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The land of the eagle

Nalynn Dolan Caine |
Albanian ruler Enver Hoxha died in 1985 and even today the world's smartest analysts are in shock: The country progresses very slow. How that could be?

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br> Enver Hoxha ruled the country for four decades building bunkers on the coast to "protect" the country from the invasion of NATO and the members of Warsaw Pact which included all communist countries of the Eastern Europe except Yugoslavia.

He tested the quality of bunkers putting the chief engineer in a bunker and bombing the bunker by all means. The engineers finally found the recipe for the undestroyable bunker after two years of "scientific" testing and following Hoxha's order built between 500,000 and 750,000 of them around the Albanian coast. The country was safe from a non-existent enemy.

At that time practicing any religion was strictly forbidden. Almost all churches, some dating back to the Ottoman era, became cinemas, barns or warehouses. It was forbidden for parents to give religious names to their children. For four decades it was impossible for Albanians to exit the country, for foreigners to enter it, it was out of the question to fly over it. Even today for some in Albania to see a road map it is an amazing experience: those who had it in Hoxha's time finished in jail under the accusation of being "the enemy of the state".

All Albanians were required to obtain permits for normal, everyday things like a refrigerator. Hoxha's sick mind set too many strange rules and it was impossible for someone not to make a mistake and every third Albanian experienced consequences of a "bad behaviour" on his own skin. So, which part of the history is hard to understand?

Today, Albania has 18,000 km of roadways which includes 7020 km of paved roads and miles and miles of underground tunnels built to connect bunkers which the country never needed. Albania officially started to demolish bunkers last year but in two weeks they managed to demolish only seven of them, for bunkers are built way too well.

Tirana, the capital of Albania from 1920, is a strange mix of the ancient times and 21st century. You can see destroyed roads, garbage all around and people selling chicken on the side walk. Just a few blocks away you can see Hummers, Lexuses and Mercedeses, colourful painted houses, greenery, nice cafes, 5-star hotel and a fancy restaurant which offers 360 panoramic views to Tirana.

Skanderbeg, a true Albanian hero who has protected the country from Turks for decades, has his monument in the heart of Tirana on Skanderbeg square. Sahat-tower, a kind of tower built only in the European part of the Osmanian empire, is situated on Skanderbeg square too, as well as Et'hem Bey mosque, the oldest structure in Albania which survived times of the atheistic madness.

City Drac, a former capital of Albania, is situated on the Adriatic coast just an hour drive from Tirana. It is a touristic centre well connected with Italia by ferryboats. Nice beaches and fine sea food makes it one of the most attractive Albanian cities.

Krujë is a historical town were Skanderbeg was born. Krujë's most famous landmark is Krujë castle where Skanderbeg fought his greatest battles against Ottoman Empire. Shkodër is the city situated on the border with Montenegro on Lake Shkodra, the largest lake on Balkan Peninsula with average dept of 5 meters and the deepest point of 44 meters. Sixty percent of the lake is in Montenegro, 40 percent in Albania. The most recognizable landmarks of the city are the legendary castle of Rozafa and a beautiful church which survived Hoxha's time as a sport hall.

Gjirokastër, situated in southern Albania, is known by its great natural beauty and it finds its place on World Heritage List as "a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town".

There are many beautiful places to be seen in Albania, but truly, just one thing really matters - the eagle with spread wings flies freely today.


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