The Indo-European group of languages is usually divided into 9 sub-groups. One puts together the Romance languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Rumanian, etc…) that derivate from Latin. Another one, the Germanic languages (German, English, Dutch, Scandinavian languages, etc…). Another again the Balto-Slavic sub group of languages divided itself between the Baltic sub-sub group (Latvian, Lithuanian, etc…) and the Slavic sub-sub group (Russian, /…/, Serbian, Croatian, Slovene, etc…). Modern Greek derivates from Ancient Greek and is the only language of its sub group.
Albanian (shqip in Albanian) belongs to the Thrace (or Daco-Thrace) subgroup and derivates from the ancient Illyrian. The only other living language of the Thrace group is Armenian, though not closely related. No other language derivates from the ancient Illyrian.
Albanian has burrowed a lot of words to its neighbors (Latin and Italian, Slavic languages, Greek). It has also words also found in Rumanian and in Armenian.
Albanian has two main dialects.
Gheg, in Gheg gegnisht, in standard Albanian gegërishte, is spoken in the Northern part of Albania, in Kosovo, in Eastern Montenegro and in Western Macedonia.
Tosk,, in Albanian toskërishte, has 3 millions speakers in the south of Albania, in Epire (Çamëria in Albanian) and in southern Macedonia.
The Albanian that emigrated in the 15th century in Southern Italy speak Arbëresh, a variety of Tosk
In Albania, the limit between Gheg and Tosk is drawn by river Shkumbin.
Standard Albanian is mainly based on Tosk.
As in many places in the Balkans, Turkish coffee is traditionally done in pots of the shape shown on the photo. I do not know if in Albania it is still called Turkish coffee or if it has been renamed in the same way then the Greek that call it "Greek coffee"! Finely ground coffee is added with water and sugar, brought to the boil for a few minutes and poured delicately in a glass or a cup. You must then wait a few minutes to allow the powder to settle at the bottom. You can also add some cold water that will sediment faster. Anyway, never drink the bottom or you would not "drink" but "eat"!
In 1988, the communist red star was everywhere.
The first photo shows it built on the soil with pebbles, framed by hammers. In the center, this is not the little red book but its Albanian equivalent, the works of Comrade Enver.
The second and third photo shows a 8 meters high standing star that commemorates the liberation of the country in 1944. There was a celebration for May 1st and I shot the photo from our bus.
The money of Albania is the lek. The international abbreviation is ALL, for ALbanian Lek.
One Euro is worth around 140 lek
One US Dollar is worth around 120 lek
There are certainly other banknotes but I have in 2005 seen notes of 100, 500 and 1000 lek.
The 100 lek bears the figure of Fan S. Noli, 1882-1965.
The 500 lek bears the figure of Naim Frasheri, 1846-1900.
The 1000 lek bears the figure of Pjeter Bogdani, 1625-1689.
The 100 and 1000 lek are of the same set while the 500 is of an older issue. This is even more evident when looking at the other side of the notes (second photo)
In the 50s, Albania was more and more isolated. Enver Hoxha feared an invasion either (or both) by its neighbors and by the Allies. He initiated the building of hundred of thousands of small bunkers, growing like mushrooms everywhere in the country, built by the people of each village on almost the same plan. They are estimated between 100,000 and 600,000.
Most of them are remaining today and are either just staying in the landscape or used as a shelter for animals, when they are close to a farm. The photos show various aspects and various situations.
Photos 1 to 4 were taken in 1988, the last one in 2005.
Both in the city or in the country, there are often vine rooted in front of the houses and growing on top of the roof. In 1988, our Albanian guide explained us that the people could not own privately more than 100 m2 of land, including the house and that, like that, even with a 1m strip of land around the house, they could make their own "raki" anyway!
In 2005, from what I have seen in Shkodër (limited experience!) cafes sell Tirana beer, a local beer and Niksicko beer, coming from Montenegro. We have tried Tirana beer. It is a light beer, not unpleasant to drink when it is hot outside but I preferred the Niksicko that has more flavor.
