We had a short stroll through Parku Vangjush Mio during a day trip to Korce in March 2012.
This rather sorry looking park is located in the centre of the city, just a short walk away from the Old Bazaar.
In fairness, we visited at a time when the city was just emerging from the cold weather of winter. There was still a significant covering of snow on the surrounding mountains. But even so, the park looked and felt neglected. The flower beds were bare, the grass was parched and the central water feature was devoid of water (and looked to have been dry for quite some time).
A number of benches, in various states of disrepair, are provided along the concrete paths that traverse the park.
One positive thing about the park is that ample litter bins are provided and the park certainly wasn't litter-strewn.
Parku Vangjush Mio may be a livelier and more exciting place on a sunny afternoon in the summer, but that was difficult to imagine on the day that we visited.
Vangjush Mio, after whom the park is named, was an impressionist painter who was born in Korce in 1891.
The statue of an Albanian warrior stands in front of the cathedral, in the middle of the eponymous square. He wears the traditional clothing and holds a gun.
It was sculpted in 1937 by Odhise PASKALI, the greatest Albanian sculptor, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the independance of Albania.
Since cereals are widely cultivated around Korcë and since the water is low in calcium (dissolved limestone), Korcë is a good spot for beer making. Korcë has been the seat of a brewery since 1928. Under the Hoxha regime, it became property of the state. It was bought in 2004 by a local investor, Irfan Hysenbelliu. He built new buildings in the traditional style and a new line of beer processing was set-up by Czech engineers. Korça bier is, together with Tiranë bier the two main Albanian beers. Korça is more aromatic than Tiranë
I took in 1988 a photo of what was then the Morava cinema. On my may 2011 visit, while I was driving in Korcë, I was surprised to notice that it seemed to be still there, almost unchanged. Unfortunately, I could not park to take a photo. Actually, I was not sure that it was the same but I later found on the web a photo that showed that it did still existed, with just a new painting! amazing, isn’t it ?
I have even the full address : Kinema Millennium, Bulevardi Republika, Korçë Tel. 0824 5015 Fax 0824 3870.
I have found that it was built in 1927 in an Italian style and was renewed in 2002, keeping its look.
When the market is over, each merchant packs his goods. Most of them carry them into a car or a small truck but there still remain some that use a horse drawn cart, such as this one. No air pollution, this is fully organic !
What is sold on markets as Albanian tea in Albania, Macedonian tea in Macedonia, etc or better as mountain tea or home tea, is Syderitis hyssopifolia a calcicole mountain plant found in the Alps and in the Balkans over 1500 m. In the whole Balkans, it is used as an infusion, as tea. In France, it used to prepare a mountain liquor “liqueur de crapaudine” with an interesting taste.
As soon as the morning market is finished, street cleaning begins. This is done by dozens of women wearing a bright orange reflecting jacket and their only tool is a broom made of a bundle of sticks of twigs attached on a handle. I have been said that this was often the job of Roms.
The old market extends both in a covered building, mostly for cheese and eggs and in an open air market for all other goods including fruits and vegetables.
I will give more photos in my travelogue “old market”.
It stands behind the old market, near Bulevar Fan Noli and Bulevar Kiço Greço.
The Ilias Mirahori Mosque is one of the oldest mosques of Albania. It was built in 1484 by Iljaz Hoxha, also named Iliaz Bey Mirahori. Mirahor is a title given by the sultan, something like “chief rider”. It was built where previously stand a Byzantine church. Guide books write that it lost its minaret in an earthquake. In May 2011 it had a brand new looking minaret that must have been built recently.
The Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral stands on the Albanian warrior’s Square. It was built in 1992 as soon the regime that had forbidden religions fell. Korcë is the seat of an Orthodox metropolitan bishop and its cathedral is the largest in Albania and the second largest in the Balkans. It stands in every photo of Korcë.
It is also named the renovated Shën Gjergj (St. George) Orthodox cathedral.
More than 6500 objects, mainly Christian Orthodox icons are housed in the museum, and also some Catholic religious wood sculptures mainly found in the Shkodra region north of Albania. Very interesting museum. Till I visited that place for example I did not know that saints have been painted with dog head and face in Albanian Byzantine art at those times... At first thought, it seemed a little strange / demeaning... but later on I assumed that painters were probably alluding to the faithfullness and loyalty of the dog to its owner just like the Saints were loyal to God.
PICTURES ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT ALLOWED IN THE MUSEUM.
The quality and interest of much of the work exhibited is absolutely stunning (esp the colour and the geometricality), and not having given myself enough time to enjoy it in the morning I went back in the afternoon. There was no modern English guidebook available then (in early 2008) - just a little from the Hoxha era - but if your Byzantine iconography is rusty there's a young, extremely civilised curator who will be more than happy to explain, and give you as much time as you want.
Religion and religious institutions have been experiencing a revival since the laws prohibiting all forms of religous observance were repealed in the early 1990's