Albania is a small Balkan country that still remains unexplored and underestimated by many tourists. However, this hidden gem has a lot to offer, including stunning beaches, majestic mountains, rich history and culture. Here are 12 surprising facts about Albania that might surprise you:
- Albania is the only country in Europe where there is a museum dedicated to atheism. The museum is located in the country’s capital Tirana and displays exhibits related to the country’s communist past, during which religion was banned.
- Albania is home to over 500 species of birds, making the country a birdwatcher’s paradise. The country’s diverse landscape, from the mountains to the coast, provides habitat for a wide range of bird species.
- Albania hosts the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Balkans, with four sites recognized for their cultural and natural significance: the historic centers of Berat and Gjirokastra, the ancient city of Butrint, and the natural and cultural landscape of the Ohrid region.
- Albanians have a unique form of dance called “Valle”. Valle is a traditional dance that is performed at weddings, festivals and other special occasions. The dance is often accompanied by traditional Albanian music and includes intricate footwork and graceful movements.
- Albania has one of the largest concentrations of bunkers in the world, with approximately 173 bunkers per square kilometer. The bunkers were built during the communist regime of Enver Hoxha as a defense against possible attacks.
- The flag of Albania is the only national flag in the world with a double-headed eagle. The eagle is a symbol of courage and strength and has been used in Albanian heraldry for centuries.
- Albania is home to the oldest living olive tree in the world, over 2,000 years old. The tree is located in the village of Fari i Vogel and still produces olives to this day.
- There is no gender distinction in Albanian, i.e. there are no separate words for “he” or “she”. Instead, the same word is used for both genders.
- Albania has a rich culinary tradition that includes a variety of meat dishes, seafood and vegetarian options. Among the most popular dishes are stuffed peppers, burek (pie stuffed with cheese or meat) and ferghese (pepper, tomato and cheese stew).
- Albanian hospitality is renowned and it is not uncommon for guests to be served multiple meals and drinks when they visit someone’s home. It is considered impolite to refuse offered food or drink, and guests should eat and drink to their fullest.
- The Albanian Alps are a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, with many trails and peaks to explore. The highest peak of the Albanian Alps is Mount Korab, which is located at an altitude of 2,764 meters and is located on the border between Albania and North Macedonia.
- Most Albanians are Muslims, but in general it is more of a secular state, where people of different faiths coexist peacefully, including within the same family. The current Prime Minister of the country, Edi Rama, is a Catholic, his wife is a Muslim, his son from his first marriage is Orthodox, and the youngest son is a Catholic. Both Easter and Eid al-Adha are celebrated here.
- The most famous Albanian is Mother Teresa. Tirana International Airport is named after her. October 19, the day of her canonization, is a national holiday.
- The country’s currency is named after Alexander the Great: lek is an abbreviation for his Albanian name Leka i Madh.
- There are no McDonalds in Albania, but there are plenty of menezores – small cafes serving exceptionally delicious homemade food.
- On June 1, a holiday is held in the resort town of Saranda, where everyone is treated to free mussels. In general, seafood here is quite cheap: a large plate of mussels – 3-4 euros, other marine life – 5-6 euros, pasta with tuna – 4 euros.
- Albanians have a peculiar attitude to the rules of the road: often both drivers and pedestrians simply ignore them. Road signs appeared here only in the 90s, and traffic lights and pedestrian crossings still exist only in large cities. Even in the fairly large cities of Shkoder or Vlora there are no traffic lights.
- Albania is a country with a rich musical heritage and traditional Albanian music uses a wide range of instruments, including the chifteli (a type of lute), the lahuta (a bowed stringed instrument) and the gaida (a type of bagpipe). One of the most famous Albanian musicians is the legendary singer and composer Ismail Kadare.
Albania may not be a famous tourist destination, but it is a country full of unexpected and fascinating facts. From a stunning coastline and unspoiled nature to a unique culture and history, Albania has a lot to offer visitors. The country still remains relatively unexplored, making it a great place for those looking to discover hidden gems and experience something new. Whether you are interested in ancient history, delicious food or beautiful beaches, Albania has something for everyone. With friendly people and a welcoming atmosphere, Albania is definitely worth a visit.