When albanians get married, the married couple tends to drive through town in a decorated car while they hunk the horn constantly.
They will have some freinds following in their cars and they will make as much noise as possible too.
I have seen that in a few countries, but what struck me in Albania is that there is always a car driving next to them with a guy who is video filming it all.
Usually he is hanging out of the sun roof.
Field writing was in 1988 widely practiced.
First photo :
6-Dershor Kongresi 10 BGSH
In the foreground, an older inscription is hardly visible. The stones must have been used for the new one.
Second and third photo (enlargement) :
i liked albania so much that i decided to get a tatoo while i was there.
i ended up getting the double headed albanian eagle tatooed on my back.
the guy who did it was very good.
he's an artist that does tatoos aswell as paintings and the place was very clean.
unlike most tatoo guys he was well spoken and really nice.
not the criminal biker type who normally do tatoos in the western world.
all together a very cool experience and i can only recommend the guy highly.
the tatoo place is located in a small side street to a big road called suleyman delvina, right next to the post office.
It used to be the case that in Albania, a nod of the head meant 'no' and shaking one's head meant 'yes', and this custom still prevails in more rural areas, particularly with the older generations. However, younger people have adapted to the western practice of nodding for yes and shaking your head for no, which means that if you are only going on head gestures, things can get a bit confusing as you never know which one means which! Best to ask them to say 'po' (yes) or 'jo' (no).
One elderly Albanian man we were working with at Butrint asked a friend of mine through gestures for some of her tobacco. She also offered him a cigarette paper, and he shook his head, so she started to put it away, but then he started reaching for it, so she offered it again... after this was repeated a few times, we finally caught on that he was using the older method!
Albania might be the only remaining European country with a currency black market. The rates you get from the people in the street are better than those at the bank. The practice of changing money in the street seems to be semi-legal and it's done quite openly. The people in this business seemed to be quite honest but use common sense and don't try to change money at night or in front of a police station. Euros and Dollars are the only accepted currencies.
I was introduced to this drink in Tani's bar in Ksamili. It's a clear brandy made from grapes (rrushi), and is completely different to Turkish and Greek raki which tastes of aniseed - this doesn't. It's pretty strong, and does take a bit of getting used to. The major problem for me was that an Albanian 'shot' is about 3 or 4 times the amount you get in a British shot measure, and once you've had a couple you forget that. So after about 6....
...let's just say the morning after was quiet!
Much of Albanian cuisine is typical of the Balkans and indeed the Mediterranean, with heavy influence from Greek, Italian and Turkish cooking in the south of the country. Seafood is very common in the coastal areas, such as around Saranda.
The daily diet seems to almost always include cheese, bread and vegetables. Meat (particularly lamb), aubergines, peppers, olives and tomatoes are frequently part of local dishes, and feta cheese is ubiquitous.
One particular speciality, apparently originating in Turkey and no doubt spread by the Ottoman empire, is 'byrek', made of layers of phyllo pastry, generally filled with cheese (most commonly feta), meat (most commonly ground beef), or vegetables (most commonly spinach).
For breakfast, we were always provided with bread, feta, jam or honey, and tea. For lunch, there was more bread and feta, with tomatoes, cucumber, olives, eggs, and usually byrek.
The Tepelene and Glina mineral waters are very good.
New and half-finished buildings are ubiquitous in Southern Albania - the owners do as much as they can, and then often go abroad to work in order to make enough money to come back and do the next bit. And wherever you see a less than complete house, you'll also see a doll hanging somewhere. It might be small, it might be life-size, but it'll be there. These often elaborately dressed dolls (dordolece) are said to be used to protect the house until its completion against the 'syri i keq', the evil eye.
Having spent approximately 5 months in the Sheraton-Tirana, I know the "ins" and the "outs" of the...more
Rr. Veli Zaloshnja, Berati Lakes, Berat, 1233, Albania
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
Sheshi 2 Prilli, Shkoder, 1233, Albania
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
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