Travel Guides: Albania
Albania is a country in southeastern Europe having borders with Montenegro in the north, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia in the east, Greece in the south, the Adriatic Sea in the west and the Ionian Sea in the southwest. It is a democratic state, with the official name Republic of Albania – Republika e Shqipërisë. It is located less than 72 km from Italy across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea. Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of Islamic Conference and a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean.
Albania was a potential candidate for membership in the European Union since January 2003 and formally applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009. Albania is a parliamentary democracy and with an economy in transition. Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to about 895,000 of the 3.6 million inhabitants of the country, and it is also the country’s financial capital. The free market reform has given free hand for foreign investments, especially energy and transport infrastructure development.
In the area known today as Albania, were people from the beginning of history. The first inhabitants of the region were part of a pre-Indo-European group which occupied the Mediterranean coast. These groups have left only a few physical remnants, which are concentrated in coastal areas. Proto-Hellenic tribes have replaced these peoples in Greece, southern Macedonia and southern Albania. This process was completed in the second millennium BC and did not affect the central and northern parts of Albania, an area marked by a vacuum policy in this period. Historians offer different versions for the origin of the Illyrians. Some insist that the Illyrians are the descendants of the pre-Indo-European Pelasgians, while most scholars insist they were part of a later wave of Indo-European invasions. Their presence can be identified from 900 BC.
Illyrian culture was influenced by Greek culture (especially the southern tribes). Some ancient Greek colony existed on the territory of modern Albania. After the region was conquered by the Roman Empire, Illyria was reorganized as a Roman province Illyricum, which was then reorganized in Dalmatia and Pannonia, the territory of today’s Albanian majority is included in Dalmatia. Later, the region was controlled by the Byzantine Empire. After several centuries, the name Illyria began to be used more frequently to refer to the region. In the Middle Ages, the name Albania began to be used more often in relation to modern Albanian region. The territory of Albania has become a part of the Ottoman Empire in 1478, after a long period of military strength under the command of Kastrioti Gjergj Skanderbeg, Albanian national hero.
After the First Balkan War, Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, becoming a principality. After 1928, the country was ruled by King Zog I until 1938 when it became a possession of Italy. Communists took control of the country during the Second World War in November 1944 as the resistance leader, Enver Hoxha. From 1945 until 1990 Albania had one of the most repressive governments in Europe. The Communist Party was created in 1941 by the Union supported by the Bolshevik Parties. All who opposed the party have been eliminated. Enver Hoxha became the leader of this party. In the course of several decades, Hoxha created and destroyed relationships with Belgrade, Moscow and China, always for his own interest. The country has been isolated, first by west and then even by the communist East.
In 1985, Enver Hoxha died and Ramiz Alia replaced him. Initially, Alia tried to follow the path of Hoxha, but profound changes in Eastern Europe had already started: Mikhail Gorbachev appeared in the Soviet Union with glasnost and perestroika. The totalitarian regime was pressured by the United States, Europe and opposition people. When Nicolae Ceausescu was executed in the revolution of 1989, Alia realized that he could be next if he did not implement radical changes. He signed the Treaty of Helsinki (which had been signed by other countries in 1975) guaranteeing certain human rights. He also allowed pluralism, and though his party won elections in 1991, it was clear that changes can not be stopped. In the 1992 general elections, the Democratic Party took 62% of the votes. In the general elections of June 1996, the Democratic Party tried to win an absolute majority and manipulated the results.
In 1997, fraud has shocked the entire government and protests started. Many cities were controlled by armed citizens. This has allowed anarchy and rebellion Socialist Party to win elections in 1997. However, stability was restored in the years after the 1997 riots. The struggle for power within the Socialist Party led to a series of short-lived governments. In 1998 and 1999 thousands of refugees have entered Albania from Kosovo. In June 2002, a compromise candidate, Alfred Moisiu, a former general and defense minister, was elected to succeed President Meidani. In parliamentary elections in July 2005, Sali Berisha, leader of the Democratic Party got back to power, largely because of infighting and a series of socialist scandals about corruption of Nano’s Socialist government.
