonea, one of the largest ancient cities in the territory of Albania and the most important ancient settlement of the Drinos Valley.

The city lies on the hill of Jerma. Below, lies the Drinos valley where there is a series of archeological treasures from the most intensive in Albania with many tourist sites, Adrianopuli Justianolopoli, Lekli.

Engjell Serjani, former director for 8 years of the Antigone Ancient Park tells us parts of the history of this settlement.

“It began to be built in 295 BC and is known as Antigone, who is the first wife of King Pyrrhus. He has been a great strategist, but also a great builder. Suffice it to say that there are three cities in this territory that have female names and this shows that in old Illyria women were respected “, says the former director of the ancient park of Antigone, Engjell Serjani.

But this city built by Pyrrhus out of love for his first wife, Antigone, was destroyed by a great fire that destroyed this city. In 167 the Roman consul Amelius Paulus set fire to many ancient cities in Albania. It is thought that the city burned down overnight and there was no life left in this city.

We leave Antigonea to visit Varos, the second earliest neighborhood of Gjirokastra, which was mostly populated by Orthodox. Special is the house of Cicove, which turns 200 years old and it seems as if nothing has changed since then.

The apartment has two courtyards, with many niches in the walls that show their ownership but also useful as to place the candle or soap in the pool of water. Working animals were kept in the first yard while the inner yard was for family use.

Engineer Mihal Cico gives us a guide to this museum house, which since its construction in 1821 is inhabited by the Cico family.

“This year this house is 200 years old, which is something rare for buildings in Gjirokastra or Albania. The peculiarity of this house is that it is preserved almost exactly as at the time it was built, so there are no changes and it is a residential house. The house was built in 1821, at the time of the peak of glory of Ali Pasha, who was the ruler of this area “, – says the owner of the house, engineer Mihal Cico.

Next we find the museum house of Ismail Kadare which is closed and the Alley of Fools, mentioned so often in the novels of the famous writer. Teodor Bilushi, a boy from this neighborhood, tells us the details of Varosh.

“In this neighborhood there is no significant diversity in terms of ethnicity, religion, culture, architecture. “In this neighborhood, orthodox Orthodox and Muslim Albanians have coexisted, but also foreigners who have come to the city”, – says the researcher Teodor Bilushi.

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