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As with Mount Olympus, Mount Tomorr’s presence in Albanian geography and folklore overshadows all other natural wonders of the land. With its imposing height of 2416 m above sea level, the beauty and grandeur of this mountain has had quite the influence upon the collective imagination of Albanians. Even mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, there is no shortage of mythology and legend surrounding this mighty peak. You’ll see that the journey to Mount Tomorr is packed with adventures, real and symbolic.
Words cannot begin to describe this mountain’s dominance over the surrounding landscape. Positioned in the center of a plain without neighbors, the mountain looks over all directions, unobstructed. The city of Berat looks over Tomorr in its east, while Mount Shpirag dominates the scenery in its west. Its craggy peaks, dense forests, abysses and frequent storms, make this mountain simultaneously attractive and challenging for mountain climbers. In fact, Mount Tomorr has been a reference point for all Albanian alpinism for a long time.
Throughout history, pagan, Christian and Islamic rituals have all contributed to Mount Tomorr’s status as a holy sanctuary. The deity associated with Mount Tomorr since Illyrian times is called Baba Tomorr (Father Tomorr), the most prominent mythological figure in Albanian folklore. When the English ethnologist Margaret Hasluck climbed the mountain in 1930, she was astonished to find that the prevalent faith among the people centered on Baba Tomorr, much more than on the Holy Bible or the Qur’an. According to history experts, this cult goes back to pagan natural cults, wherein supernatural powers were attributed to natural phenomena in order to explain their mysterious wonders.
This is how famous Albanian poet, Andon Z. Çajupi, sang the glory of Mount Tomorr:
“Father Tomor, church of Albania,
lofty mountain, throne of the gods
for centuries, people come to you
to know of God’s commands…”
Though mostly associated with pagan rites, this mountain retains traces of the religions that have historically moved through Albania. To this day, the mountain hosts the Kulmak Tekke and the shrine of Abaz Aliu, which attracts thousands of Bektashi Order pilgrims from all over the world, especially during the period of August 20th-25th.
Last but not least, a famous legend of a tragic love triangle is told of Mount Tomorr and his brother, Mount Shpirag. As you stand in front of Mount Tomorr, you will notice the gaping holes on its surface. Legend says, these were caused by Shpirag’s flail during battle while Mount Shpirag reveals crevasses, carved out by Tomorr’s sword. The two brothers ceaselessly battled over the love of the same beautiful girl until their death, when they were finally petrified into the majestic mountains you see today. Now, they look over the spectacular Osum River below, which was created by the tears of the doomed heroine. A dramatic story to go with the dramatic scenery!
As you may have gathered, climbing Tomorr is no light fare! Perhaps the most unique experience that Albanian alpinism has to offer, for many, this climb is a rite of passage, akin to reaching the peaks of Kilimanjaro or Everest. Thousands of believers or adventurers climb this mountain annually! The options offered by organized tours include hiking, camping and even climbing the mountain atop mules. Like Lord Byron, quite the fan of these parts of the world, said, “Go forth and conquer”!
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