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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Turismo: Albania da scoprire, tra città ottomane e archeologia Da Berat a Argirocastro fino a Butrinto, viaggio tra siti Unesco, Tourism: Albania isn't only about sea, culture main asset Tirana intends to improve infrastructure, investors welcome

Il museo Onufri di BeratIl museo Onufri di Berat
(di Cristiana Missori)
(ANSAmed) - TIRANA - Case basse, bianche con larghi finestroni e tetti rossi, incorniciate da tralci di vite e cespugli di rose profumate: lungo le strade strette e tortuose della cittadella del XIV secolo si vendono tessuti ricamati, tovaglie di lino, marmellate e miele della vicina montagna sacra di Tomorr. Qua e là, alcune chiese ortodosse e qualche moschea.
Dalla città di Berat che pare sospesa nel tempo e nello spazio, inizia il viaggio nella cultura e nelle tradizioni dell'Albania centro-meridionale. Esempio di architettura ottomana per la quale nel 2008 si guadagna l'ingresso nella lista dei Beni patrimonio dell'Umanità stilata dall'Unesco, la ''città dalle mille finestre'' custodisce preziose icone in stile bizantino realizzate nel XVI secolo dal maestro Onufri (più importante pittore albanese) ed esposte all'interno del museo a lui dedicato e ospitato nella Chiesa della Dormizione di Santa Maria (realizzata nel 1797 sulle rovine di una chiesa del X secolo). Delle 42 chiese bizantine che esistevano all'interno delle mura della cittadella (o Kala, dall'arabo) oggi ne rimangono soltanto otto. Dalla città dalle mille finestre a quella ''dalle mille pietre'': Argirocastro (che significa fortezza argentata), altro Patrimonio dell'Umanità che racchiude fra le sue mura la culture greca, romana, turca e albanese. Simbolo della città dai tetti in pietra di losa è, come dice il nome stesso, l'imponente fortezza che ogni 4 anni ospita un importante Festival nazionale del Folklore (nato nel 1968) che vede arrivare da tutto il Paese, ma anche dal Kosovo, dalla Macedonia, dal Montenegro, dall'Italia con gli arberesh e dalla diaspora, artisti che fino a oggi grazie ai loro canti polifonici mantengono viva l'eredità culturale e le tradizioni albanesi. I loro testi raccontano storie di eroi contro l'invasore ottomano e canti epici - testimonianza di un fiero spirito di autonomia etnica - e di amore. Lungo la salita che porta al castello, all'intersezione di cinque stradine inizia il cuore della città vecchia, dove ad alternarsi con i caffè tradizionali sono le botteghe di artigianato locale, ceramiche dipinte a mano, tessuti di lana e cotone. Imperdibili, sono le case ottomane appartenute ad alcune famiglie nobili locali. Come palazzo Skenduli, oggi sotto protezione Unesco. Con un pizzico di fortuna a fare visitare le sue stanze affrescate e finemente decorate con intarsi lignei è proprio il proprietario, Saim Skendull, che rappresenta la nona generazione di questo importante casato. Lasciando l'interno del Paese e proseguendo verso Sud per raggiungere il parco archeologico di Butrinto, è possibile fare un salto a Saranda, o anche Porto Edda, come fu chiamata tra il 1940 e il 1944, in onore di Edda Ciano, figlia del Duce.
L'ottimo pesce e la vista sull'isola greca di Corfù per un attimo fanno dimenticare le brutture e gli eco-mostri costruiti praticamente sul mare che fino allo scorso anno spuntavano come funghi. Poco lontano, si trova il sito di Butrinto (circa 18 km da Saranda), che testimonia del passaggio di greci, romani, bizantini, turchi e veneziani, inserito nella lista del Patrimonio Unesco nel 1992. In questo bellissimo parco edifici ellenistici del 4 secolo a.C., tra cui il teatro - in cui vengono regolarmente organizzati balletti e spettacoli - si alternano a resti di templi, fontane, bagni e monumenti funebri di epoca romana e chiese di epoca bizantina, come testimoniano il battistero del VI secolo scoperto nel 1928 dalla missione archeologica italiana guidata da Luigi Maria Ugolini, che rappresenta per grandezza il secondo battistero nell'Impero http://www.ansamed.info/ansamed/it/notizie/rubriche/turismo/2015/06/25/turismoalbania-da-scopriretra-citta-ottomane-e-archeologia_5f4db587-ba1c-4f07-94aa-42c5a48bbaae.html 
Tourism, Albania wants to be known also for its cultural heritageTourism, Albania wants to be known also for its cultural heritage
(ANSAmed) - TIRANA - Albania, the Country of Eagles, is opening up to cultural tourism in a bid to boost another one of the industry's assets beyond the seaside resorts of the Ionian coast, whose landscape has been ravaged by years of mismagement and savage exploitation. From Tirana - with its Fascist-epoch architecture, to Berat "the city of a thousand windows", with its narrow windy alleys, red-roofed white houses, ancient mosques and Orthodox churches decorated with frescoes, from the south, boasting the ancient town of Argirocastro with its stone roofs and facades covered with roses and hundred-year old vines, up to the archaelogical park of Butrinto, a few kilometers from the border with Greece, Albania is ready to welcome tourists and investors.

The path is slow and complicated by the fact that infrastructure - both in terms of accomodation and transport - still needs to be developed in order to make internal travel easier, but things are getting better, Albanian Minister of Tourism, Arben Ahmetaj told ANSAmed.

"Two years ago we were still chasing numbers" he said.

