Albania

About Albania

Albania is located in the south-eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, a small country bordered by Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece. The country has witnessed many vicissitudes in its eventful history - from the passing of Ceasar's army over fleeing refugees and blood vendettas, to years of dictatorial rule. In sharp contrast with this is the extreme, almost medieval, hospitability of the Albanians. Albania manages to offer tourists the traditional Mediterranean charm and a heady blend of different religions, cultures and landscapes.

Albania is one of the poorest country of Europe and one of the least visited by travellers. This is partly because travel infrastructure is far from extensive, however this is evolving quite rapidly. Tourist guides as recent as 2003 will tell you it is impossible to use ATM's in Albania - this is no longer true!

But Albania does have many things to offer to the visitor. Rough scenery, a beautiful coast, authentic villages that have survived the communist period and archeological sites to name a few.

For the scenery go to the north where you can take the boat across a huge artificial lake from Komani to Bajrum Curri. Komani can be reached by road from Shkoder. In Komani you can drive your car onto the ferry, which depards at about 10 am. This boat takes about 2 hours to cross the lake. Alternatively, at about 9 am there is a smaller bus-boat (take this quite literaly), that takes about four hours to cross. If you can, choose this one! On the other side of the lake you're half an hour by minibus from the sympathetic ugly town of Bajram Curri. This is a good base for exploring the surrounding mountains. From Barriam Curri, you can either take the boat back (fare included in minibusses to Tirana - departing at 6 am), take the much longer road back (this is not a good idea), or go to Kukes via Kosovo (where roads are much better).

The Albanian riviera is like the best Greece has to offer, but without the concrete. Accept for the occasional mushroom shaped bunker on the beach. Great part is between the concrete cities of Vlore and Saranda.

If you want to feel like an archeologist for a day, head for Butrint, near Saranda. Not only great because of it's historic importance, but also because it is so underexploited. Make sure to hire a guide. Structures are not marked and guidebooks offer vague explanations of the historical importance of Butrint. English-speaking guides are available at a decent price. Butrint has become one of the most visited places of Albania because of the daytrippers from Corfu.

Tirana , the capital city, has a small city center that is best explored on foot. The city, however, has got no limits. Its architecture bears considerable influence of Italian as well as Turkish monuments, lying as it does exactly between Rome and Istanbul. The Skënderberg Square is a huge open space in the centre of the city while Mt. Dajti, at 5,030 ft, towers over the eastern side. The city can be described in one word: dusty. Tirana is dotted by many museums and cultural life is on the rise. However this city is not a place to plan your next city trip. Fascinating as it may be, it hasn't got the looks to please.

Durrës (also Durazzo ) is a historical city founded by the native Illyrian tribes ancestors of Albanians. You are unlikely to miss the magnificent Roman Amphitheatre and the King Ahmet Zog Palace, both of which stand on a hillside.

Shkoder and Butrint are two places that would be of much interest to a history buff. Shkodra is one of the oldest cities in Europe while the ruins of Butrint are a treasure trove of antiquities relating to the Illyrians and Greeks.

Among the lesser-known places, you can visit the ancient town of Berat known as the 1000 thousand windows town , Gjirokaster, Elbasan, Korce , and Kukës are worth exploring. Also, Albania has some of the finest beaches in Europe. Hiking, trekking and cycling are some other options in Albania.

Gjirokaster is an easy stop if you're heading south toward the Greek border. It's worth a day or two, as it was the home of writer Ishmail Kadare and former dictator Enver Hodja. When you arrive, ask a taxi driver to take you to up to the old city. Stay overnight in the old city, high up the side of the mountain. You'll find two nice guesthouses, both with English speaking owners -- Kelemi House and Kotoni House. Roam the cobblestone streets, head up, up, up to the castle fortress which sits atop the hill like an eagle. You can finish the day drinking coffee or tea from a cafe overlooking the entire valley. Avoid the less-charming lower part of the city, as it's chock full of block housing and extremely dusty from construction sites.

Since Albania experiences scorching summers and cool winters, the best months to visit the country are June and October, when the days are long and the climate quite pleasant.

You also may experience a great pleasure by visiting towns like Kruja (The capital of Albania during the historic resistance against the Otoman Empire), which became the stronghold of the christianism under the leadership of the albanian national hero Scanderbeg.

Gjirokastra which is the birthtown of the famous albanian writer Ismail Kadare (candidate for the Nobel Prize in litterature)and the weapons museum located inside of the Argjiro castle.

Not very Far from Gjirokaster is the southen and Beatiful town of Saranda when you can enjoy the best that the God could give to a human eye.

Close to Saranda is the antic city of Butrint where durin the summer take place a lots of culture events including the famous russian ballet group Bollshoi Theatre.

The thing that propably will astonish you despite the poverty is the friendship an the wellcoming which will be offered by the people during your stay there.

Also another town down in the southern coast called Dhermi is also very lovely. It's a small beach town where a lot of albanian people go to holiday. Very quiet but lovelly beaches and one very cool bar sitting in the middle of some small hotel.

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