Looking through travelogues on Albania and one has a distinct memory of Herges’ French comic character Tintin, in which the hero’s haunts are in a place that regularly mentions Syldavia. The author himself has admitted that he modeled the fictional country on Albania set in the 1900s to 1939. The country has been in relative isolation despite being a fair stone’s throw away from Italy in the west across the Ionian Coast, owing to the fact that it has been behind the Iron Curtain since the fall of Communism. Isolation however, has its distinct advantages, in that it has retained a flavor to its culture that one can only say as being Albanian.
The Ionian Coast is great to swim in, except perhaps for the sections between Durres and Fier which is reported to be fairly polluted, but should not stop eager tourists from enjoying up to 290 sunny days per year in the quaint little town of Saranda, which itself boasts of some must-sees like an ancient monastery and freshwater springs. Berat, the communist museum city of its day, boasts of white Ottoman windows, that climb all the way up to the Illyrian fortress of Antipatria, believed to be built in the 3rd century BC. So many houses going up to the hill has earned for the town of Berat the “town of a thousand windows.”
Ottoman and Italian architecture and relics are to be found in the bustling city of Tirana, which is trying to shed its gray Stalinist demeanor by having literally repainted some of its more impressive buildings in bright stunning colors. Where the past and the present meet, Tirana is a city where one can see the co-existence of delicate minarets with grand socialist murals. It is still possible to have fun at night though at the city’s many bars and restaurants in the evening.
Should one have a more adventurous spirit, you can try to brave Northern Albania which still retains its outdoor, mountaineering, pioneer spirit where if you happen to be unlucky, you may be caught in a cross-fire in the once occurring blood feud. Most of the north is safe however, and one can still travel to Montenegro via the north in safety.
So how may perhaps one describe Albania from reading the article above? It has the flavor of cultures past but has its feet in the present, for me I think, its like having something nice and crunchy on the outside and something juicy in the inside!
Dr. Hans Christian Tesch is a freelance writer who has a wide field of experience in many fields and has served many clients and companies on the internet through his articles and press releases. He currently runs and manages a school which he partly owns training and educating K-12 children.
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