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Monday, December 22, 2014

WITH ITS NATURE IN MYRIAD SHADES OF GREEN, ITS BEAUTIFUL COASTLINE, ITS CULTURAL HERITAGE AND ITS FLAVORFUL CUISINE, NOT TO MENTION ITS ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES, ALBANIA IS A SMALL, STORYBOOK LAND ON THE ADRIATIC. FOR A RELAXING BUT ENERGIZING TRIP, HOW...



Our first stop is Tirana, a city designed by Italian artists that has saluted the world proudly as Albania’s capital since 1920. Affording visitors pleasurable experiences in its historic venues, galleries, shopping centers and gourmet restaurants, Tirana also looks quite modern with its wide, asphalt streets. As long as you’re here, take the Dajti Express to Dajti Natural Park to savor nature’s lush green and shed your urban stress on the hiking trails. Add to your list the Ethem Bey Mosque, adorned with miniatures as well as Italian-made decorations, because this is the city’s most important surviving Ottoman monument.
THE MANY FACES OF SHKODRA
One of Albania’s oldest cities, Shkodra’s (Albanian Shkodër) most important historical structure, Rozafa Citadel rises on a hill overlooking the city to the west. While in Shkodra you can visit the History Museum and the Fototeka Kombëtare “Marubi” art gallery and bask with your family in the green and blue landscape at the resorts and camping areas on Lake Skadar, the biggest lake on the Balkan peninsula. Because it is on the Adriatic coast, Albania is actually ideal for travelers seeking a holiday on the sea. Vlorë, especially, which lies between the Adriatic and the Ionian coast, and Durrës, also on the Adriatic coast and one of two major ports along the ancient Roman road known as the Via Egnatia, are famous for their long sand beaches, shallow waters and pine forests. 
THE UNESCO HERITAGE SITES
Butrinti dazzles the eye with its ancient Greek and classical Roman ruins. Gjirokastra and Berati have a place on the list thanks to their typical Ottoman period architecture. The white houses especially, perched on a mountain slope, are very photogenic. And the quarter called Mangalemi in Berati, where the houses rise in the shape of a pyramid, is dubbed the “town of a thousand windows”. The National Ethnography Museum and the Onufri Museum are some of the places you can visit in Berati. Don’t miss the ancient Hellenistic city of Antigonea on a hill east of the Drinos Valley either.
TREKKING AND MOUNTAINEERING
Fertile valleys between the snow-capped Albanian Alps, rushing rivers, wild wetlands and charming villages make Albania an ideal destination for trekking and mountaineering buffs. As you zigzag through seemingly impassable mountains on your trek amidst shades of green, orange, turquoise and lavender, you will also savor the pleasure of pristine air and inner peace. Thanks to the crystal clear springs flowing at your side, you’ll be able to keep your canteen constantly replenished. And hearing mountain tales from the villagers you meet along the way will not only relieve your loneliness but also awaken awe at this land and its people and what they have been through.
THE RICHNESS OF KRUJË
Aka Akçahisar in Ottoman times, this old city in northern Albania with its historic texture and local products is nothing short of awesome. You can find souvenirs from authentic Albanian costumes to old books and musical instruments in the market of Akçahisar with its cobbled streets and colorful shops. In addition to the market, which also boasts traditional handicrafts as well as Communist memorabilia, don’t forget to visit Krujë Castle, the Skanderbeg Museum and the city’s ethnographic museum.  
ALBANIAN CUISINE
One of the most successful marriages of East and West, Albanian cuisine is heavily influenced by Mediterranean flavors. The olives that grow the Berati region especially have even won awards for their outstanding taste. Skilled as well in the preparation of meat dishes, the Albanians are justly proud of their stews. With its “tave kosi” yoghurt, goat cheese, “chofta” sausage, lamb and rice dishes, spinach beureks, and “tulumba” sweets, Albanian food is a feast for the eye as well as the stomach.
Burgeoning Land of the Balkans
Albania lies at the crossroads of Europe due to its geo-strategic location. With a thoroughly liberalized trade regime and open to investment, the country is attractive to investors thanks to tax incentives and exemptions offered in key sectors. Albanian Ambassador to Turkey, Genci Mucaj underscores that all sectors are open to foreign investment, pointing out that Albania is a very safe place to do business. In addition to rapid infrastructural developments in energy, telecommunications and transportation, Albania’s young, well-educated population and its advances in the area of art and culture are also turning the country, which placed fourth on the New York Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2014 list, into a major hub. For queries please contact (embassy.ankara@mfa.gov.al) http://www.skylife.com/en/2014-12/balkan-beauty-albania

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