Albania: 20 Facts You Might Not Have Known

Albania is a country in South Eastern Europe. There is probably a lot that you don’t know about this country (which is  located on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Sea), but today my aim is to change that.

Here are 20 Facts That You Might Not Have Known About Albania

1. Shqipëri (what the locals call their country) shares land borders with Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia (formerly known as Macedonia) and Greece. The country shares maritime borders with Greece, Montenegro and Italy.

Tirana - Albania

2. Albania has an area of 28,748 square kilometres (11,100 square miles). That’s an area slightly smaller than the US state of Maryland.

3. Albanians will shake their head when they mean yes, and nod when they mean no! It’s something very useful to be aware of if you ever plan to visit this country.

4. The locals believe that if you site a scarecrow in the grounds of a property (whilst it is being built), it will keep jealousy from the neighbors far away! This tradition is also seen as a good luck charm.

5. Albania was once under Ottoman rule (from 1479 to 1912). The country was invaded by Italy (which formed Greater Albania) before becoming a protectorate of Nazi Germany. After World War 2, the country became a satellite state of the Soviet Union. The People’s Republic of Albania was born in 1944. The communists were eventually voted out in general elections of 1992. Today Albania is a Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic.

6. Albania’s highest peak is called Maje e Korabit. It’s sometimes referred to as Golem Korab. The peak is North Macedonia’s highest peak as well – it’s directly on the border.

Maje e Korabit - Albania

7. According to January 2020 estimates, 2.8 million people call this country their home. Tirana is the capital of the country. It’s also the country’s largest city with an estimated population of 418,000.

8. There are thousands of bunkers across the country. They were originally built during the rule of Enver Hoxta (in case of an invasion). They were designed to withstand atomic and chemical attacks and sometimes built underground. Many of them have been abandoned, but some of them have actually been turned into funky museums.

9. Raki is the Albanian national drink. It’s a very potent alcoholic beverage. If you drink it from a bar, you’re usually relatively safe, but if you partake in the home-made version from local villages, you’ll probably have one sniff and be out cold. It’s strong.

10. Opinga are traditional Albanian shoes worn by both genders. They are made of one leather skin, formed to the feet with leather or wool strips.

11. You might consider this to be one of those weird laws, but speedboats are banned here. This law exists to curb human trafficking to Italy and Greece.

12. Albania was the world’s first Atheist country. Religion was banned here between 1941 and 1992 (when the country was under communist rule). Today about 60% of the country’s population is Muslim (a legacy left behind from Ottoman rule). 17% of the population is Christian.

Mosque in Albania

13. Before 1991, there were between 3,000 and 7,000 cars in the country. Under communist rule, private car ownership was banned. Only the highest ranking government officials and some businesses could own a car. The rest of the population used horse drawn carriages and bicycles to get around. When communist rule ended, getting a car was considered to be a status symbol (and proof that capitalism was alive and well in the country).

14. Lazarat (a small village in the countryside) is referred to as the ‘cannabis capital’ of Albania. A large amount of cannabis is exported to Europe from this village.

Lazarat - Albania

15. Albania is part of NATO, but not part of the European Union. The lek is their currency, but Euros are widely accepted as payment throughout the country though.

16. According to 2015 figures, the country’s literacy rate was 98.7%. The male literacy rate was 99.2% and female literacy rate was 98.3%. Albanian is the language of instruction in all public schools. Primary and secondary education is FREE (in case you were wondering).

17. More than 10 million Albanians live outside the country. After the fall of communism and the collapse of the economy, it saw the largest emigration movement in Europe since World War 2. Many of them have settled in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Turkey.

18. Spain isn’t the only country in the world to have siestas. During the hottest part of the day (2 PM to 5/6 PM), most shops will close to have a sort of siesta! During this time Albanian’s will relax and take some time out to drink coffee or do nothing whatsoever.

19. The heroine of Albania is Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu.  She is better known as Mother Teresa.  She was born in Skopje (which is now a part of Northern Macedonia). She is the only Albanian in history to win a Nobel prize.

Mother Teresa - Albanian

20. Tirana and the Vatican City are the only 2 European capital cities that doesn’t have a McDonald’s. In fact, there isnt a single McDonald’s restaurant in the country.

Well, there you have it, 20 facts you might not have known about Albania. I trust that you’ve learned something interesting. If you have, feel free to share this article with your friends on social media to spread the knowledge. Sharing is caring after all.

Watch this space for updates in the Facts category on Running Wolf’s Rant.

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Henno Kruger

Blogger, Desktop Activist, Twitter / Facebook Addict, Music Festival Addict, Avid lover of South African music, Founder and owner of Running Wolf's Rant

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