Independent of the Ottomans, Albania still spent the next several decades occupied at various times by the Greeks, Bulgarians, and Serbs and then spent close to a decade as the Kingdom of Albania. World War II brought about toying with Fascism, and an occupation by Italy followed by the slide into Communism and the beginning of Enver Hoxha's forty plus year reign as this tiny country's leader. Under Hoxha, Albania was allied at various times with the U.S.S.R., China, and finally no one as they entered into an extended period of self-imposed isolationism. Albania might geographically be located in Europe but by closing her borders to the rest of the world, time passed this country by.
When Albania finally rejoined the rest of the western world in the spring of 1991, she had decades of lost time to make up for. Socially, developmentally, and physically Albania lagged far behind her Eastern European and even Balkan counterparts. (Some would argue that there just isn't a country that is comparable to Albania). Like any emerging democracy, Albania has experienced her own share of growing pains over the past twenty years; failed pyramid schemes, intensifying partisan politics, failing infrastructure, rampant corruption, and a lack of rule of law have hindered Albania's modernization all while making this unique country what it is today. This is truly a wild place where some days I love being here and others I find myself counting down until I can leave. For me, this is definitely a place of extremes. Throughout all of this, however, individual Albanians have an intense sense of national pride that has only been intensified over the past few months.
|Tirana International Hotel|
|Skenderbeg Square- Tirana|
|Pride in the countryside|