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A CLOSED AND POOR COUNTRY - ALBANIA

Albania was one of the most “closed” countries in the world during the communist period of the country. For 50 years, neither a single Albanian left the country nor a foreign tourist visited Albania.  
It was not easy for me to go to Albania from Macedonia as I had to walk the isolated border way in the hot weather. The border control point was consisting of a simple shed and there was not a computer. I paid the head tax (€15) and entered in the country. 

Tiran

Iskender Bey (Skanderbeg) – He resisted Kruja Castle against the Ottomans for 25 years in the period of Mehmed the Conqueror. Skanderberg is the most important national hero of the country. 

I reached Albania, one of the poorest European countries, after a compelling trip from Macedonia (arriving to the border crossing by share taxi, walking the way of border between two countries, then taxi and share taxi again). I reached the capital Tirana after travelling the country entirely starting from the city of Pogradec which is close to the border crossing. Tirana left a special place on my mind when I read information about the city on encyclopedias in my childhood. Though I knew that the city still carried the traces of communism, Tirana definitely disappointed me in my first tour in the city. Enver Hoxha really made the city look ugly. It is a grey city full of characterless and unpleasant buildings except the public buildings in the city centre. I also did not like the civil architecture of Tirana. 

Tirana was founded in 1614 by Süleyman Pasha (Sulejman Pasha, Sulejman Pashe Barjini) who was from the village of Mullet in the Ottoman period. Sulejman Bargjini also built a mosque, bakery and bath in those years. Tirana became the center of religion, art and culture when Islam and Bektashism were spread. 

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It is free to bring stolen cars in the country. Therefore, it is possible to see a vast number of Mercedes cars stolen in different countries and brought in Albania. Even the taxis are Mercedes in this poor country. 
I hired a beautiful flat for $20 in the capital Tirana. I had a portion of beef for $1. Albanian lek (ALL) is the currency of country. There were not any foreign tourists but me when I was in Tirana. There was no one around in the city centre during the working hours, but it became a little crowded in the evening. 

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The National Historical Museum of Albania, the largest museum in the country, was designed by Albanian architect Enver Faja in 1981. The former Tirana Municipality Building was demolished in order to build the museum. The gigantic mosaic at the main entrance is called The Albanians. The mosaic symbolizes the development of Albania’s history starting from the Illyrians to the communist partisans. The ones on the right symbolize the armed heroes fought against the Ottomans for independence. The patriot Albanians are portrayed singing march on the mosaic throughout the history. After the collapse of communist regime, the star on the red flag of mosaic was erased. 

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The National Historical Museum of Albania, Tirana. 

What you see below on the photo is the parliament of Albania which was built by the Italians in 1920s. The Italian influence is highly felt throughout the country. Italy is the first country for Albanians that they set their hopes on for a better life. The Italian influence has been affected the cuisine, language and culture of Albania throughout the history of the country. 

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The Parliament of Albania, Tirana. 

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The Council of Ministers

The former president of Albania Enver Hoxha had many military bunkers built for fear of possible capitalist attacks. In order to test durableness, Enver Hoxha put the engineer officer, who designed the bunkers, into the bunker and let drive bullets on the bunker. The engineer survived as the bunker was quite solid. Therefore, Enver Hoxha built 700,000 bunkers throughout the country. Though the communist regime was collapsed, the bunkers could neither be neither destroyed nor removed, because they are too solid. Sometimes, the young Albanians use these bunkers to make love like “Make love, no war”. However, 700,000 bunkers are really too much and unnecessary in my opinion. 

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Some of the 700,000 bunkers in the country. You can see in every corner of the country. 

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The Clock Tower and Ethem Bey Mosque, 18th Century, the Ottoman Empire. 

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Opera – is a gift from Soviet people to the Albanians. 

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The city of Elbasan from the hill. 

I took the share taxi to reach the city of Shkoder from the capital Tirana. Mentioned in Turkish history books as well, Shkoder was a poor and dusty city. I had meatballs, pilaf and yoghurt in Shkoder. It was not easy for me to get information about how to reach the Montenegro border crossing from Shkoder. Luckily, the craftsmen found me a relatively well-educated young man to give me information. I took the share taxi to reach the nearest village to the border crossing. I paid a little extra money and the driver took me the border crossing. 


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