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ALBANIA


Albania not only has a fascinating  and mountanous natural environment but also a very rich culture. Through the ages, the country has been ruled by different people who all left their mark on the culture. The climate in this southern-european country is sunny and warm.In 1990 Albania ended 44 years of xenophobic communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven difficult as corrupt governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, a dilapidated infrastructure, widespread gangsterism, and disruptive political opponents. International observers judged local elections in 2000 to be acceptable and a step toward democratic development, but serious deficiencies remain to be corrected before the the 2001 parliamentary elections.

Albanian (Shqipja) is an Indo-European language with many Latin, Slavonic and modern Greek words. It has two main forms, Tosk and Gheg, which diverged about 1000 years ago. In 1972 the Congress of Orthography established a unified written language, which is now universally accepted for both languages. Italian is useful for travel in Albania; many Albanians learned it before 1943, but others have picked it up by watching Italian TV stations or through recent trips to Italy.

Traditionally, Albania has been 70% Sunni Muslim, 10% Roman Catholic (mostly in the north) and 20% Albanian Orthodox, making it the only European country to have a Muslim majority. From 1967 to 1990 it was also the only officially atheist state in the world, and many churches were converted into cinemas and theatres. The spiritual vacuum left after the fall of communism has in part been filled by US evangelists, but new churches and mosques are springing up all over the country.

Tirana has been the capital of Albania since W.W I. During the communist era the city expanded and became a major industrial center. The heart of Tirana is Skanderberg Square where the business center of Albania is situated. The city suffered considerably during the Second World War, which resulted in the destruction of numerous important historic buildings. Some of the most important monuments are : the Palace of Culture with its concert hall, the Mohammed Dashi mosque and the Museum of National History.
The main road of Tirana is Rruga Bajram Curri. Alongside this street are charming old houses that date from Ottoman times. Over the Lana river streches the Tanners Bridge, built in the 18th century. Furthermore, one can visit the Petrela castle (Greek-Roman times). What can be seen today are the ruins of the castle together with the remainders of an old mosque.
 


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