We were excited when we set off for Albania remembering how it was a totally closed society for nearly 50 years. Two decades have elapsed since they gained democracy and they have made impressive steps forward. When the Communist government first fell, you may recall that the Albanians broke into the armouries and stole guns. People went around firing at all and sundry, the place resembled the "wild west", everyone wanted a gun to protect themselves and their family.
The Albanian's are small, distinctive looking people. Many consider them to be descended from the original Illyrian people. Enver Hoxha (pronounced Hodges), the man who held Albania in an iron grip was not a typical looking Albanian, he was very tall, and brought his people to their knees. During nearly 50 years he ruled in much the same way as Chairman Mao. Intellectuals were sent to work in the countryside, and peasants carried out Enver's rules. If anyone questioned anything at all, they vanished without trace. Their culture became totally denuded, all monuments apart from 9 were destroyed, and religion was banned. They had no contact with the outside world, and the people wondered if their plight was known. There are now 10 million Albanian's living around the world and only three and a half million in Albania. Every family has someone working abroad, who sends home money to the family. It is through family loyalty that Albania is making such good progress.
A women typically dressed and also typically doing all of the work, whilst the men sit in the Coffee Houses!!!
A view from Rozafa Castle on the outskirts of the second city of Albania, Shkodrës. If you click on the photo you can see one of the nine remaining monuments. A beautiful, but neglected mosque. All of the tops of the minarets and symbols have been removed, and it sits in flood water. It is made of lead, and built in 1773.
Looking towards Montenegro.
We visited Rozafa Castle of Venetian origin, the site of several famous sieges, including the siege of Shkodër by the Ottomans in 1478.
Looking towards Albania's second city of Shkodër
Shkodër sits on the river Buna which was a trade route linking it to the Adriatic Sea
In the city of Shkodër there is now this new mosque, a new Catholic cathedral and new Orthodox church. They are all built close together to show toleration and friendship towards each other.
The city centre is being redeveloped in a more Mediterranean style in contrast to the awful identical communist buildings which Enver had built.
This house was a typical merchant's home surrounded by fortified walls, attesting to the significant role the merchants had along the ancient trade routes between the Mediterranean and the Balkans. The house was constructed in 1815 and has been restored to its original state.
The central area of the house is open, this is where the men would sit and talk, no women allowed. However, the women listened to what was said through the grill windows which you can see.
bunker and golden oriole via wikipedia