History...

Albanian Sunset Image Albania is a Southeastern European country with an open-market economy and an estimated population of over three million. The official language of the country is Albanian, however it is not uncommon for Albanians to speak two or even three languages (including Greek and English).

Albanians are descended from a tribe of people called Illyrians, who came to the Balkans around 2000 BC. Until the mid-20th century, Albania was mostly controlled by successive foreign powers. The following is a brief timeline which lays out important historical periods and events.

165 BC:
Albania is conquered by the Romans.

Byzantine Empire Image Map 395:
Albania becomes part of the Byzantine empire after split of the Roman Empire.

Ottoman Empire Image Map 1385 to 1912:
Albania is conquered by the Ottoman Empire. During this time many Albanians converted to Islamic faith, also many emigrated to Italy, Greece, Egypt, and Turkey.

Paris Peace Conference Image 1443 to 1478:
National hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeg led a revolt, Albanians temporarily had control of their country.

1912 November 28th:
Albanian issues the Vlore Proclamation declaring independence.

1913:
Great powers establish official Albanian borders.

Paris Peace Conference Image 1919:
During the Paris Peace Conference, Woodrow Wilson dismisses a European plan to divide Albania among its neighbors.

1939 to 1943:
(During WWII) Albania is occupied by Mussolini’s forces.

1943 to 1944:
After Italy was defeated by the allied powers, German forces took over occupation of Albania until pushed out by the Communist partisans with help from American and British troops.

Enver Hoxha Image 1945:
Enver Hoxha takes power, acting as a “miniature Stalin” imposing communism and suppressing freedom.

1985:
Enver Hoxha dies.

Historic Image 1992:
Communism falls when the Communist party is voted out, Sali Berisha becomes first democratically elected president.

1997:
Several pyramid schemes collapse causing thousands of people to become bankrupt and angry, armed revolts led to near-collapse of government authority. Weapons depots are raided, which leads to a state of total anarchy. The UN Multinational Protection Force eventually helps to restore order.

1998:
Albanians ratify a new constitution, guaranteeing rule of law and protecting fundamental human rights and religious freedom.

Image of Prime Minister Sali Berisha 2009:
After being elected as a Prime Minister in 2005 for first time, Sali Berisha is re-elected in July, 2009. Albania joins NATO and files the application for EU membership the same month of that year.

2010:
Ongoing disputes and allegations of fraud during the 2009 parliamentary elections lead many members of congress to boycott Parliament. Sometimes ethnic tensions over treatment of Greek minority in Albania or Albanian community in Greece, but overall relations are positive.

Albanian Language...

There are two dialects of the Albanian language, the Gheg dialect in the North, and the Tosk dialect in the Southern region. Modern Albanian contains components of both dialects. Albanian or “Shqip” is comprised of 36 letters and is based on the Latin alphabet. The following are a few useful words and phrases in Shqip:

  • Mirëmëngjesi  —  Good morning
  • Mirëmbrëma  —  Good evening
  • Faleminderit  —  Thank you
  • Natën e mirë  —  Good night
  • Si e keni emrin?  —  What is your name?
  • Si jeni?  —  How are you?
  • Shumë mirë  —  Very well

Culture...

Albanians are some of the most hospitable people you will find in Europe, or for that matter, anywhere in the world. When visiting someone’s house, they will always offer you something to drink such as coffee (Turkish), juice, or raki (more likely if you are a man). They will also usually bring out a dish of sweets such as candy, chocolates, or cookies.

It is also very common for someone to ask you about your parents, and your family. Always do the same in return, as a way of being caring and to show respect. At holidays and family get-togethers, Albanians like to toast repeatedly throughout the meal, going around the table saying “Gezuar”, and wishing each person well.

Albanian Food...

In general, Albanian food is wonderfully fresh, wholesome, and delicious. Food is almost always grown locally, since so many people have their own fields and land for growing fruits and vegetables. Also, much food is grown in a traditional sustainable manner, which means that it is often grown without the use of any chemicals.

In Saranda you will find a wide variety of fresh seafood including squid, shrimp, fish, among other things. Salads often include ingredients such as tomatoes, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, green peppers, and olives. For meat-eaters, lamb is usually a good choice since there are many sheep raised locally and therefore it should be fresh.

Local fruit trees include varieties of lemon, orange, pear, mulberry, and fig, to name only a few. Green grapes are also quite abundant, when in season.

Turkish Coffee...

While in the country you should definitely get used to drinking Turkish coffee, especially if you are looking to have a truly cultural experience. Instead of being filtered, the coffee is ground very finely, then simply brought just to a boil before being served. This means that the coffee is very strong, which explains why it is drunk in very small cups. The grounds will settle to the bottom of the cup, and some women like to take your cup, turn it over, and supersticiously “read your coffee grounds”.

What's Raki?

Most families will grow grapes to make their own “raki” which is a very strong, clear, alcoholic beverage. Be careful when drinking this potent liquor, you may find yourself quite tipsy after only a small amount. Men like to sit around sipping raki from small shot-sized glasses, while smoking cigarettes and talking.

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