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Albania is a meat-and-three-veg kind of country. The meat – kidney shaped. Albania has natural beauty in such abundance that you might wonder why it's. Page 1. Lonely Planet's Best in Travel Albania as the number one on the top 10 countries to visit in Page 2. A rich historical.

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Explore Albania holidays and discover the best time and places to visit. | Closed to outsiders for much of the 20th century, Albania has long been Mediterranean. Essential information. At a glance. 'Hello' in: 'tungjatjeta '. Download the Albania eBook of Lonely Planet's Eastern Europe guidebook.

Traveling to Albania has always been the biggest issue. I always randomly browse Skyscanner and find the best deals on flights there. When I visited Albania twice it was more challenging to get there but not impossible. Both times I flew to Thessaloniki, Greece and then I took the bus. When I was going to Berat it was supposed to be a direct bus but we had to change somewhere at 5 am — overall it was a crazy and absurd journey that took me 50 hours from Poland but eventually I got exactly where I wanted to. Another option that my friend did recently is flying to Corfu island in Greece and then taking the ferry to nearby Saranda.

Remittances from these workers have become crucial to the economy. The construction boom hasnt been without its problems, however, and the array of ugly concrete apartments and hotels has despoiled the coastline around Durrsi. Corruption also remains a real issue, and the political parties represent rival blocs of business interests as much as they do an ideology. Theres still a lingering desire in the electorate for strong leaders, perhaps an echo of the old personality cult of Enver Hoxha.

Albanians were very happy to see their kin in Kosovo break free of Serbia in , but there doesnt seem to be much of a groundswell to unify with the territory. Albanian politics and the economy have become relatively stable, but theres still a long way to go.

While new roads are being built and apartment blocks are springing up there are still some seriously poor regions.

Still, as one person said, the worst day today is better than the best day under the communists. The Vlach are an old ethnic group in the Balkans, whose name is supposed to originate from the Greek word vlach shepherd.

The Vlach language is related to Romanian, and Vlachs are historically a trading community, who are by now well integrated into all of the Balkan societies. Most speak more than one foreign language: Italian is almost a second language in the north and centre, as well as the north coast of the country, and Greek is widespread in the southern regions where the Greek minority is concentrated along the Drinos River.

You can rely on the majority of young people to speak English, but learning a few words of the unique Albanian language will delight your hosts.

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Note that Albanians shake their heads sideways to say yes po and usually nod and tsk to say no jo. The Shkumbini River forms a boundary between the Gheg cultural region of the north and the Tosk region in the south. The people in these regions still vary in dialect, musical culture and traditional dress, though the differences are often overstated by outsiders. Religion was ruthlessly stamped out by the cultural revolution, when all mosques and churches were taken over by the state.

The constitution banned fascist, religious, warmongerish, antisocialist propaganda and activity. Despite the fact that the people are now free to practise their faith, Albania remains a very secular society and it is difficult to assess how many followers each faith has. Intermarriage between people of different faiths is quite common. The Muslim faith has a branch called Bektashism, similar to Sufism, and its world headquarters were in Albania from to Rather than mosques, the Bektashi followers go to teqe templelike buildings without a minaret, sometimes housed in former churches.

Teqes are usually found in mountain towns or on hilltops in towns where they were built to escape persecution, and you will no doubt come across at least one of them. Most Bektashis live in the southern half of the country. One of the first signs of art that will www. There are still some remnants of socialist realism, with paintings and sculptures adorning the walls and gardens of galleries and museums, although many were destroyed after the fall of the communist government as a reflex against the old regime.

One of the most delicious Albanian art treats is to be found in Beratis Onufri Museum p Onufri was the most outstanding Albanian icon painter of the 16th and 17th centuries and his work is noted for its unique intensity of colour, using natural dyes that are as fresh now as the day he painted with them. Polyphony, the blending of several independent vocal or instrumental parts, is a southern Albanian tradition dating from ancient Illyrian times. Peasant choirs perform in a variety of styles, and the songs, usually with an epic-lyrical or historical theme, may be dramatic to the point of yodelling, or slow and sober, with alternate male and female voices combining in harmony.

