|Albania's capital city of Tirana.
VOV Reporter: Thank you for joining us today Linda, and sharing some interesting facts about Albania with us. First up, give us an overview of Albania!
Linda Boletini: Thank you, too, for having me today. First and foremost, Albanians do not call home Albania, which is an English name, instead the name for the nation in its mother tongue is Shqipëri. So Albania is Shqipëri.
Albania is located in south-eastern Europe. The country is bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the west, Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of North Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south.
The majority of Albanians are Muslim. About 70% at last count. A 2011 census shows that about 60% of Muslims are practicing Sunni and Bektashi Shia, making it the largest religion in the country. About 17% are Christian, which makes it the second largest religion, and another 17% are either undeclared or atheist.
VOV Reporter: Wow! That’s very interesting! What are some other amazing facts about Albania?
Linda Boletini: A head Shake and nod have different connotations in Albania. When an Albanian is agreeing with you, he or she will shake their head, and when they are disagreeing with you they will nod. Be warned and avoid confusion. Yes means no and no means yes.
And we have a very special tradition. In the evenings, the locals like to walk. But it’s not just a walk. Known as xhiro, it’s an official evening walk where every resident comes out to stretch their legs and catch up with their neighbours. In many towns, the roads close to cars for certain hours! Apartment blocks empty and everyone gathers at various places, walking and talking until nightfall.
VOV Reporter: What a special tradition I have to say. Everybody has a chance to exercise and tighten their social bonds everyday. Albania is popularly known as the hometown of the Nobel Peace prizewinner Mother Teresa but less is heard about its capital city. What will you say about it?
Linda Boletini: Tirana, the capital of Albania has a lot of things in common with other European capitals – except one. It’s one of the only capitals without a McDonalds (another is Vatican City). Tirana is the heart of the country with a vibrant and youthful atmosphere. Primary colours decorate the buildings, there are more public squares and pedestrian streets, as well as new businesses and shopping centres. You can check out Blloku which has great bars, as well as a grand boulevard with interesting relics from the Ottoman Empire, under which Albania was ruled in different periods from 1479 to 1912. If you’re in Tirana and find yourself craving an American style hamburger, check out Kolonat, an Albania fast food chain that has a logo suspiciously similar to McDonald’s.
VOV Reporter: Talking about food, tell us more about Albanian cuisine, please.
Linda Boletini: Sure. Albanians take great pride in their food, especially their traditional local dishes. Albania’s food is delicious and full of unique and amazing flavours. Some Albanian dishes you must try include: Byrek – layers of thin flakey pastry filled with meat, cheese or spinach. You will find these absolutely everywhere you go in Albania, and locals will eat them with any meal or as snacks on their own. Petulla – the Albanian version of fried dough (doughnuts), served with home-made honey, jam or even feta cheese. Fëgesë – green and red peppers, skinned tomatoes, onions, cottage cheese and spices, baked until it forms a thick stew-like consistency and served with bread. Tavë Kosi – lamb baked in an earthenware dish with eggs and yoghurt. This is a popular winter dish in Albania. And cheese from goats, cows, sheep. This country really loves its cheese, so make sure to make the most of the abundance of different types available when visiting Albania.
Albania is also heaven for those with a sweet tooth. With ice-cream galore and shops selling tasty sweet treats around every corner, you can’t help but snack. There are just too many amazing cakes, pastries, baklava and ice-cream flavours to choose from.
|Albania's traditional food. (Photo: https://sondortravel.com/)
VOV Reporter: Oh, my mouth is watering. It’s heaven for food lovers like me. What about drinks? Are there any special drinks in Albania?
Linda Boletini: Sure there are. Raki is the national drink, but be warned! Raki made in the villages is equal to about three normal drinks. If you’ve travelled in the Balkans, you’ve probably come across rakija or rakia, the greatest slavic drink right after Vodka, often seen in Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. But the Albanian version is quite unique. It’s an old school moonshine made from grapes that is incredibly strong. You’ll find it in most bars but be sure to pay attention to its source. If it comes out of a repurposed plastic bottle or plain glass jug, you’re probably getting a home-brew likely to put hair on your chest (as the saying goes!).
VOV Reporter: After food and drink, now, a final question, what about the traditional costumes of Albanians?
Linda Boletini: Well, the traditional dress of Albania uses wool, cotton, and silk, with embroidered patterns and symbols like the silver and gold Albanian eagle. Other symbols are pagan in origin and include moons, stars, suns, and snakes. Each region has its own traditions and would be happy to explain the subtle differences. If you’re looking for a good gift to take home, try buying a pair of Opinga – the traditional shoe worn by both men and women.
|Albania's traditional costumes. (Photo: https://www.fanpop.com/)
VOV Reporter: Thank you Linda for taking us on a wonderful tour of Albania and sharing so many amazing stories with us about this lovely country in Europe. Please take good care of yourself and we’d love to hear more interesting stories from you in the near future.