In recent years, more and more tourists have come to Albania. This is connected, of course, with the political and economic stability of this country. However, for most of us, Albania is still a little-studied and mysterious Balkan country, where, according to rumors, there are stunningly beautiful beaches and unique old architecture. So what is Albania really like?
Albania is one of the countries of southeastern Europe, which is located in the Balkans. The total area of this ancient country is 28,748 km2. sq. The Republic of Albania borders Montenegro in the north, Kosovo in the northeast, Macedonia in the east, and Greece in the south and southeast. The total length of the Albanian border is 1094 km. In the west, Albania is washed by the warm and clear waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The highest peak in Albania is Mount Korabi (2764 m).
It is difficult to say where it is better to relax in Albania, but this country will definitely not leave you indifferent.
Capital of Albania
According to itypejob.com, the capital of Albania is Tirana, which was founded by the Turks in 1614. In 1920, the All-Albanian National Congress proclaimed Tirana the capital of an independent Albania. Now the population of Tirana is more than 400 thousand people.
The official language of Albania is Albanian, which is a branch of the Indo-European languages and also the heir of the Illyrian language. Modern Albanian has many borrowings from Greek, Italian, Latin, Turkish, and Slavic.
About 70% of the population of Albania are Muslims, practicing its Sunni branch. Another 20% of Albanians are Christians belonging to the Greek Catholic Church. The remaining 10% of Albanians are Catholics.
According to computerminus.com, Albania is a parliamentary republic. The modern constitution of the country was adopted on October 21, 1998, after many years of struggle for independence. The Parliament of Albania is a unicameral Assembly (People’s Assembly), in which elections of deputies take place every 4 years (a total of 140 deputies).
The main political parties are the Democratic Party of Albania, the Socialist Party of Albania, the Democratic Alliance, the Republican Party of Albania, and the Unity Party for Human Rights.
On April 1, 2009, Albania became a member of NATO. Now Albania is striving to join the European Union. In April 2009, Albania officially applied for EU membership.
Climate and weather
The average air temperature in Albania is +15.9 C. In the coastal regions of Albania, the climate is subtropical Mediterranean, temperate. Summers are hot and dry (from +24 C to +28 C), while winters are mild and humid (from +4 C to +14 C). In the Alpine regions of Albania, the climate is continental, with humid summers (up to +10 C) and cold winters (up to -12-20 C).
Sea in Albania
Albania is washed by the waters of the Adriatic and Ionian seas. The total coastline is 362 km. On the Adriatic coast of Albania, near the ancient city of Lezha, founded in the 4th century BC, there is a beautiful Drina Bay.
Albania owns several small islands, but they are all uninhabited. The largest of them is the island of Sazani, which is located at the entrance to the Gulf of Vlore. Its area is 5 km. sq.
The coast of Albania and Italy is connected by the Strait of Otranto, which is 75 km wide. This strait separates the Adriatic and Ionian seas.
Rivers and lakes
Despite the fact that Albania is a small mountainous country, a large number of rivers flow through its territory. The largest of them are the Drin River (285 km) in the north of the country and the Seman River (281 km) in the south. The rivers Vyosa (272 km), Mat (115 km), Shkumbin (181 km), and Bystrica should also be distinguished.
On the territory of Albania there are several large lakes – Ohrid, Skadar, Bolshaya Prespa and Malaya Prespa.
The area of Lake Ohrid is 358 km. sq. Its average depth is 155 m, and the maximum depth is 288 m. Now Lake Ohrid is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Even 2 species of trout live in this lake.
Skadar Lake is located not only in Albania, but also in Montenegro. Its average area is 475 km. sq. In 2005, a state reserve was established in Albania on the territory of Lake Skadar.
Lakes Bolshaya Prespa and Malaya Prespa are located at an altitude of 853 meters above sea level.
The ancestors of modern Albanians are the Illyrian tribes who settled in the Western Balkans in the 2nd millennium BC. In the 7th century BC. on the territory of modern Albania, the ancient Greeks founded several city-states (Durres, Apollonia and Butrintia). At different times, these Greek colonies were part of Ancient Macedonia and the Roman Empire. By the way, these lands fell under the control of Rome in 167 BC, after a long and bloody war.
In 285 AD Roman emperor Diocletian divided Illyria (i.e. the territory of modern Albania) into four provinces. The capital of one of them was in Durres.
