Attractions of Albania
As for the architecture of the country it is an unusual mixture of numerous cultures, religions and styles represented by significant sites of Ancient Greek age, monasteries and temples of all the confessions as well as idyllic mountain resorts many of which was founded by ancient Romans. The antiquities of this one of the closest in the past European countries are buried in citrus gardens, olive woods and vineyards. Shabby factories stay near majestic mosques, and beautiful Orthodox churches neighbour with pompous palaces of culture made in socialist style. And all these beauties are not practically studied by foreigners and not spoiled by window-dressing and obtrusive service which is characteristic for dozens of nearby tourist regions of this part of Mediterranean.
The best place to see the city is the large Skanderbeg square. It is located in the centre of Tirana and bounded by Dajti Mountain in the east. The market situated near the square is also worth to be explored in details: you can hardly find in any place of Europe a real bazaar.
The National Historic Museum, the largest and the richest museum of Albania, is located near Tirana International Hotel. There is the Palace of Culture with its own theatre, restaurant, café and art galleries to the east from the hotel. This building is outlined against other ones by its obvious socialist trend. One can get into the National Library from the southern side of the Palace of Culture. There is a minaret and the dome of the Et’hem Bey Mosque built in 1789-1823 right opposite the entrance to the Library. Tirana Clock Tower (1830) rises near the Mosque.
White marble walls of the former Enver Hoxha Museum (“Piramida”) rise along the river embankment of the Lana River. Time to time this museum is used as a venue of various exhibitions.
There is the Archeological Museum with exhibits of prehistoric and middle ages periods and the modern Assembly Palace in the south of Tirana on the Boulevard of Dëshmorët e Kombit. And the best city view is opened up from the Martyrs Cemetery where it is necessary to see the monument named Mother Albania.
The sights of Tirana also include the Museum of Natural History, Museum of National Culture and beautiful Art Gallery.
The town of Shkoder (the Italian variant is Skuttari) is one of the oldest European towns. It is a traditional centre of the cultural region of Ghegs. In 500 B.C. there was an Illyrian fortress on this place which protected the trading crossroad in the point of confluence of the Buna and Drin Rivers.
It is necessary to see in the town the magnifical Sheik Zamil Abdullah Al Zamil Mosque and the Public Museum (Muzeo-Popullo) located near it. An interesting collection of historical photos is housed in the Museum (including pictures of the resent socialist past of the country) and on the lower floors you can see rich collection of archaeological findings.
Earlier Shkoder was a Catholic centre of Albania, but now majestic church of Franciscans on Rruga-Ndre-Mjeda is considered to be the main Christian temple in the country. There is the legendary Castle of Rozafa in two kilometres to the south-west of Shkoder. Some lower of it you can find many-domed Lead Mosque, the only mosque in the town that survived in the period of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. The Mesi Bridge is also worth to be studied by tourists. It is a monument to the Albanian hero of Skanderbeg.
Gjirokastra is situated 120 kilometres southward of Tirana. This picturesque town-museum spread out on mountain slopes over the Drin River was well-known as early as the 13th century as a prosperous trading town. But in 1417 after it was captured by the Turks it declined gradually. Though, already in the 17th century Gjirokastra began to develop again due to appearance of the many-coloured bazaar. One could buy here elegant embroideries, silk and white Albanian cheese, famous even nowadays.
The monument for Memedh built in the 20th century in honour of resurrection of Albanian education overlooks the Bazaar Mosque located in the central part of the town. A gloomy citadel dominates over the town. Nowadays there is the Museum of Arms here. Besides that it will be interesting to see the Mekate Mosque, old Turkish baths, Museum of National Liberation Movement and Ethnographic Museum.
Remains of Roman fortifications and a fortress (the 15th century) where a museum is located now survive in Elbasan to our days. It is also worth to see the fortress walls of the Ottoman epoch, Bazaar Gate, Royal Mosque (the 15th century), Catholic Temple, Orthodox Church of Saint Mary, and the Museum of Partisan War.
Durres (Duracco in Italian) is situated 38 kilometres west of Tirana. The place of the main interest here is the old town founded by Greeks as early as in the year 627 B.C. Ever since the Roman ruins and fortifications remain here.
During many centuries Durres was the largest port of the Adriatic Sea. Via Egnatia, the pilgrims’ way to the city of Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium, began here. Ruins of Byzantium and Venice fortresses survive to these days. Here you can see the medieval wall connected Venetian Tower (the 2nd century) and the Amphitheatre. A crypt of the early Christian period with wall mosaic of rare beauty was found on the territory of the Amphitheatre. And the Amphitheatre itself being a landmark of the town still looks rather magnificent. It rises majestically inside the fortress walls on the hill slope torched by sunbeams.
The most of excursions over Durres begin from the visit to the Archaeological Museum which walls faces the embankment near the port. There are walls of the Byzantium town built in the year of 481 after invasion of the Visigoths and fortified by round Venetian towers in the 14th century here. It is also worth to see the old palace of the King Ahmet Zogu decorated with the monument of Skanderbeg near the western part of the amphitheatre as well as Roman thermae located on the central square behind the Alexander Moissi Theatre.