Since 1990, Albania is moving westward, being accepted in the Council of Europe and requesting membership in NATO. Many Albanian workers continue to migrate to Greece, Italy and North America. Albania, like other ex-communist states, is currently in a state of transition from a totalitarian government and a state-controlled economy to a free market and democratic system of government. The Head of State is the President who is elected by Kuvendi, or Assembly of the Republic of Albania in every five years. The main part of the 140 attendees of the assembly is elected every four years. 100 members of parliament are elected by all citizens through a direct vote, and the other 40 members are elected through a proportional system. Head of Government is Prime Minister who is assisted by a council of ministers.
The Council of Ministers is chosen by the Prime Minister and is enhanced by a simple majority of 71 votes in the Assembly. Albania is divided into 12 provinces (counties) and in 36 rrethe (districts). The capital, Tirana, has a special status. Albania is a predominantly hilly and mountainous territory. The highest mountain, Korab in the district of Dibra, has a height of 2753 m. The country has a continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. Outside the capital Tirana, with 800,000 inhabitants, other major cities are Durrës, Elbasan, Shkoder, Gjirokastër, Vlora and Korçë. UNESCO World Heritage List includes the following cultural objectives in Albania: The ruins of the ancient city of Butrint (1992, 1999, 2007); The historic city center of Gjirokastra (2005).
The climate is Mediterranean, with hot summers and mild winters favor the development of specific forest vegetation. Tirana is the capital and largest city of Albania. It is located in the district and county with the same name. Founded in 1614, it became the capital of Albania in 1920. Situated on the River Ishm, Tirana is Albania’s industrial and cultural center. Tirana has gone through a period of growth and development, knowledge of new industries after 1920. Tirana is currently trying to promote quality tourism, although this effort is thwarted by political instability in the region, due to the 1990s military conflict in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia. The main objectives to see in Albania are: Kalaja (Fortress) in Tirana, Tirana Mosque, a monument of historical value, in harmony with the Clock Tower, with which it forms a complex value of the city; Shengjini Church, Bridge Tabakeve – monument of Tirana – The whole monument in the center of Tirana, Skanderbeg Square, Skanderbeg statue in front of which is the National History Museum.
Durres – It is a historic port city, founded by native tribes. You can visit the Roman Amphitheatre and the Palace of King Ahmet Zoh. Shkodraeste or Shkoder in the north-western Albania, on the shores of Lake Shkoder – It is one of the oldest cities in Albania and an important cultural and economic center. Berat is a city in south central Albania. “The city with a thousand windows” was declared even in Communist times as a city museum. This way they could preserve the historical parts of the town. The Old Town has three districts: Charcoal, Gorica and Kalaja. The city is its old mosques and churches one of the most important attractions of the country. Berat is the capital of theregion with the same name. City landscape is dominated by a typical Balkan architecture. Tourist attractions are compared to many other Albanian cities well cared for.
Albania has a rough and rocky territory, but the shores are fertile, perfect for farming. Coastal climate is typically Mediterranean with hot dry summers and mild winters and wet. Inside the mountain, especially in the north, winters are harsh. More than a third of Albania’s territory is covered by forests and wetlands, these natural barriers isolating the country from neighboring nations. The population of Albania is one of the most homogeneous in Europe, 90% are ethnic Albanian and only 10% of Greek origin. Tourists can take full advantage of wild and mountainous landscape of Albania, as well as sandy beaches and beautiful lakes. On the south coast are at your disposal activities such as swimming, diving, sailing and fishing. There are two priority areas for tourism development – coastal areas, especially between Karavasta Velipoja and north, between Vlora Bay and Llogara, and Ionian coast to the border with Greece in the south, and areas of lakes and mountains of the interior.
Albania’s history and culture are fascinating. Butrint is one of the archaeological wonders of the world and offers a trip south in the Mediterranean civilizations from Roman times, Greek, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman. In this country were both born Mother Teresa and Skanderberg, hero of the fifteenth century, today the country offering to the tourists, besides the beaches and mountains, the vibrant city life and an atmosphere of cafe culture.
Main tourist attractions: Discover the architectural examples from the early nineteenth century, and Ethem-Bey Mosque and Clock Tower in Tirana with 35 m high. City Center and government buildings date from the Italian era, creating the impression of a provincial Italian town; The best view of the city of Tirana you can have at the Martyrs Cemetery, where is the Monument Mother Albania; In Durres, the second largest city in Albania, leading from the medieval walls of the Venetian tower to the auditorium of the second century BC, which contains an early Christian crypt with rare mosaics.
