Population & Language
There are 3 million people living in Albania, 1 of which all live in Tirana, hence very few people in other towns. But believe it or not around 10 million Albanian people live around in world, mainly in Kosovo and Turkey.
The people barley speak English so get ready to play charades. But other than that Albanians have a lot of respect for tourists and they do their best to help in any way they can.
Their language is very unique. It doesn’t derive from any other language. In fact neighbouring countries do not understand anything.
During communism it was illegal to have a faith and follow a religion. In 1969 they started to destroy all churches and mosques and that’s why Albania was the number 1 atheist country in the world.
Nowadays, 60% of the population are Muslim, 7% catholic, Ortodox 24% and the rest atheist or follow other faiths. But their values were lost during communism. In fact you do not feel their Muslim culture even though more than half are.
When Albanians want to make a deal, they do not agree in God’s name since they have different faiths but do it in the name of their national hero.
Mother Teresa’s family were Albanians. They lived in Macedonia. Her family later moved and lived in Tirana. She wanted to extend her to help people in Albania during communism but the leaders told her that Albania had no poor people and didn’t need her help. But after fall of communism she built various homes to help the poor here.
Albanian driving skills & love for Mercedes!
Albanians are not the best drivers in the world. This is because during Communism, only 2000 cars where on the road, mostly by people of the party itself. This is because they made it very hard for them to drive. They made people take a 3 year course to learn how to drive! Wow other people get Degrees in that period of time!
I though Mercedes sponsored Albania because where ever you are there are all types of Mercedes. Expect to see as much as 10 on the same small road. The reason being is that after the fall of communism, the first cars brought into the country were from Germany. The old Mercedes used the same gas used for tractors in agriculture, hence it was more feasible for them to use.
Apparently they would rather buy an old Mercedes then a new Fiat for the same price! Apart from that people who do not afford to live comfortably still buy fancy cars, they love to impress people.
Everyone sells corn on the cob on every corner of the street. Sometimes you find their traditional hotdog-like baguette called khofte.
KFC has finally made it to Albania this year in 2016. But this is one of the few countries which remains without MC Donalds. There is lack of foreign investment mainly because of problems in property.
Along the road, you can see little mushroom like buildings, called bunkers. In 1971, Enver Hoxha was super paranoid of being attacked that he built a staggering 173,371 bunkers, one for every 11 residents. While on testing the engineer who designed them stayed inside while being heavily bombed by a tank and survived. This made the country believe that they Albania was the best
Country in the world and could defend themselves against anyone.
One will see many unfinished buildings in Albania, this is due to the recession which affected Greece and Italy who stopped investing.
History & Communism
Albania was under Communism till 1991.
They still held elections where they could only vote for them so they always won 99.9% votes.
Everyone had to go to 2 years of military, including women.
Albania was being inside the Balkans did not follow the trajectory of neighbouring countries in recent history. They has China as their ally who invested in Albania in the 70s, resulting in them not being part of ex-great Yugoslavia.
Communism wanted people to get smart. But not too smart. Freedom of speech was limited too. If you said or drew something against communism, you’d get jail time.
To give its people the impression of economic stability, everyone had job in Albania when run by the Communists. But 10 people would be asked to do the job of 1 person. Which made them feel inadequate by not having any sense of accomplishment (and low wage).
Everything was controlled – TV programmes, if they could afford one, would show how people in USA has homeless people, to make them feel better than the rest of the world.
In Albania, there were no homeless people. Everyone had home, but they would be 3 generations living in 2 room home.
In 1991 Albania had its first free election, however legal democracy doesn’t mean that the country is working right. The people feel that they are still having problems right now with corruption and media control.
Albanians feel that they want to improve their country and wholeheartedly want to be part of EU. Not necessarily because they understand the political implications, but rather because they want to live in a country that has the standard of other countries within the EU.
The Prime Minister of Albania is a painter by profession. Using his artistic mind, he wanted to beautify the city and commissioned a project whereby ex-communist buildings on the main road would be re-painted in bright colours.
For more information about Road tripping in Albania click here.