Destination: Albania

Albania, officially known as the Republic of Albania, is a mountainous country and one of the smallest nations of Europe, just 28,750 km² and a population of just over 3 million.

The proper reference for the citizens of Albania is, Albanian or Albanians.

Albania is bordered on the northwest by Montenegro, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west, and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. Albania is less than 72 kilometers from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto, which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.

The capital city of Albania is Tirana, with an urban population of just under 422,000.

Flag of the Republic of Albania

 

The flag of the Republic of Albania is a field of red with a black, two-headed eagle in the center. The design of the coat of arms is said to be that of 15th-century hero George Castriota Skanderbeg, who led a successful uprising against the Turks that resulted in a short-lived independence for some Albanian regions (1443-78).

Another explanation for the eagle symbol is based on the tradition that Albanians see themselves as descendants of the eagle. In fact, Albanians refer to themselves as "Shkypetars," or "sons of the eagle" translated into English.

Current Social & Political Landscape

The People's Socialist Republic of Albania was dissolved in 1990, and the Republic of Albania was founded in 1991. The Communists retained a stronghold in parliament after popular support in the elections of 1991. However, in March 1992, amid liberalisation policies resulting in economic collapse and social unrest, a new front led by the new Democratic Party took power. The economic crisis spread in late 1996 following the failure of some widely subscribed to Ponzi schemes operating in the country, peaking in 1997 in an armed rebellion that led to another mass emigration of Albanians, mostly to Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and North America.

In 1999, the country was affected by the Kosovo War, when a great number of Albanians from Kosovo found refuge in Albania.

See Also: Travel To Albania | Tirana | Petrela Castle |

Albania became a full member of NATO in 2009, and is a member of the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Council of Europe, World Trade Organization, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and one of the founding members of the Union for the Mediterranean. Albania has been a potential candidate for accession to the European Union since January 2003, and formally applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009.

Officially recognized by the EU as a "potential candidate country", Albania started negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) in 2003. This was successfully agreed and signed on 12 June 2006, thus completing the first major step toward Albania's full membership in the EU. However, numerous issues since then have blocked Albania's becoming a full member of the EU to be rejected until recently. In October 2012 the European Commission evaluated the progress of Albania to comply with 12 key priorities, being conditional to achieve official candidate status and start accession negotiations. 4 key prioriteries were found to be met, while 2 were well in progress, and the remaining 6 were in moderate progress. The report concluded that if Albania manages to hold a fair and democratic parliamentary election in March 2013, and implements the remaining changes needed to comply with the 8 key priorities still not fully met, then the Council of the European Union would be recommended to grant Albania official candidate status.

Customs & Culture

Albanians are supposedly descended from ancient Illyrians.

The culture of Albania is strongly influenced by that of the mainland Greeks, especially in urban centres.

To greet someone, handshaking is preferred.

See Also: Travel To Albania | Tirana | Petrela Castle |

People dress casually in Albania. However, swim suits are meant for the beaches and women are expected dress modestly.

When addressing someone it's proper to use the prefix Zoti (Mr) or Zonja (Mrs) before the name.

It is customary to bring small gifts when visiting someone, but flowers aren’t acceptable as gifts.

When guests visit you, it is customary to serve coffee, raki or sweets.

Driving in Albania,is an experience. The lines painted on the roads appear to be more of a suggestion than a means of separating traffic into flow lanes, and everyone seems to wants to lay claim to the middle of the road, straddling the centre line... when there are lines. Many roads in Albania are not painted with lines, or are only gravel and often narrow. I have yet to figure out who is supposed to yield when approaching another car, so I always duck into anywhere wide enough to allow me to do so until the oncoming traffic passes.

In Albania everyone seems to smoke and do so everywhere. However, you should avoid smoking where there are signs reading "Ndalohet Duhani" or "Ndalohet pirja e duhanit".

Travel Tip
When Yes Means No & No Means Yes!

Did you know that in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Crete, Turkey and other countries, nodding the head means ‘no’, whereas shaking the head means ‘yes’? Differences in customs is why it's important to do research into the local practises of your destination country. Imagine asking a non English speaking local if you're able to get to where you want to go using a specific bus, train, or street. He or she replies verbally in a language you don't speak, but nods their head. Off you go, in the wrong direction.

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