The Path Less Ridden

Albania

Albania was a country which we entered with zero expectations or knowledge, intending to cross at maximum speed spending only one night. We were intrigued enough to bend our schedule and stay an extra day to explore its capital, Tirana.

 

The eastern countryside, near the border with Greece, is rolling farmlands and tiny untouristed villages, with a range of snowcapped mountains looming in the distance.

PC020543

PC020545

PC020546

PC020549

 

As we headed northwest, we struck the crystal clear icy waters of the southern edge of Lake Ohrid, which forms part of the border with Macedonia.

PC020566

PC020571

PC020572

PC020581

 

Scattered all across the countryside are concrete bunkers, some 700,000 of them. Militarily almost useless, their ceaseless construction contributed to the rampant poverty of the country under the communist dictatorship.

PC020564

 

Away from the lake heading east, we reached the major town of Elbasan, and faced a choice – the expressway, or the back way over a little-used mountain road…not much of a choice, really.

PC020588

PC020590

PC020591

 

We arrived in the capital, Tirana, and set about exploring.

PC030615

PC030611

PC030640

PC030649

PC030680

 

The national hero for locals, Skanderbeg, held off the 15th Century Ottoman invaders for over 25 years despite having a significantly smaller army. Skanderbeg Square is the heart of the city, a large green pedestrian space.

PC030593

PC030599

PC030604

 

Facing the square is the National History Museum, with a large colourful mural depicting the country’s past.

PC030605

PC030598

 

Albania was also ruled by Fascist Italy for a brief period, and some of the buildings in the centre of town display that unique architectural style.

PC030625

PC030622

PC030654

PC030621

 

Albania is a multi-faith country, with the mosque, orthodox and catholic churches all within easy walking distance of each other. The mosque is a traditional 19th Century style, while the Orthodox church is an ultra-modern behemoth.

PC030610

PC030607

PC030629

PC030633

 

The Catholic Church memorialises Mother Theresa – she was born in modern-day Macedonia to Albanian parents.

PC030643

PC030675

 

After the Second World War, the country suffered under a radical and reclusive communist dictatorship led by Enver Hoxha for 40 years. One of the biggest remaining symbols of that time (apart from the innumerable concrete bunkers) is the “Pyramid”, originally a museum for the deceased leader built by his daughter. After the fall of the regime, it was partially converted into a convention centre but has mostly fallen into disrepair.

PC030669

PC030659

PC030667

 

Although most of the city is quite modern, there are traces of the old Ottoman influences throughout – such as the Tanners’ Bridge, dating from the 18th Century.

PC030678

 

One of the bigger attractions of the city is the Swiss-built cablecar that runs up a nearby mountain, providing scenic views over the whole valley – and even glimpses of the Mediterranean in the distance.

PC030685

PC030687

 

We left the city, headed west to the coast, and followed it north to the border with Montenegro.

PC040697

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

One thought on “Albania

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *