Albania is a country rich in diverse, beautiful landscapes of forests, mountains and lakes and has many places full of interesting historical buildings and sites.
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Tirana, the Capital city, is a lively place full of buildings in many different bright colours. You can find Skanderbeg Square in the middle of the city where there are some important and interesting buildings and landmarks, such as the Clock Tower which was built in the 19th century, and visitors can climb to the top to see great views across the Square. The impressive Et’hem Bey Mosque is also in the Square, and was built in the 19th century with its tall minaret, beautiful frescoes and painted dome interior. Also in the City is Tirana Castle which is the remains of an ancient fortress built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Among the impressive new buildings in Tirana is the outstanding Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral with unique modern architecture and bell tower, together with many superb icons inside the building. Also, St. Paul Catholic Cathedral is another impressive modern building and has lovely stained glass windows.
In the area of Tirana known as The Block, there are lots of restaurants, cafes, shops and chic boutiques. It is a vibrant and stylish place where people like to go and eat, shop and meet up, and there are lots of popular night clubs around this area. There are a number of museums to visit in Tirana such as the National Historic Museum which is also in Skanderbeg Square, with its large colourful mosaic across the front of the building. This museum has several sections which include ancient, middle ages, Renaissance and Iconography.
The National Art Gallery houses interesting collections of Albanian art from the 19th century onwards, and the National Archaeological Museum of Albania houses collections from Illyrian, Roman and Greek history and includes sculptures and beautiful mosaics.The Opera and Ballet Theatre would also be a great visit with many fine performances, and there are lots of festivals held in Tirana which include film, art, jazz and wine. There are also lovely parks in the city which include Grand Park which has a lake where you can enjoy the scenic surroundings of the area with the mountains in the background.
The city of Berat is rich is historical places to visit and is surrounded by scenic landscapes. The Old Town of Berat is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and retains its traditional feel, with streets of cobbles and attractive white hillside houses. Berat Castle, on the hill by the River Osum, is an impressive building with a courtyard and old buildings, including churches, still remain inside the walls. The Byzantine Church of St. Mary of Blachernae was built in the 13th century with its many lovely, colourful murals that you can see on the walls inside. Interesting mosques that still remain in the city include the Sultan’s Mosque built in the 16th century with a ceiling that is intricately carved, and the 16th Lead Mosque. The 19th century Bachelors’ Mosque is ornately decorated on the outside and inside with mural paintings.
Among the museums to visit is the National Ethnographic Museum which houses collections displaying the history of Berat, including a reconstruction of a medieval street with shops, and there are collections of furniture, tools and household items. Around the city are the Tomorri mountains with many forests of pine, along with many fruit trees, and an imposing limestone gorge. The Osumi River in Berat is very attractive with its bridges that include the Gorica footbridge made of stone.
The Albanian Landscape
The Valbona National Park, among the Prokletije Mountains, is an area of wonderful scenery where you can explore the breathtaking landscapes. The Valbona River flows here together with many natural springs, along with pretty waterfalls and the water is crystal clear. Visiting the region you can explore the scenic peaks, canyons, ridges and lovely lakes and take in the fresh, clean air of the region. The Park is abundant in lush forests with trees such as spruce, pine, beech and chestnut.
You can see many interesting rock formations of limestone in the peaks and there are impressive steep, rocky slopes. The wildlife around the region is rich and diverse and the animals living in the park area include wolves, bears, deer and lynx, with species of birds such as eagles and vultures. The Park is great for hiking around and enjoying all the beautiful natural landscapes.
The Lure National Park, in north east Albania with the Lure Mountains, is another beautiful area where you can enjoy lovely natural landscapes and wildlife. There are several beautiful glacial lakes within the Park which are very popular with visitors and locals and include the Lake of the Flowers where you can see its surface covered in an amazing bed of water lilies during the summer. The wildlife is abundant in this region with many species of plants and colourful flowers to enjoy amid the scenic landscapes. You can enjoy activities such as hiking and horse riding around the Park, and the region is rich in dense forests that include trees such as beech and various pines. In the Park region live animals such as pine marten, roe deer and brown bear.
Some traditional dishes in Albania include dolma which is vegetables, such as cabbage or vine leaves, peppers or tomatoes, with a filling of minced meat or rice, and byrek which is a pie made with vegetables, feta cheese, meat or cabbage. Stews are common dishes and can be made with various ingredients, and one such stew is sataras which is made with tomatoes, paprika and onions. Kofte are meatballs which are also a common dish, and are made with minced meat such as pork or beef, onions and spices. They are often eaten tarator which is a type of sauce made with yoghurt, cucumber and garlic.
Popular Albanian desserts include revani which is semolina that is cooked and soaked in a sweet syrup, and can have a topping of ingredients such as almonds or walnuts, and tulumba which is batter that is fried and covered with syrup. Another favourite is baklava which is layered pastry with a filling of honey and nuts. Popular alcoholic drinks consumed in Albania include beer, wine and rakia which is fruit brandy, and favourite non-alcoholic drinks include mineral and carbonated water, buttermilk and yoghurt.
Visiting Albania will always be pleasurable, whether you are looking around old mosques and churches and fascinating museums, or exploring the wonderful scenery of the country.
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