Instrumental polyphonic kabas a sedate style, led by a clarinet or violin alongside accordions and lutes are played by small Roma ensembles. Musical improvisation is accompanied by dancing at colourful village weddings. One well-known group, which often tours outside Albania, is the Lela Family of Prmeti. There is no substantial body of Albanian literature before the 19th century besides some Catholic religious works. The Ottomans banned the teaching of Albanian in schools, fearing the spread of anti-Turkish propaganda.

The adoption of a standardised orthography in , when the literary wing of the Rilindja Renaissance movement rose together with the Albanian national movement, led to Albanian independence in A group of romantic patriotic writers at Shkodra, including Migjeni and Martin amaj , wrote epics www. Many people in northern Albania still live by their strict laws. There are three main codes still in practice today: the Kanun of Lek Dukagjini, the Kanun of Skanderbeg and the Kanun of the Mountains. The most popular version is that of Lek Dukagjini, the chief of the most powerful clan in 15th-century Albania.

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The kanuns were passed down through oral traditions, and werent written down until the late 19th century. Many claim that the kanuns have their origins in the laws and customs of the pre-Roman Illyrian tribes.

The most important things in life, according to the kanuns, are honour personal and family and hospitality.

If these two are disrespected by any individual, the family of the person responsible can become involved in the dreadful cycle of killing known as the blood feud or gjakmarrja. An offence to honour is not paid for with property, but by the spilling of blood or by a magnanimous pardon through the mediation of good friends states the Kanuni i Lek Dukagjinit The Code of Lek Dukagjini, by Lek Dukagjini, Shtjefen Gjecov and Leonard Fox.

Only men are involved in blood feuds, and it is their duty to avenge the life and honour of their clan or fis by taking blood murdering a male member of the clan who originally committed murder against their family.

Albania PDF Guide

In centuries past, the cycles of killings of families in blood could go on for generations. Blood feuds were outlawed under the communist regime, but in the chaos and poverty of the immediate postcommunist era, blood feuds made a comeback with a vengeance, so to speak.

In the mids something like families were targets of blood feuds, though one NGO estimates this number had fallen to families by Some of these families have lived in armed isolation for 10 years trying to avoid revenge attacks. Modern blood feuds rarely follow the strict laws of the kanuns, and often descend into relentless violence where even women and children are killed. The prominent activist Emin Spahia of the Reconciliation Missionaries group had helped to negotiate the end of hundreds of blood feuds until he was himself murdered in Shkodra in In the traditions of the kanuns, reconciliation is possible through mediation between the families in conflict.

Usually, the mediators are respected village elders, and after an agreement has been reached to end the feud usually through a financial payment or land sharing, or by taking a besa a sacred oath the families seal their peace by eating a Meal of Blood prepared by the murderers family.

Hospitality is so important in these parts of Albania that the guest takes on a godlike status according to the anthropologist Kauhiko Yamamoto. There are 38 articles giving instructions on how to treat a guest an abundance of food, drink and comfort is at his or her disposal, and it is also the hosts duty to avenge the murder of his guest, should this happen during their visit. Poetry that drew on the great tradition of oral epic poetry was the most popular literary form during the Rilindja period.

Perhaps the most interesting writer of the interwar period was Fan Noli Educated as a priest in the USA, Noli became premier of Albanias Democratic government until it was overthrown in , when he returned to head the Albanian Orthodox Church in America.

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Although many of his books have religious themes, the introductions he wrote to his own translations of Cervantes, Ibsen, Omar Khayym and Shakespeare established him as Albanias foremost literary critic. The only Albanian writer who is widely read outside Albania is the contemporary Ismail Kadare His books are not only enriching literary works, but are also a great source of information on Albanian traditions, history and social events.

They exquisitely capture the atmosphere of the countrys towns, as in the lyrical descriptions of Kadares birthplace Gjirokastra in Chronicle in Stone , where wartime experiences are seen through the eyes of a boy. Broken April , set in the northern highlands before the Italian invasion, describes the life of a village boy who is next in line in the desperate cycle of blood vendettas see boxed text, above.

With its turbulent historical events, Albania has provided the backdrop for some interesting celluloid moments. Many of the films which were made during the communist era have only recently been screened on Albanian TV again not because of the turgid socialist themes so much but because there was an unofficial ban on anything which portrayed the greatness of Enver Hoxha, which they almost invariably did.