In 395 AD Illyria, after the collapse of the Roman Empire, became part of Byzantium. In the 9th century, the neighboring Bulgarian kingdom became very strong and powerful. As a result, the territory of modern Albania became part of this kingdom.
In the Middle Ages, several feudal principalities were formed on the territory of modern Albania. So, in 1190, a feudal principality was formed in Kruja. At the end of the XIV century, the Ottoman Empire began to claim the territory of Albania. After many years of wars (the uprising of Skanderbeg), in 1479, Albania became part of the Ottoman Empire. Despite the constant uprisings against the Turkish yoke, Albania was able to gain independence only in 1912. During World War I, Albania was occupied by Italy, Serbia and Austria-Hungary. After the end of the First World War, Albania again gained independence, and in 1920 the Albanian National Congress proclaimed Tirana the capital of the country.
During World War II, the Albanian National Army, led by Enver Hoxha, put up stubborn resistance to Italian and German troops. In January 1946, the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania was proclaimed. The communist Enver Hoxha became the leader of the country.
In December 1990, a multi-party system was introduced in Albania, and after that, the importance of the communist party in this country became very small. In October 1998, a new Albanian constitution was adopted.
Naturally, Albania, which has an ancient history, has a unique culture, which was greatly influenced by the ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Slavs (primarily Serbs). In the Middle Ages, the culture of Albania was under strong Turkish influence. But this is understandable, because then this territory was part of the Ottoman Empire.
In addition, the Italians had a noticeable influence on Albanian culture in the Middle Ages (in particular, Venice claimed the rights to some Albanian cities), who for a long time considered the territory of modern Albania to be their “patrimony”.
First of all, it should be noted the unique Albanian architecture, which developed under the influence of the Serbs, Italians and Turks. However, unfortunately, in the years 1944-1990, during the rule of the Communist Party, many architectural monuments were destroyed. To a greater extent, this applies to ancient mosques and Catholic churches.
However, during the rule of the communist party in Albania, the cities of Gjirokastra and Berat were declared museum cities. Today, Gjirokastra and Berat, thanks to the preserved architecture of the Ottoman Empire, have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Albanian literature began to develop only in the second half of the 19th century, when a national awakening movement appeared – Rilindja Kombëtare, which sought independence from the Ottoman Empire. This movement belongs to romantic nationalism, and thanks to it one can understand the mentality of modern Albanians.
The national Albanian elite appeared only at the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to graduates of Catholic educational institutions created by the Jesuits and Franciscans in the city of Shkoder.
During World War II, most writers were forced to leave Albania, and only in the 1960s did the Albanian literary renaissance begin, associated primarily with the name of Ismail Kadare. Even modern Albanian writers take a lot from the work of the poet and prose writer Kadare.
In recent years, thousands of volumes of literary, musical, and choreographic folklore have been published in Albania. Thus, 8 volumes of literary folklore were published in Pristina.
As far as cinema is concerned, the first film studio in Albania (Albafilm) was established in 1952, and the first Albanian feature film appeared in 1958 (this was Tana).
Albanian cuisine was formed under strong Turkish influence. A traditional meal in Albania starts with a starter known as “meze” (sour milk, meat, cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, spices). A tourist may mistake “meze” for a main course, but in fact it is just a local snack. The traditional “meze” is served in Albania with chicken liver. As for the traditional Albanian aperitif, it is rakia or a glass of red wine.
The most popular salads in Albania are potato salad, bean salad, and fresh vegetable salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and onions). The most popular Albanian soups are “Jahni soup” (its taste differs across Albanian regions) and lemon soup.
Tourists should remember that Albania is a Muslim country where they do not eat pork. But in this country, especially in coastal areas, fish dishes are very popular. Almost all types of fish are served baked in olive oil with garlic and various spices. Lamb dishes are also popular in Albania.
Personally, we advise tourists to definitely try baked trout with onions and tomatoes in Albania. For Albanians, this is a traditional dish.
But always please leave room for the Albanian dessert which is just great. Baklava, Turkish delight, kadaiff, which have Turkish roots, are made in Albania in a variety of, sometimes very unusual, versions. We also advise you to try the local pudding made from sheep’s milk and figs in Albania.