In Roman times, Appolonia located 12 km from Fier, was a prosperous town at the mouth of the river Vjosa, where many artifacts are still waiting to be excavated. The Amphitheater, a number of shops and several other parts of the Roman town are open to the public. Here you can see the monuments of Agonothetes and Odeon, and mosaic fountain house. Unfortunately, a series of sculptures were moved to other countries before 1946. The remaining artifacts were put in place in the museum organized a monastery in the thirteenth century. In the courtyard of the monastery is the Byzantine church of St Mary, which is believed to have been built in the XIV century. Not far from Apollonia, on the road to Durres, is located the monastery Arden.
Vlora is not only a great port, but also has great historical significance – the assembly met here proclaimed Albania’s independence and established the first national government headed by Ismail Quemali. As a result, Vlora was called “City – Hero.” Muradiye Mosque was designed by the famous architect Mimar Sinan, whose family came from Albania. On a hill above the town of Liria is the tourist center, which offers views of the beach and the town. Old Butrin city was once a major center for the Lirien tribes. The settlement here is known since 1000 BC and, historically, belonged to both Greeks and Romans, who left a legacy of the settlement. You can visit several sites dating from I and IV centuries, and the Temple of Aesculap, Nympheum, Lions Gate, Shrine of Dionysus, Roman baths and homes. Do not miss the Baptizer with colorful mosaics. Nearby Ksamil offers the beautiful lake Butrint, the island and olive and citrus groves.
At the foot of Morava mountain near the border with Greece, Korca is where is Mirahor mosque, dating from 1466. Kruja is an attractive medieval town, visible from several kilometers, perched on a rock north of Tirana. Here was the center of the Albanian Ottoman Turks under the leadership of Skanderberg, national hero. The street leading to the castle is built in Turkish bazaars style. Located on Lake Scutari, which separates Albania from Montenegro, Shkodra Rozafa is dominated by the ruins of the fortress, one of the old Lirien castles, built high on a cliff. Visit Messiah and the bridge, 8 km from Shkodra and Kastrioti Gjergj Skanderbeg Monument of Lezhe.
Since the mountains and hills represent two thirds of the territory of Albania, skiing, climbing, hiking, exploring caves and mountain biking are popular sports available in Dajti, Llogaraja, Dardha, Bozdoveci, Voskopoja, Valbona and Thethi. Korka is especially popular for skiing. Take advantage of the 450 km of coast and beach of Albania. Durres and Golem are the largest beaches. Water sports are popular in most places on the coast. Fishing in Lake Ohrid, the deepest lake in the Balkan Peninsula is famous for its clear waters and abundant fish. In Tirana there are numerous museums, the National History Museum, National Art Gallery and Exhibition of Folk Art.
The Pyramid Tirana, which was built as a museum for former communist leader Enver Hoxha, was transformed into an international cultural center. In Tirana, you can also visit the Palace of Culture, which hosts the opera, the ballet and the national library. In Durres are an excellent archaeological museum and the seaside resort of Durres Plazh. Both Berat, known as the “city of a thousand windows” and Gjirokastra, in southern towns were declared Museum. Onufri Museum in Berat, dedicated to artists and his contemporaries in the sixteenth century, restored houses and Orthodox Church icons. Gjirokastra is dominated by the twelfth-century fortress, which was extended by Ali Pasha in 1811.
It now includes the National Museum of Arms. The Museum collections range from medieval armor to American reconnaissance planes. The area is known for its multitude of surrounding mineral springs. In Korka visit the Museum of Medieval Art, Museum Education and the bazaar located in the neighborhood in decay. The food in Albania is typical Balkan, with Turkish influences – byrek, Kofta, kebab shisha. National specialties are fergese tyranny, made from meat, eggs, liver and red, or trays and trays Kosi Elbasan, a sort of mutton and yogurt. Desserts include oshaf, a pudding, cakes with honey and candied fruit. National drinks are raki and cognac. Turkish coffee is also popular, but many serve Italian espresso in bars.11