Filmgoers in the West have had the opportunity to see Gjergj Xhuvanis comedy Slogans , based on the autobiographical short story by Ylljet Alicka, Slogans of Stone well known in Albania , a satirical account of life during communist times. Another film worth seeing is Lamerica , a brilliant and stark look at Albanian postcommunist culture.

Woven loosely around a plot about a couple of Italian scam artists, and Albanians seeking to escape to Bari, Italy, the essence of the film is the unshakeable dignity of the ordinary Albanian in the face of adversity.

There are three zones: a coastal plain, a mountainous region and an interior plain in the south. The coastal plain extends approximately km from north to south and up to 50km inland. The m-high forested mountain spine, which stretches the entire length of Albania, culminates at Mt Jezerca m in the north, near the Serbian border. The countrys highest peak is Mt Korab m , on the border with Macedonia.

The interior plain is alluvial, with seasonal precipitation. It is poorly drained and therefore alternately arid or flooded and is often as inhospitable as the mountains. The Ionian littoral, especially the Riviera of Flowers stretching from Vlora to Saranda, offers magnificent scenery from the highest peak in this region, the Llogaraja Pass m. One of Enver Hoxhas bolder schemes was to turn the hills into fields, and all over the country you can see the result of backbreaking labour where entire ranges of hills have been terraced.

In some places this seems to have successfully established new orchards and olive groves, but in other places the terracing has unleashed appalling soil erosion.

Wildlife Albanias territory is rich in flora with beech trees and oak, and patches of rare Macedonian pine Pinus peuce in the lower regions. Birch, pine and fir cover the mountain sides until they reach m, above which all is barren. Bears, deer and wild boar inhabit these isolated forests, but they have been pushed out of regions closer to settlements by widespread summer grazing and by the Albanian penchant for hunting, particularly during the lawless s.

Likewise, the koran trout population of Lake Ohrid has fallen dramatically due to illegal fishing since the fall of communism. The endangered loggerhead turtle nests on isolated beaches on the Ionian Coast and on the Karaburun Peninsula, where Mediterranean monk seals may also have colonies.

There are several wetland sites at the mouths of the Buna, Drini and Mati Rivers in the north and at the Karavasta Lagoon south of Durrsi, with many interesting and rare birds white pelicans, and whiteheaded ducks, among others to spot for those with a keen pair of binoculars. The Albanian portion of Lake Prespa is another important haven for birdlife. There are no hiking maps of the national parks, nor are there generally any hotels or camping grounds.

In the summer, town squares across the country are filled with tables and late-night revellers. Check out Alchemia for its shabby-is-the-new-cool look with rough-hewn wooden benches, candlelit tables and a companionable gloom.

Floating serenely in the Aegean Sea, some miles from the capital, Bozcaada is a quiet, bucolic place of hidden beaches, cobbled alleys, whitewashed townhouses and old-timers playing backgammon on street corners.

Entering this built coastguard station feels like arriving at a low-key village pub. But a narrow doorway at the back of the bar leads to a striking, whitewashed contemporary space with lights glittering from midnight-blue ceiling panels, a pianist, and windows overlooking the water.

Seated at tables with other multi- lingual guests, you sail into flavours as easily as good conversation. Each dish is an unexpected gift, assuredly rustic but subtly sophisticated.

Dihovo makes a great base for hiking the metre-high Baba Mountain, crowned by two immaculate glacial lakes. Running down from the mountain, this woodland tributary is great for hopping boulders and hunting for frogs and crabs.

Villa Dihovo www. The exemplary Macedonian fare relies on home-grown veg and traditional seasonings. Except for the alcohol, there are no fixed prices for accommodation or meals, making the villa accessible to people of all budgets.

But when Rome starts to feel like the Eternal City for all the wrong reasons, head into the country. Nero had a villa here, but it was Saint Benedict who put the town on the map when he spent three years meditating in a local cave. This grotto is now incorpo- rated into the Monastero di San Benedetto, a spectacular hilltop monastery that boasts a series of rich 13th- to 15th-century frescoes.

