This mid May, as it welcomes the admirers of the Folk Festival, Gjirokastra also opened its doors to a different kind of visitors, admirers of this city’s cultural heritage. Regional Restoration Camps, recipients of the prestigious EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award, returned to the city of grey roofs for the 21st edition, May 9-20, 2015. All together, 25 students and young professionals from Albania and the Western Balkans gathered in Gjirokastra for two weeks of intensive training and practice on conservation and management of cultural heritage monuments. Parallel with this group, another one of 17 professionals participated at the 22nd Regional Restoration Camp, in Rogljevo, Serbia.
The Regional Restoration Camps (RRC), organized by Cultural Heritage without Borders Albania (CHwB Albania), offer lectures and practical opportunities on restoration and conservation methods, using traditional materials and techniques.
In Gjirokastra, camp participants divided into four groups, and each of them, under the guidance of master craftsmen, focused on different restoration works:
Located in the beautiful neighborhood of Varosh, the Bakuli House is part of a unique complex of monuments, composed of some of Gjirokastra’s most beautiful houses and a stone bridge. The Bakuli House, built in 1868, preserves one of the rare examples of the original mechanism that was used to collect water from the well. The RRC group that worked here focused on the restoration of gate’s roof and was introduced to the basic skills of woodworking, including: information on wood as a construction material, different types of joints and connections and what are the appropriate tools to use.
Located in the Old Bazaar, the Xhelili House is part of the first borough built outside of the castle. One of the most notable characteristics of this house is the well, located under the semi-opened entrance vaults. RRC participants here rebuilt the missing parts of the surrounding wall and the two stone vaults of the entrance, which are very valuable for the neighbourhood’s typical image. They also learned about stone working, the different types of stones and its characteristics, building stone walls and vaults and using different tools.
Kore House, part of Palorto neighbourhood, has undergone some changes throughout the years, but it still preserves the characteristic features of a historical Gjirokastra house, like the kamerie and the wooden ceilings. The team here restored the plaster of the southern façade and were taught how to make and apply traditional plaster, the tools used when applying plaster and the different techniques of plaster consolidation.
Apart from the restoration of the aforementioned monuments, RRC participants also worked with the owners of these house-monuments that want to use them as guest houses/bed & breakfasts. A group of participants worked on several monuments to create the complete documentation of the interventions needed to turn one or two rooms of each house into bedrooms for tourist. This initiative is part of Cultural Heritage without Borders’s platform to help the local communities to use their rich cultural heritage as a mean to improve their quality of life.
Participants at Gjirokastra’s camp are also receiving drawing classes and traditional dance lessons.
The 22nd Regional Restoration Camp, which took place in Serbia, focused on the restoration of historic vernacular heritage of Rogljevo’s wine cellar district. Currently the wine cellar complexes of Rogljevo, Rajac and Štubik are listed as tentative World Heritage candidates. Here too, the participants were divided in groups where each group focused on carpentry, masonry techniques, etc. The teams here learned the traditional skills and techniques to restore roofs, balconies, carved columns and fences.
The aim of the Regional Restoration Camps organized by CHwB Albania is to engage residents in the areas where they take place and raise awareness among the general public about the importance of cultural heritage and respect for the originality of monuments with cultural and historical value. The RRC also connect young professionals from across the Balkans, not only increasing their understanding of conservation, but also helping them create transnational professional networks and life-long friendships.