Albania has natural abundance that has made the country a tourist destination for centuries. Its heritage unravels a rich history that is both distinct and memorable. Its diverse culture speaks for the old and new traditions that have been practiced by its community. The wide array of artifacts and architecture found in the key cities in Albania has stood against the test of time to provide both locals and foreigners proof that the country is becoming a thriving pot of cultures. Expect the combination of majestic mountain ranges, thriving cities and beaches similar to the best ones in the Mediterranean once you arrive Albania.
Important and Interesting Facts about Albania
- Albania is considered one of the poorest countries of Europe but making optimum use of its human and natural resources it has exhibited a growth of 3.4% in 2011.
- Albania had 3 million people but only 3000 cars at the end of the communist era in 1991 because private cars were illegal. Today, Albania has many cars and perhaps 1/3 are Mercedes of varying legal statuses. Albanians do not wear seat-belts.
- Albania is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It is tied at 113 out of 176 with Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Niger on the corruption index.
- Albania is one of the largest exporters of cannabis in Europe.
- Albania has a lot of bunkers. And the bunkers are everywhere, over 700,000 in the country to be exact. There are around 24 bunkers for every square kilometer of the country.
- Furgons are the main source of transportation for Albanians who do not own private vehicles, and that luckily includes us Peace Corps volunteers.
- Albania was the only officially atheist nation the world has ever known.
- The land area of Albania is larger than only 8 American states.
There are several Billionaires that are worth more than the Gross Domestic Product of Albania.
- There are four small glaciers in the Cursed Mountains of Albania. Very rare at the relatively low elevations and the southernly latitudes
Cool Funny and Fun Facts about Albania
- Opposite head shake. Albanians nod their head up and down to mean ‘no’, and shake it from side to side for ‘yes’.
- King Zog of Albania (ruled 1928-39) was the only national leader in modern times to return fire during an assassination attempt.
- Sometimes Albanians add an extra zero to the end of numbers. Albanians do this sometimes not to be shady but rather out of habit since that is the difference between the “old lek” and “new lek”. For instance, someone might say you owe 1000 lek when they really mean you owe 100 lek.
- Don’t look both ways before crossing the street in Tirana, look every way. In Tirana the streets were not a place for the faint of heart. They were like a free for all where cars and buses fly from every direction.
- After you get a haircut you get slapped on the neck. After you get slapped, the slapper will see “me shëndet” meaning “on your health.”
- In Albania you cannot put toilet paper down the toilet in most bathrooms. Almost every bathroom has a separate waste bin to throw your toilet paper into. Also, some toilets here (especially in public places along travel routes) are Turkish toilets. Turkish toilets are squat toilets.
- Eggs don’t come in a dozen. Here eggs are sold in packages of ten. Not that exciting, but different.
- How they open bananas. People in Albania open their bananas differently than in America. Open the banana from the stem (which is the harder way to do it), but Albanians showed the correct way!
- Meat here could be considered fresh to some standards. Some of the meat is literally killed on the street right before the buyer takes it home.
- The concept of cheating is unknown to Albanian culture. Cheating is thought of more-so as sharing and helping. This idea of “sharing” can prove to be a problem for the schooling system here because some teachers in this society can also be bribed to “help” the students get a better grade.
Historical and Cultural Facts about Albania
- For about 10 years (1968-1978) , Albania’s only ally in the world was China. After China, Albania had no allies and was basically a more isolated European North Korea until 1991.
- Mother Teresa (Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu) is generally celebrated as the only Albanian to win a Nobel Prize, though born in Skopje in 1910 (now in Macedonia but then in the Ottoman Empire).
- The only other Nobel Prize winner of Albanian origin was Ferid Murad (USA) who won the 1998 prize for Medicine. His father was Albanian.
- Albania, Armenia and Vatican City are the only European countries without a McDonald’s branch.
- Coffee culture is huge here. Many Albanians start their days here with a nice cup of Turkish coffee, complete with yummy sludge on the bottom of every cup, and some men may accompany that coffee with a nice shot of raki.
- In Albania, people manufacture their own unique brand of liquor called raki. Raki is basically poison (but not really, just kind of tastes like it). It is a strong liquor, stronger than anything in America, made from grapes.
- The Xhiro. In the evenings Albanians will get dressed up to the nines and go for a walk around the city. This walk is usually done on the main drag in town and it is referred to as the xhiro.
- Traditional clothing is made by specialized craftsmen and women with cotton, wool and silk. It is decorated with colors, embroidered symbols, themes like the Albanian eagle, incorporating gold and silver.
- Traditional Albanian shoes are called Opinga. They are worn by both men and women but they are made in a different colors and shapes.
- Epic tales and legends are very much alive in Albanian regions. They are learnt by heart and pass from one generation to the next. The fundamental theme of Albanian folk tales is the struggle between good and evil. Usually readers assure that in the fantastic world of Albanian folk literature the good always win out.