November 28th, 1912 is when Ismail Qemali, founder of the modern Albanian state and its first head of state and government, declared Dita e Pavarësisë (“Independence Day” in English) from the Ottoman Empire!
On this day the Albanian flag was raised by Ismail Quemali in Vlore, Albania to publicly proclaim the independence of Albania from its Ottoman authorities.
In case you don’t know much about Albania or Albanians (You probably aren’t from New York ha!) – Albania occupies the southwestern portion of the Balkan Peninsula. It’s coastline extends along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas within the Mediterranean Sea. Despite its small size, Albania is home to the largest and most ancient bodies of fresh water in Southern Europe. Lake Shkodër is the largest lake in Southern Europe, sprawling out from Albania into Montenegro. Lake Ohrid in the southeast is shared with Macedonia and is one of the most ancient lakes in the world and a very popular vacation spot!
Some fun and interesting facts about Albania:
- In the evenings, the locals like to walk. But it’s not just a walk. Known as xhiro, it’s an official evening walk where every resident comes out to get some fresh air and catch up with their neighbors. In many towns, the roads close to cars for certain hours! Apartment blocks empty and everyone gathers at various places, walking and talking until nightfall. How nice!!
- Kinda like our Indian head-bob – when an Albanian is agreeing with you, they will shake their head, and when they are disagreeing with you they will nod. Be warned and avoid confusion – Yes means no and no means yes!
- According to a 2015 World Risk Report compiled by the UN, Albania is one of the countries in Europe most at-risk from natural disasters – mainly from flooding. In 2010, the country was hit by major floods, forcing as many as 7,000 families to be evacuated.
- Though small, Albania boasts more than 3,250 species of plants, which accounts for 30% of all flora in Europe.
- The Albanian town of Berat, a Unesco Old Town, was rated as one of the most beautiful places in Europe!
One more quick amazing thing about Albania: Mother Teresa ❤
Many countries in Eastern Europe are starting to really trend lately in tourism. Albania is becoming a popular tourist destination and it’s easy to see why! The beaches are GORGEOUS!! Also, it’s Europe and what’s Europe most famous for? CASTLES!!!! 🙂
Some of the BEST places to check out in Albania:
Close your eyes and imagine a beautiful castle on a hill. Now book your flight! Located on a hill at the left bank of the river Osum in the middle of the country, you can find Berat Castle, (originally called Kalaja) a fortress overlooking the town of Berat.
Berat is also called “ the city of a thousand windows”, because of the large window fronts on the typical house. Berat is a great destination for those who love history and culture.
Tirana is the capital city of Albania. Located on a river some 30 kilometers away from the coast on one side, and on the other it is enclosed by hills. The small cafés at the side of the roads are full of energy most of the times and the city has a really pleasant charm!
Those who want to immerse into the culture of the country should go to one of the museums or to the Palace of Culture. The Skanderberg place with the famous equestrian statuette should definitely be on your list, as it is the town’s landmark. It actually forms the center of the city, from which roads go to all directions like a star.
Another place to visit is the Et’hem Bey mosque with the clock tower of Tirana. The capital furthermore contains a castle, of course, which is a great tourist destination. The numerous political facilities, universities, the botanical and zoological gardens, as well as the numourous parks and gardens are all worth a visit, if you have time, as well.
Perhaps the most popular tourist destination, the riviera has a growing reputation as an important music location. The Night life is very popular and draws young people from all across Europe! Beaches are truly inviting! Newly built hotels and attractions also allure tourists and promise a great holiday.
Also, the countryside is unique and lays behind the beaches. Large, picturesque and dramatic mountain settings extend for miles; and within the mountains, hide numerous small fairytale-like villages!
This southern city was elected UNESCO world cultural heritage due to its unique Balkan-style architecture. It contains small castle-like houses made of stone and is located at the side of a hill connected with artisticly winding roads.
Gjirokastra has also many cultural attractions, such as museums, theaters and religious places found in large numbers. Additionally every five years they celebrate the national folklore festival in the castle of the city!
The STUNNINGGGG city, Durres, at the coastline of Albania is the most important harbor city in the country. Cultural events take place all over the year, particularly at the amphitheater, which is one of the most important attractions of the city! The impressive ancient building could provide place for about 20.000 people. Aside from culture and history, Durres is a top spot for beach days and it’s a fun name to say over and over! 😛
Kruja is located at the side of the Skanderberg-mountains. The most important building in the town is the Kruja castle, which is a national sanctum for the Albanian people. Further places next to the town are the tomb of Sari Saltiks and the national park Qafe Shtama. This small town has a large historical background and can also be visited as day-trip from the capital Tirana or from Durres.
Another fun name to repeat over and over (and yes, I am getting the correct pronunciation, my coworker is Albanian from Montenegro 🙂 ) Vlora, also known also as Valona, is located in south-western Albania where the two seas, Adriatic and Ionian, meet. Vlora enjoys a beautiful position because it is the gateway to the Albanian Riviera!
Three stunning things to see in Vlora are the beaches, the port and the town centre. The town, with its wide boulevards decorated by huge palm trees, has a real southern Mediterranean feel to it! Definately a place not to miss!
Who would have thought this tiny Eastern European country would be filled with such beauty, history and energy! I’m planning my trip, are you?! Happy Independence day Albania!!