Did you know?
1. The Karavasta Lagoon is one of the largest lagoons in the Mediterranean Sea and is home to the Dalmatian Pelican, as well as to over 250 other species: birds, mammals, and amphibians. Five percent of the world’s Dalmatian Pelican population is found in this lagoon. Due to the biodiversity this lagoon is part RAMSAR convention since 1994.
2. The first printing house in the Balkans was established in 1720 in Voskopoja, which is to be found in the eastern Albania. This printing house produced a total of nineteen books, mainly Services to the Saints but also the “Introduction of Grammar” by a local scholar. Moreover the city had an orphanage for children, known as Orphanodioiketerion, possibly the first in the post-Byzantine Orthodox world, a hospital and a total of twenty four churches.
3. Mother Teresa, whose given name was Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, was an ethnic Albanian. Mother Teresa’s work has inspired generations throughout the world. In her honor the national airport is named after as: the Tirana International Airport “Nënë Tereza”.
4. The second largest Roman Amphitheater in the Balkans is located in Albania’s port-city of Durrës. Built in the 2nd century AD, the theater has a capacity to host as many as 20,000 spectators, about one-sixth of the population of nowadays Durrës.
5. Two of the seven “purple codices” written from the sixth to the eighteenth centuries are preserved in the UNESCO city of Berat in Albania. The two Albanian codices are very important for the global community and the development of ancient biblical, liturgical and hagiographical literature.
6. Onufri is “famous” as the most important icon painter of 16th century in Albania. He painted biblical and ecclesiastic motives according to the Byzantine canon. In his works, he depicted Albanian landscapes, towns, peasants, shepherds and especially knights. The most characteristic feature of Onufri’s pictures is the so-called “Onufrian red”.
7. Did you know that Lonely Planet ranked Albania as the number one recommended destination to visit on 2011? It was not so long ago, when the Balkans were considered an ‘only for the brave’ journey destination. Since backpackers started coming to Albania in the 1990s, tales have been told in ‘keep it to yourself’ style. What they found were amazing azure beaches, good cuisine, heritage sites, nightlife, affordable adventures and the possibility of old-style unplanned journeys.
8. The main legacy of the Albanian national hero, Skanderbeg, was to stop the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in Western Europe. His contribution is commemorated in monuments, statues, and squares named after him in Rome (Italy), Vienna (Austria), Geneva (Switzerland), Michigan (USA), Skopje (Macedonia), and Pristina (Kosovo), Paris (France), Spezzano (Italy) and Brussels (Belgium).
9. Albania is part of the three most important lakes of the Balkans Peninsula.
Shkodra Lake is located in northwestern Albania and is the largest lake in the entire Balkan Peninsula, with an area of 370 km².
Ohrid Lake is located in the southeastern part of Albania and is the deepest lake in the entire Balkan Peninsula, with a maximum depth of nearly 300 m.
Prespa Lake consists of two branches, Great and Small Prespa. The latter branch cuts deeply into Albania’s Galicica Mountain. It is the highest tectonic lake in the Balkans with an altitude of 853 m.
10. Did you know that the origins of iso – polyphony, one of the worlds most ancient a Capella singing traditions, can be traced to the Illyrians, the ancestors of modern Albanians? The term “iso” refers to the drone, which accompanies the iso-polyphonic singing and is related to the “ison” of Byzantine church music, where the drone group accompanies the song. This unique musical tradition was recognized by UNESCO in 2005 when it was added to the list of “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”
11. The Albanian language is one of the oldest living languages in the world and a stand-alone branch of the Indo-European language family and is now spoken by close to eight million people around the world. In addition to a large diaspora, over 80,000 Arbëresh speak Albanian in Southern Italy. The estimated 260,000 Arbëresh are direct descendants of Skanderbeg following a mass migration after his death in the late 15th century.
12. During the nearly forty-year leadership of Communist period, over 700,000 bunkers were built in the country – one for every four inhabitants. The bunkers are still a ubiquitous sight in Albania for visitors, with an average of twenty four bunkers for every square kilometer. Albania is maybe unique with its bunkers where some of them are decorated with brightful colors. Pencil holders and ashtrays in the shape of bunkers have become one of the country’s most popular tourist souvenirs.