Albania’s smaller cities have a lot to offer in terms of architecture and heritage. We visited several and enjoyed them all.
In the south of the country this city was a major trading centre and was the birthplace of the communist leader Enver Hoxha. Once part of the Byzantine empire it became orthodox Christian then mainly Muslim. It escaped the modernisation of the 1960’s and 70’s so many of its houses are preserved as cultural monuments. They are often five stories high with the lower floors used as stables with the upper floors for the extended family. There is a fascinating ethnographic museum showing the traditional way of life. The shoes were my favourite!
At the castle an American plane is on display. This was shot down as a spy plane or it was forced to land at a nearby airport due to technical difficulties – choose your version.
Durres is a port and Albania’s second largest city. Its amphitheatre was constructed by Emperor Trajan in the second century AD. It was partly destroyed by earthquakes in the sixth and tenth centuries . Then it was rediscovered in 1966 and has only been partly excavated. The coastal promenade is lined with 1990’s built high rise hotels. As you walk along there are statues commemorating the resistance to Mussolini in 1939.
Berat is known as the town of a thousand windows. Its white houses cover the hillside beneath the castle. It’s bridge over the river Osum is a famous landmark. This is a great place to walk around the cobbled streets.
Kruja was the twelfth century capital under the national hero Skanderberg but is now a village famous for its old bazaar. It is worth the trip so see the traditional crafts and the authentic architecture.
Albania really is underrated as a tourist destination. There is plenty to see if you’re interested in history or different cultures and the beaches are good!