Beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field – I’ll meet you there. – this quote from Rumi Poem welcomed me in Tirana 5 years ago and has been one of my favorites quotes since then. He meant that nothing is good or bad, but we have formed the perspective towards each and everything around us. I believe that only when we stop labeling things and judging people, we will be able to understand the true essence of this quote. To me, traveling is a perfect tool to develop an unbiased mindset. Do you agree?
Albania was one of 7 countries that I visited during my Balkan trip. You can read about my experience in Macedonia and Serbia here. Albania is a small country, with almost three million inhabitants, a third of whom reside in the capital, Tirana. Despite its small size, the variety of landscapes is outstanding: from the snowy mountains in the north, to the lakes, lush forests and the beaches that can compete with those of Greece. Another stunning thing about Albania are the castles mounted on impossible rocks, as if they were eagle’s nests. Did you know that Albania is the country of the eagles, which you can also see on their flag? Find below my personal reasons to visit Albania – two destinations to choose for a short stay stay!
Tirana, the capital of Albania
Tirana, as most of European capitals, is a modern and fast-growing city. I would recommend you to start with a walk around Skanderbeg Square, which is the heart of modern Tirana. Then you can follow up with the Pyramid (formerly the mausoleum of dictator Enver Hodża), the Presidential and Congress Palace and the 18th-century Ethem Bey Mosque – the oldest monument in the city center.
Albania has been considered as the most secret country in Europe. Before World War II, the Italian influence was overwhelming. Mussolini, invaded Albania and annexed it to the Crown of Italy in 1939 until fascism fell and the communists came. Today, alongside Italian buildings (and the few ancient ruins) you will find in Tirana glass towers, designer shopping malls, a Central Mosque paid by Turkey (Albania was the first officially atheist country!) and avant-garde projects such as the future National Theater. I think Tirana is a great example of multiculturalism that stands out from other Balkan capitals. I would suggest you to spend at least one, or maximum two days in this mysterious city!
If you are seeking more for the ancient part of the country, Krujë will be a perfect destination for you. This small town hidden in the mountains played huge role in the middle ages battles. The fortress was defending successfully Albanians from three Ottoman sieges and was finally conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the second part of 15th Century. Albania recovered its Independence in 20th Century but the importance of Krujë didn’t change in the future conflicts. The Castle of Krujë and the panoramic view over the city are a must during your visit! You should also include the Skanderbeg Museum on your list. Skanderbeg was national hero of Albania who defended the country from Ottoman invasion for more than two decades. Somewhere between old ruins, you will find an abandoned field. I sat there and didn’t move for the next hour. Everything in Krujë was magical. And to end up in fairytale style, I even spotted a couple taking wedding pictures!
Krujë completely won my heart, so if you ever go to Albania, I strongly recommend you to visit this place. It’s only 30 minutes driving by car from Tirana!
Have you ever been to Albania or maybe it’s still on your bucket list? Which places would you recommend to visit there?