Besides it would be necessary to visit the popular sea resort named Durres Plazh situated near Durres.
Ruins of antique town of Apollonia (100 kilometres southward of Durres) lie in 12 kilometres from Fier. This town was established by Greeks as early as in 855 B.C. and was an important Mediterranean polis. Such places of interest as the ancient Amphitheatre, Roman colonnade of shops, Mosaic House with a fountain, Odeon (the 2nd century A.D.), Bouleuterion, porch (the 3rd century B.C.), fragments of the fortress walls (the 4th century A.D.), Saint Mary’s Monastery, (the 12th century A.D.) with a Byzantium church and Museum of Archaeology survive to our days . There is the majestic Monastery Ardenice near Appolonia on the road to Durres.
Kukes is situated 100 kilometres to the north-east of Tirana. It lies over the picturesque mountain Lake Fierze some lower of the peak of Mountain Gjallika (2,486 metres above sea level). Earlier the old town stayed on the place of confluence of the Black and White Drin effluent from Lake Ohrid. But in the middle of the 20th century when a hydro-electric power station was built on this place Kukes was moved away. Now it is a very nice small town worth to spent here one or two days, enjoy beautiful landscapes of a reservoir wedged between steep mountainous slopes and take a breath of clean mountainous air.
The local hotel of Tourizem is considered to be one the most fashionable in the country. It is famous of its restaurant with nice cooking.
Korca is situated on a high plateau (869 meters above sea level) southward of Lake Ohrid near the border with Greece.
It should be necessary to visit here the National Museum of Medieval, Historical Museum and Museum of Education where in 1887 the first Albanian school was opened. A great number of constructions in the old town were destroyed in the middle of the 20th century due to an earthquake: minarets and dozens of old churches were felled, but some racy buildings of the old Korca survived though, among them Mirahor Mosque (1466) located in the vicinity of the bazaar westward of Illyria Hotel.
There is a resort of Pogradec near Korca next to the border with the FYROM. It is situated on the very shore of Lake Ohrid which is famous with its clean and transparent water. The tourist centre of Drilon is situated in 5 kilometres eastward of Korca in the midst of numerous gardens.
Ancient ruins of Butrint are justifiably considered to be a real pearl of Adriatic. The poet Virgil claimed that this settlement was established by Trojans. But although this territory was explored thoroughly no evidence of this has yet been found. Tell the truth, local people still thinks that they are descendants of glorious Troy.
During long-lasting centuries Butrint was a large trading town secured by fortifications and had its own acropolis (its ruins still can be visited nowadays). There were also recreation houses for local grand people. There are ruins of the ancient theatre dated by the 3rd century B.C. in the thick forest some lower of the acropolis. In its suburbs one can see local thermae decorated with original geometrical mosaics and a wall with inscriptions in Ancient Greek language (the 6th century B.C.). All these things are decorated with unique mosaic images of animals and birds.
A fortress of triangular form built in the 19th century by the military commander Ali Pasha Tepelena takes a great piece of land in the vicinity of Butrint. Besides one can see here the nimphaeum, Esculapian Temple, Cyclopean Wall (the 4th century B.C.), Alter of Dionysus, and Lion Gate. It is also worth to visit the resort of Ksamil located not far from Butrint and surrounded by plantations of citrus trees and olive woods.
Situated in 122 kilometres south-east of Tirana the town-museum of Berat (Berateto) was known as early as in the 3rd century B.C. Now there are such historical places of interest as a fortress with numerous small churches (the 14th century), Muslim district of Mangalam and Christian district of Gorica connected by the bridge with seven arch spans, the Lead Mosque (1555), Royal Mosque (1512), Bachelors’ Mosque (1827) with the Museum of Folk Art. It is also worth to see the Saint Michael Church (the 16th century), Holy Mother Cathedral (1797), Tomb of Alveti-Tekke (1790), Onuphri Museum (the 16th century), the Blessed Trinity Church (the 14th century), Church of Evangelists (the 16th century). You should visit the White Hall where the first independent government of the Republic of Albania sat in sessions, Muzeu-i-Luftes with a collection of the town history, Museum of Partisan Movement and Museum of Ethnography.
Abundance of old houses located on the narrow streets of centre of the town adds a special beauty to Berat. Sometimes you can see a plenty of windows as they happened to be turned to the sun and reflecting its rays. They call Berat “the town of a thousand of widows” due to this picture.
The coast of the Ionic Sea from Vlora to Saranda – “Riviera of Flowers” – is considered to be the most favourable zone for recreation in Albania. Dozens of old villas on the most beautiful coasts are turned up into hotels and recreation centres. The town of Saranda situated opposite Kerkyra which was a party rest house during the communist epoch now becomes a very popular sea resort both for Albanians and for citizens of other countries.