The home country of Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, Albania is a small Balkan state nestled between neighboring Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro. It is one of Europe's nations with a Muslim majority and a rich biodiversity. Mosques and churches alike have now been revived across the country after decades of repression under its former government. Awakening from its communist slumber and isolation, Albania now boasts of its vast seas, sandy beaches, snow-capped peaks, winding rivers and dense forests.
World Heritage Sites
Albania, today, might be among the poorest nations in Europe, but during the ancient times, some of the world's greatest conquerors annexed this nation into their powerful and prosperous empires. The Vikings, Alexander the Great of the Greek Empire, Mehmet II of the Ottoman Turks, Julius Caesar of the Roman Empire, and the “Italian Empire” of Benito Mussolini are among those that have left the footprints of their cultures into the archaeological digs at Butrint, Gjirokaster, and Berat-all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Another World Heritage Site, Ohrid Lake, is among Europe's oldest and deepest lakes. It has over 200 “living fossils” that are of worldwide importance. The lake's creatures are just some of the over 4000 species of flora and fauna living in the crystalline sands of the Ionian Coast, cliffs of Tomorr Mountain, rock formations of the Albanian Alps, and vast meadows of Lura.
Albanian culture, like most of its Balkan neighbors, is primarily influenced by Ottoman civilization. Baklava, an Ottoman delicacy, is made of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey. Albanian literature, folk music, and oral history also figure prominently in local culture, especially during festivals.
Courtesy and xenophobia
Albanians are also known for their hospitality and traditions of courtesy. During the 40-year reign of Communist leader Enver Hoxha, the country was shrouded in xenophobia, as attested by around 700,000 concrete bunkers dotting the whole country. Today, however, foreigners who are invited into an Albanian home are treated like royalty, with offers to seat at the head of the table.
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