🇦🇱 TIRANA – Balkan Adventure Part I

Hello and ‘Mirëpritur në’ Albania!  This is the start of my adventure through the South West part of the Balkans, which will be starting here in the city of Tirana in Albania.



Albania was a nation that had been guarded into isolation from much of the international community by their socialist leadership which lasted up until 1991, when following the revolt of the anti-communist population inside of the nation, the move into a new order away from the restraints of communism began.

The nation’s capital, Tirana, still bears the architecture of its many pasts, with buildings still in existence from the colourful era of the Ottoman rule, and then also structures carrying styles of the Fascist and Soviet-eras too, which can be seen in Skanderbeg Square, with its Palace of Culture and National History Museum.

Skanderbeg Square

The Visit

My visit to Albania would be spent in the afore-mentioned capital city of Tirana, and this led to my arrival taking place at Nënë Tereza Airport (Mother Teresa Airport).  Ideally when landing at the airport, it is a good idea to have already pre-booked a taxi (atex.al)  into the centre of the city.  This option is not overly expensive (around €10) and is already paid for by you online.  Also this will save having to barter a price with the driver in a somewhat kind of ‘Albaniaglish’ between the two of you.

At the gate I met my driver, who gave me a bloody good handshake, so I felt like he could handle a vehicle and I could trust him on the road.  He had a great big smile too, but….could not speak a word of English, and I only knew how to say a few things in Albanian, so as you can imagine the journey was a quiet one.  Just intermittent smiles at each other via the rear-view mirror.

The place I would be sleeping during my short stay in Tirana would be the ‘Star Hotel’ (booking.com) which for location purposes, was outstanding as it was adjacent to the central square of the city, Skanderbeg Square.  This made it very easy to find and was a comfortable walking distance to everything I wanted to see or visit.  Also very clean accommodation.

Due to arriving late-ish on in the evening, I wandered around locally to my accommodation and went to explore around Skanderbeg Square (Sheshi Skënderbej).  Firstly when arriving at the square, it is hard not to notice the ‘Tirana International Hotel’ with it being 15 floors tall and the tallest building in the vicinity, but then onto the square the more impressive and grand Stalinist pastel coloured buildings of the ‘Palace of Culture’ which houses the ‘National Theatre of Opera and Ballet of Albania’, and the ‘National Museum of History’ are standing here.  The ‘National Museum of History’ has a fantastic colourful facade, depicting figures from Albania’s history, from ancient times to modern times.

National History Museum of Albania

When you reach the opposite side of the square you will come to a statue of a very heroic looking fella riding on a horse, this being the man the square is named after, a national hero, George Castriot, aka Skanderbeg.  Skanderbeg, always signed himself as the ‘Lord of Albania’ and was also the man to lead the rebellion against the Ottoman Empire back in the 15th Century in the lands that both today are known as Albania and Macedonia.

Skanderbeg, Et’hem Bey Mosque and Kulla e Sahatit

To one side of the Skanderbeg Statue, which replaced a statue of Joseph Stalin, you will also notice the very beautifully frescoed 18th Century Mosque, the ‘Et’hem Bey Mosque’.  This Islamic place of worship was closed down under the communist rule of the nation, but then along with the revolution of the country in 1991, the Mosque re-opened without any Official Authoritarian interference.  When on closer inspection, the frescoes are of waterfalls, bridges and trees, which apparently are rare to see in the art if Islam, or so I was told by a local Albanian.

Behind the Mosque as you nip down the alleyway, you’ll approach a clock tower, the ‘Kulla e Sahatit’ which had been completed by Et’hem Bey Mollaj, the man responsible for the Mosque we have just passed.  Strangely though, Et’hem was actually a poet!?

In front of the Et’hem Bey Mosque
Et’hem Bey Mosque

Before going back to my accommodation for the night, for a good sleep in preparation for the next day of exploring Tirana, I visited a coffee shop just north of the square.  On the Bulevardi Zogu I, I had a really good standard coffee in what I came to realise was a chain cafe, called ‘Mon Cheri’.  The staff were extremely friendly and did laugh at my Albanian, but it always helps to put a little effort in!

Tirana was off to a beautiful start….

NEXT – Tirana, Balkan Adventure Part II 

4 thoughts on “🇦🇱 TIRANA – Balkan Adventure Part I

  1. Skanderbeg battles and lands he ruled included all territories that belong today not just to Albania and FYROM macedonia, but also to Kosovo and Montenegro, because political stretching of League of Albanian Princes was wide.

    Skanderbeg is the legitimate king of Albanians, but the Topiaj Albanian family and Charles of Anjoy also used to hold the title King of Albania.

    Skanderbeg united all the free Albanian princes who were still free of the Ottoman empire and created a state which defeated the Ottoman Empire for 40 years between 1443-1481. Europe as saved by ottoman invasion in this century because of Albanians.

    After 1488, Albanians were finally overrun by Ottomans.

    Because of their fighting abilities, the Ottoman empire offered the conversion to Albanians in order to keep their weapons, women , earn nobility titles and make career in the government and army of the empire. This happened also because Albanians were abandoned by the Western europe

    Albanians muslims became the most powerful nation in the empire bu giving not less than 43 Albanian prime ministers to the empire, the strongest dynasty after the Osman dynasty itself, known as the Kyrpryly Albanian dynasty of Great Vezires.

    Just a small fraction of Albanian history

    1. Thank you so much for such an interesting and historical comment on my blog. Really grateful for your education on the topic.

  2. The lands and territories which Skanderbeg and Albanian princes controlled , had political influence and control and fought battles where not just the lands that are confined by Albania and western FYROM Macedonia, but also most of Kosovo and a big part of today’s Montenegro.

    Between 1380 and 1488 Albanians fought 45 battles with Ottoman Empire and won 35 of them.

    35 victories of which most were won by Gjin Bue Shpata, Gjergj Arianiti and Skanderbeg allies with other Albanian lords.

    Lek Dukagjini played his part also till 1480.

    These battles saved Europe and Italy from Ottomans and are an epic struggle that is very underrated by western historiography. This struggle deserves like 10 Hollywood movies.

    The huge influence the Albanians had over the Ottoman empire is to mentioned also, but it creates a lot of controversy manily because of the big Albanian-Ottoman conflict in 14th and 15th centuries , being a ”muslim” nation in Europe , the backwardness of the ottoman empire in the 19th century and the damage this Albanian-Ottoman connection created for the Albanian nationalism itself and the political issues today.

    Basically Albanians have produced more influential politicians and warriors- military leaders than whole Balkans combined and this does not reflect at all the power Albanians should have had now in Balkans.

    Anyway , something to note about Tirana is that it is not just a 18th century small town initiated by local Albanian muslim leaders.

    Jst 4 km away from Tirana it is found the city of Albanopolis, thousands of years old from which Albanians got their name from the outsiders.

    1. Thank you greatly for your input to my blog! I found this piece very interesting to read and educating also.

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