On the Adriatic Sea lies the country of Albania, a place with diverse culture, delicious food, and the perfect Balkan climate. I first visited Albania at the age of four to visit family, and still it is one of my favorite places to go to. Here’s what you should know about Albania.
Museums, Bunkers, and Archaeological Sites
A product of Albania’s communist regime, is that there are many bunkers. Albania actually has the most bunkers out of any country in the world. One museum, Bunk’Art, in Albania is actually built into former dictator, Enver Hoxha’s, underground bunker. You can also find contemporary museums as well. An interesting fact about Albania is that it is not a very religious country but it is one of the most tolerant, so you can also find mosques and churches scattered throughout it. Albania is also known for its castles. Visit Albania's national hero, Skengderbeg’s castle in Kruje.
It has some of the best beaches
Albania, similar to its neighbors Greece and Italy, has gorgeous beaches. The warm, clear, Mediterranean waters are sure to draw your attention. The Albanian Riviera region is known for its great beaches. Some amazing oceanside cities are Vlore, Ksamil, and
Saranda. Here you can find amazing seafood as well. Fish in the Mediteranean are fresher but also tougher, so be careful. I actually choked on calamari one time because it was so tough when I was younger in Saranda. I refuse to eat calamari in Europe now, even though I am sure I would be able to handle it, but the experience still scares me.
The Albanian Alps
As amazing as Albania’s beaches are, there are equally beautiful mountains too. You can find breathtaking views, trails, villages, and streams. One of the best attractions
is Syri Kalter (pictured in the cover), which translates to the Blue Eye. It is a natural spring fed by run off from the mountains. The water is really cold, but you can surely find divers, sun bathers, and people sitting around enjoying nature.
Albania is unlike any language. It has been described as the weird little sister of the Balto-Slavic languages. Though it is an Indo-European language it does not belong to
any specific language group so knowing Greek, Italian, or Macedonian language will not be of much help. Many people are polylingual though. Just in case, you should pick up a phrasebook.
The food is amazing! Try the kofte, burek, pita, kos, and mish. Albanians eat lots of meat, so prepare yourself. On Easter, my parents throw a barbeque and order an entire lamb. I personally don't eat meat anymore so it's possible to avoid meat on your trip. However, it is a big part of Albania’s culture. Also, typical to Europe, post-dinner coffee is essential. Go to a cafe for a cup of kafe turke, chat with friends, and enjoy the nice weather.
Albania is a Developing Country
Not everything will be glamorous, but if you're willing to take the chance to experience
the culture it truly is an amazing place. There are poor neighborhoods, stray dogs, and sometimes even electricity shortages (it is one of the only countries that uses 100% renewable energy). It also is not very touristic, so there might not be as many accommodations as places like Greece or Italy. People there are friendly and
perseverant. Be cautious and aware of your surroundings, just as you would anywhere else.
Albanian’s are Prideful
Albanians are generally nationalists. You will always see the Albanian flag, wherever you go. They love their culture so get ready to see the Albanian symbol, the double headed eagle everywhere. Also, Albanians are pretty opinionated. They are going to tell you the truth even if it may not be the kindest, so be prepared for that when mingling with the locals. Their intentions are not bad, it's just a part of who they are.
Albania is a great place to see. If you are an experienced traveler interested in exploring traditional Balkan culture, you should book a trip to Albania!