For one, beyond an anonymous steel door lies Tausend, a cosmopolitan drinking den tucked into a railway bridge. At Sammlung Boros, a Nazi-era bunker has been turned into a shining beacon of art. Entry is by guided tour only; book online as early as possible.

Albania travel - Lonely Planet

Its medieval castle walls, moat and quaint setting will delight even the most jaded visitor. Depending on when you go, you could find concerts, art classes, or even jousting.

And Christmas- market refuseniks will feel stirrings of seasonal cheer come wintertime, when the castle grounds transform into a medieval-style market with pageantry, gothic trinket shops and the clanking sound of mulled wine served by the mug. You can circumnavigate the entire penin- sula in a full day by foot, stopping to swim at deserted coves. At heart, Milia is all about respecting the environment and sustain- ability.

In the s, however, the area was downloadd for the sake of conservation by some forward-thinking Cretans. The traditional structures were painstakingly restored by local artisans, and ter- raced gardens were installed to prevent erosion. Wood-burning stoves and solar panels provide heating and electricity. By day, the thickly-forested hiking trails provide coolness, while at night the stars seem close enough to touch.

Louis is the author of the Lonely Planet guides to Portugal and Barcelona. This tiny settlement is one of the finest spots on the planet to sample those tender, unusual crustaceans known as percebes. Though unsightly in appearance not unlike the misshapen hoof of some small, extra-terrestrial creature , a percebe, with its juicy snap, mouth-watering flavour and faintly salty finish is like a kiss from the sea. This is one of the few places in Iberia where this is still done — a sustainable practice that goes back many generations.

Boulangerie Patisserie du Grand Richelieu has been in the biz since and is something of a city legend. On the ground floor of an apartment block, Kvartira is tricky to classify but unquestionably one of the coolest hang-outs in Kaliningrad.

These suc- culent cakes are best served with an impossibly thick chocolat chaud. Rarely seen on bucket lists, Luxembourg City has intriguing contrasts, an intellectual and multilingual population, and some of the slickest modern art around. See cutting- edge art at MUDAM Luxembourg, cycle your way around the city streets and catch a view — the city is perched overlooking gorges, valleys and forests. The climb starts at the entrance to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve and traverses the southern and eastern faces of the limestone escarp- ment along a former British military path restored in Views are dramatic and expansive with Spain, Africa, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean splayed like a Google map beneath you.

Equally epic are the sights and cries of huge flocks of migratory birds that circle the crags above and below. Although only 1. You can also crane your neck at the church organ in Grote Kerk van St Bavo, once played by a young Mozart. Start planning your trip with Lonely Planet The Netherlands, 5th edition Linger in a Quiet Spot on the Amalfi Coast Location: Nocelle, Italy A tiny, still relatively isolated mountain village, above Positano and beyond Montepertuso, Nocelle m commands some of the most spectacular views on the entire coast.

For food, Trattoria Santa Croce is a reliable low-key restaurant in the main part of the village. Start planning your trip with Lonely Planet Iceland, 8th edition Blend in with the Local Scholars Location: Tartu, Estonia Travellers who make it to this beautiful Baltic country usually hang out in fairy-tale Tallinn or test the island spas, but vibrant university town Tartu is not to be missed.

The white village of Zuheros is an excellent place to hop on the greenway.

A Mark of Quality for Albanian Tourism

Dark granite peaks razor above a placid fjord and white-sand beaches; sea eagles wheel in the sky. Yet for the world beyond Norway, it remains something of a secret. The village itself is redolent of a bygone era when time was marked by the tides and changing light, and when neighbours mattered. Neighbours, for instance, like Ulf Mikalsen, whose workshop doors open to reveal the boat-builder carving the bow of a smooth-contoured Nordland boat, like something a Viking would set sail in.

Eastern Europe - Albania (PDF Chapter)

This is a top-notch enclave of fine food, real ale and boutique accommodation. Watch the geese idle by as you sample the magical bread and olive oil, which appears unbidden at the table.

Splurge on a room at the lovely Perantzada Hotel in the main harbour town, Vathi, or opt for more privacy in a rented apartment in Vathi or the smaller seaside village of Kioni. The exhibition shows fascinating portraits, places and events. Not only is this a rare insight into what things looked like in old Albania, it is also a small collection of mighty fine photographs.