Today Albania marks 104 years of independence from the Ottoman Empire. We decided to celebrate by remembering 15 things you probably did not know about the small country that boasts of the Ionian and Adriatic coasts (you can have this fact for free).
1. What is Albania?
First and foremost, Albanians do not call home Albania, on the contrary the name for the nation in the mother tongue is Albania.
2. More Albanians live abroad than inside
The Albanian diaspora is large, extending from its neighbors Greece and Turkey to more distant nations such as the US and Canada – so much so that it is believed that the number of Albanians living outside Albania is greater than the country’s population of almost 3 million. Hundreds of thousands emigrated after the fall of the communist regime in 1991 and the ensuing economic crisis.
3. You can not set the time with Albanian buses
Albanian buses (called vans) have no timetable, departing when they are good and ready – or full.
4. There is only one Nobel Prize winner
Mother Teresa, although born in the then Ottoman Empire and now the capital of Macedonia, Skopje, was Albanian. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work helping the poor in Calcutta, India.
5. Smiling and shaking your head have different meanings in Albania
Albanians shake their heads when they mean “no” and shake their heads when they mean “yes”. Be careful answering questions with your head.
6. ones is one of the most endangered countries in Europe
According to a 2015 World Risk Report compiled by the UN, Albania is one of the countries in Europe most at risk from natural disasters. Only in such a category – with the exception of neighboring Serbia and the Netherlands – is Albania considered to be at risk of flooding. In 2010, the country was hit by major floods, forcing up to 7,000 families to evacuate.
7. It was a communist island
In the sense that no one is an island, Albania was an island. A single communist state in a sea of communism. Behind the Iron Curtain, Albania was neither part of the Soviet Union — or one of its satellite states — nor Tito-led Yugoslavia, so it was in a sense a separate communist state in the second half of the 21st century. People’s Republic of Albania became in 1976 the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania. The country even fell with most of the world communist powers. The leader (and dictator) Enver Hoxha severed ties with the USSR, withdrew from the Warsaw Pact and severed ties with the People’s Republic of China. He was also persistently hostile to neighboring Yugoslavia.
8. A military bunker island is turning into a tourist attraction
Eager to attract more tourists to the country, Albania has begun transforming Sazan Island, a Cold War-era military island complete with a bunker set up to withstand a nuclear attack, into an attraction that must be seen. The base is still technically functional, with two sailors left on the two-square-kilometer island to provide accommodation for the navies patrolling Albanian waters. Plans are being made to make the island more hospitable to visitors — however, a proposed Las Vegas-style casino has already been rejected.
9. There are even more facts related to the bunker
So we’ve had the bunker mentality and bunker islands, but that’s the real bunker cherry on the bunker cake. Albania is full of bunkers. There are on average 5.7 per square kilometer and more than 750,000 across the country. Built under the leadership of communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who feared attacks by his enemies (almost all of them), most of the bunkers were never used and were abandoned mainly after the fall of communism, although a number are being used today. good as a house, cafe or museum.
9. He recognizes a traffic light when he sees one
In 1995, drivers in Shkodra in northern Albania refused to pay a 2000 lek (£ 13) tax on traffic lights because their city had no traffic lights. “Absurdly absurd,” a driver told Reuters at the time.
10. There was a Teflon king
Zog I is not the name of the extraterrestrial invader of the earth 2120, but the name of the king of Albania from 1928 to 1939. The dictatorial ruler was the subject of about 55 assassinations, including one in which Zogu claimed to be the only modern leader to return sometimes fire on his potential killer.
11. Lord Byron was a fan
The eccentric romantic visited Albania in 1809 as part of his magnificent tour of the Mediterranean. In a letter to his mother, he wrote that Albanians have the most “magnificent” clothes in the world and told about horseback riding in the country. “The land of Albania. “Let me turn my eyes to you, savage nurse of wild men,” he wrote in the “Childe Harold Pilgrimage” of compatriots. You can follow in his footsteps, with Albania on horseback.
12. There are many flowers
Although small, Albania boasts more than 3,250 plant species, which make up 30 percent of all flora in Europe. The best places to see the country’s colorful stock are its national parks, of which there are 15: Llogara is best for living flora and fauna, while Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers sites archeological sites dating back to the Romans.
13. … but not medals
Albania has never won a medal at the Olympic Games. His most popular events are weightlifting, shooting and wrestling.
14. It was once the home of “Europe’s cannabis capital”
Lazarat, a small village in southern Albania, was once considered the “cannabis capital of Europe” and the home of a large amount of mafia activity, producing about 900 tonnes of marijuana a year. In 2014, 800 police officers were deployed in the area to crack down on the flagrant violation of the no-load weed truck load rules every day — authorities took control of the village after a five-day exchange of heavily armed residents. The US State Department, however, says Albania remains a major source country for drugs.
15. … And one of the most beautiful cities in Europe
The Albanian city of Berat, once a border town of the Byzantine Empire, boasts an Old Town designated by Unesco and was rated as one of the most beautiful places in Europe, according to, strangely, a survey by the Japanese tourist board.
Read more fantastic facts
25 amazing facts about Estonia
25 amazing facts about Moldova
25 amazing facts about Latvia
25 amazing facts about Ukraine
25 amazing facts about Kyrgyzstan