Sights of Albania
There are so many attractions in Albania that we, perhaps, will highlight only 5 of them:
- Mount Daity. Located near Tirana. On this mountain there are the ruins of the Roman fortress of Tirkan, the Dinosaur Museum, the Cemetery of Heroes, and the Mother Albania monument, built in 1971.
- Butrint National Park. The city of Butrint was founded by the ancient Greeks. Now this territory is considered the National Albanian Park, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the city of Butrint, a Roman amphitheater, a Roman temple, as well as a Byzantine basilica have been preserved.
- Petrela castle. This ancient castle was built in the 14th century, although there are traces of buildings from the 5th century AD. It is located on a rocky hill, just 18 km from Tirana.
- Palace Village. This village will be of interest to those tourists who like untouched corners. It is in the vicinity of the village of Palas that the most unique and beautiful beaches of the Albanian Riviera are located. However, there are no tourist-crowded resorts in this region. According to legend, Gaius Julius Caesar once in a fit of rage threw a cup of wine into the sea on the seashore near the village of Palas. Maybe it is you who will be able to find this ancient goblet?
- Berat. This city is unique due to the combination of Ottoman and Albanian architecture. There are many attractions in Berat. We advise tourists to definitely see the Turkish fortress of the XII century, as well as several mosques of the Ottoman era.
Cities and resorts of Albania
The largest Albanian cities are Tirana, Durres, Vlora, Shkoder, Berat, Korca, Gjirokastra, and Elbasan. The main port of Albania is the city of Durres, which was founded long ago by the ancient Greeks.
Almost every coastal Albanian city is a wonderful resort. Holidays on the Albanian Riviera (this is the territory along the Ionian Sea in the south of Albania) is cheaper than, for example, in Croatia. In addition, there are not very many people on the Albanian Riviera, which is also an advantage.
We advise tourists to go to the small town of Kruja, north of Tirana. In this ancient city (now its population is only 20 thousand people) you can buy the best Albanian souvenirs, jewelry and antiques. We recommend buying dolls, ashtrays, toys, olive oil, honey, tea, herbs, spices, alcoholic beverages, mugs, plates, t-shirts, Albanian flags, as well as Albanian folk music CDs in Albania.
In Albania, most shops are open from 9.00 to 18.00, and banks – from 08.00 to 16.00. Some shops are open on Saturdays and Sundays.
A visa is required to enter Albania. However, a valid Schengen visa is sufficient grounds for entry. Visa-free entry to Albania is provided for the period from June 1 to October 31 (if you have a passport).
Currency of Albania
Lek is the official currency of Albania. One lek (international designation: AL) is equal to 100 kindarks. In Albania, banknotes of the following denominations are used: 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 5000 leks.
In addition, there are coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 lek.
Albanians do not mind when tourists pay them with dollars or euros.
Never change the currency “by hand”, no matter how attractive the exchange rate is. Otherwise, you risk becoming a victim of scammers.
You cannot bring local currency (lek) into Albania. Foreign currency can be brought into Albania without any restrictions. You can take out up to 5 thousand dollars from Albania, or as much money as the tourist declared when entering this country.
It is allowed to export from Albania 2 liters of wine, 1 liter of strong alcoholic beverages, up to 200 cigarettes, etc. per person.
Useful phone numbers and addresses
Embassy of Albania in Ukraine (concurrently with Poland):
Address: 02-386 Warsaw, Altova str., 1
Phone: (810 4822) 824-14-27
Fax: (0-22) 824-14-26
Reception days: Monday-Friday from 8-00 to 16-00
Emergency numbers ambulance (17)
fire brigade (18)
traffic administration (42 23600)
traffic police (42 34874).
Time in Albania
All Albania’s territory belongs to the same time zone. The difference with Kyiv time is 1 hour. Those. if in Tirana, for example, 9:00 am, then in Kyiv – 10:00 am.
Most of the waiters in Albanian restaurants understand English and Italian. Tipping for services in Albania is 10% of the bill.
The emergency number in Albania is 17.
After the turbulent events of the 1990s (the war in Kosovo), the Albanians still have a lot of weapons in their hands. In general, Albanians are a “hot” nation, so tourists need to be very careful. So, we do not advise tourists to look into the eyes of Albanians for a long time, and also to express feelings for Albanian women. Cars, of course, are best left in guarded parking lots.