Here are some interesting facts about Albania:
1 It is located in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula and shares a border with Kosovo to the northeast, Montenegro to the northwest, Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. The official name is “Republika e Shqiperise.”
2 This country was a part of Illyria and later of the Roman Empire and it was ruled by the Byzantine Empire from 535 to 1204. It gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. Italy invaded this country during World World II.
3 It had a Stalinist government between 1944 and 1991 and 1 out of 100 Albanians was imprisoned at some point by this communist regime. Furthermore, during 1968 and 1978, China was its only ally. In 1991, at the end of the communist era, only 3000 cars were in circulation.
4 Tirana, the capital city, was founded in the early seventeenth century by the Turkish general Sulayman Pasha. It has an area of 41.8 square kilometers (16.1 square miles) and is situated 110 m above sea level. In 2011, an estimated 418,495 people were living in this capital and is by far the biggest city. Other important cities, as well as major tourist destinations of this country, are Durres, Elbasan, Vlora, Kruje, Berat, or Fier.
5 When walking around the capital city, be careful, because the drivers tend to be hotheaded and inexperienced, plus, they frequently don’t pay much attention to pedestrians.
6 The National Gallery of Art in the capital has 50 percent Socialist Realism Art. The city of Berat, one of the best-preserved Ottoman settlements, is a designated “Museum City”.
7 Enver Hoxha, the first communist chief of state in this country, ruled with increasing suspicion of the outside world until his death in 1985. In addition, he is the one responsible for the 750,000+ bunkers spread out across the country. More importantly, in 1967 under the leadership of this communist chief, the country was declared the world’s first atheist state.
8 Albania is a member of the United Nations since December 14, 1955, Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, as well as World Trade Organization, since September 8, 2000.
9 Raki, an unsweetened anise-flavored, alcoholic beverage, is the national drink. They love to eat large salads made from fresh tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, and olives. Their cuisine is Balkan influenced by Turkish and Italian cuisines, but also by the Greek cooking.
10 The official language in the country is Albanian (which has 2 separate dialects: Gheg, spoken in the north, and Tosk, spoken in the south). This language is an Indo-European language and is considered one of Europe’s oldest languages. The other Indo-European languages are Balto-Slavic, Armenian, Hellenic, Germanic, Iranian, Indian, Keltic, and Italic. Additionally, Italian, English, and Greek are also spoken in this country.
12 The national flag bears a black, double-headed eagle on a red background. In ancient times, the locals called this country ”Shqiperia” that literally translates as the ”Land of the Eagle.”
13 In 2013, 2.774 million people were living in this country. However, around seven to 10 million Albanians are residing abroad, especially in Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece, Montenegro, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, US, and Sweden.
14 The economic situation is growing, even though it still remains one of the poorest nations in Europe. Nevertheless, their mountains can be a good source of income because they are rich in chrome, iron, nickel, and copper.
15 The 2nd largest Roman Amphitheater (which could hold 20,000 spectators) in the Balkan’s is located in Durres and it was discovered in the late 1900s.
16 The Albanian Riviera, a coastal area in the County of Vlore, is situated where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet. The area is an important ecotourist, nightlife, and elite retreat destination.
17 Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, better known as “Mother Teresa”, is a Nobel Prize winner for Peace in 1979. She was born in Skopje that is now considered Macedonian. Mother Teresa was the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity and was canonized on Sep. 4, 2016. In addition, the International Airport in Tirana is named ”Nene Tereza”’ after Mother Teresa.
18 Another national hero, George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, fought the Ottomans in the 15th century. His name comes from Alexander the Great, who came from Macedonia and fought the Illyrians. He has a statue on his horse in Skanderberg Square. After the death of his master, the horse refused to be ridden by another man and died.
19 More than 2/3 of the country is covered by beautiful mountains. The highest peak, Mt. Korab (9,033 ft/2,753 m), lies in the eastern part of the country, close to the Macedonian border, and is part of the Korab-Koritnik Natural Park.
20 Although a relatively small country, it is notable for its rich biological diversity. The mountains are home to few wild animals but you can find wild birds still abundantly in the lowland forests. The total number of plants is more than 3,250 species, which includes nearly 300 medicinal plants.
21 The village of Lazarat, with a population of 2,801, is considered the “cannabis capital of Albania.” According to statistics, 300,000 cannabis plants were cultivated in 2014, capable of yielding 500 tons of cannabis.
22 This country has never won a medal at the Olympics, even though their first participation was in 1972.
23 The most popular sport is soccer and the lowest FIFA ranking was in 1994 – ranking 124th while the highest occurred in 2014 – ranking on the 22nd position.