Tourists visiting Albania are mainly Kosovars (38% of arrivals), Macedonians (14%); Greeks (10%), Montenegrins, (6%) and Italians (5%), but we are starting to see visitors from Eastern and Northern Europe aswell". Albania is not targeting any specific type of tourist yet.

''We cannot afford to nitpick the kind of tourists we'd like" admitted Ahmetaj. "What is certain is that we need to improve our infrastructures". There is "a budget of almost 300 million dollars. We are evaluating different projects for the development of port infrastructures, the road system as well as airports".

The only airport available to tourists, at the moment, is the one in Tirana, but there is a plan to build another one in Saranda, in the south. "We are also thinking about another aiport in Valona" together with the option of reactiving the one in Kukes in the north of the country, added Ahmetaj. As of date, the number of hotels in Albania is approximately 728 with a capacity of 29.700 beds, but with regard to sleeping accomodations, categories are not particularly clear cut.

A few weeks ago, a foreign company with expertise in the tourism sector was asked to evaluate, classify and valide Albanian hotel establishments.

Italian investors are welcome, stressed the minister. The sector has so far attracted, for the most part, Greek, Austrian, Turkish and Arab ventures.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Daily Mail: Himara beach,Albania one of the best Mediterranean beaches

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Daily Mail has listed the most beautiful beaches you can find in the Mediterranean Sea, entitling the article “From an island you can walk to from the shore to a stunning cove only accessible by 347 steps: The most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean revealed” where Himara beach is included.
“For those looking for a relaxing getaway, look no further than these mostly unspoiled (and beautiful) beaches,” says the article, which describes Albania as “a region full of white sandy beaches, olive and citrus trees and stunning Byzantine architecture. Also known for its seaside promenade, Himare has a largely ethnically Greek population, meaning that the culture has been preserved through the old town of Kastro and the local Greek taverns. Take a dip in the Ionian Sea and enjoy the breathtaking 2000-metre high Llogara mountains to the northeast, all while perfecting your tan.”
Photos of Himara beach 
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Photos: Instagram / allabouthimaraalba.aslinsagramalbanialedionqoshku
- See more at: http://invest-in-albania.org/daily-mail-himara-beach-one-of-the-best-mediterranean-beaches/#sthash.UeLFdwtO.dpuf

Newsweek: Albania has long been a mystery to the West


This is not an original article of invest-in-albania.org.  The original article was published by Newsweek and written by Harry Eyres, under the title “Europe’s internal frontier: Albania has long been a mystery to the West”.
I always thought the extremely ancient, shaggy, white-haired character in the long-running TV series The Wombles was misnamed: he should have been Great-Uncle Albania, not Great-Uncle Bulgaria. Bulgaria, after all, is relatively staid; it is even a member of the EU.
Albania is the truly wild and woolly European nation: Edward Gibbon called it “a country within sight of Italy less known than the interior of America”. Completely closed for decades during the paranoid dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, Albania has been opening up for a while, but still seems to receive less attention than it deserves.
A couple of stylish gestures have recently made the news: four Albanian religious leaders, Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Bektashi, marched hand in hand in Paris on 11 January in support of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre; at the same march their prime minister Edi Rama sported a tricolour of blue, white and red pencils in his breast pocket, defending both freedom of speech (he is a writer) and supporting the wounded Republic.
I must admit that my interest in the Albanian-British Festival of Culture in London and Anglo-Albanian relations more generally, has personal or familial roots: my great-grandfather was the first British ambassador to Albania in the 1920s and maintained close ties with the country until his death in 1944.
He was not the only Englishman of his generation, and earlier ones, to have a strong and, perhaps, rather romantic interest in a country stuck in a mysterious warp of time, space, culture and religion.
The poet and artist Edward Lear spent several months visiting Albania and Macedonia in 1848 and published a beautiful and fascinating illustrated travel-diary, Journals of a Landscape Painter in the Balkans, in 1851. Lear and his work are celebrated in an exhibition at Europe House of paintings by the Albanian artist Bashkim Izano, inspired by Lear, which is the centerpiece of the Festival.
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A certain romanticism informs the work of both painters but Izano’s is the more fantastical and surreal. In fact Izano’s large and quite gaudy oil paintings appear more influenced by Lear’s nonsense verse, and the accounts of his adventures in the Journals, than by his relatively conventional if exquisite landscapes.
Dervishes in tall hats dance or wrestle in mid-air, suspended above phantasmagorical landscapes that recall El Greco’s view of Toledo. Folklore is alluded to then subverted, especially in the painting in which a group of young girls divest themselves of heavy traditional garb.
Lear does mention “some few … very pretty” girls but the stronger connection is the dervishes: one night in a “pig-sty dormitory” Lear was kept awake by “a whirring, humming sound, followed by strange whizzing and mumblings”. These turned out to emanate from a dervish gyrating on the floor above.
Lear’s affection and fascination for and with Albania shine through the pages of his journals. He loved the magnificent landscape, flora and fauna, and seems to have inspired affection and amusement among the people he met: his imitations of a train and steamboat reduce a young Turkish nobleman to helpless giggles. Izano returns the compliment, portraying Lear as a kind of English dervish, a tender hierophant of imaginary worlds.
Influenced by surrealism and the work of Chagall, Izano’s homage to Lear is free of the restrictions or prudery of Victorian England. Eroticism is more frank and does not have to be expressed obliquely, through the poignant impossibilities of the owl and the pussycat or the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo. But if Izano has freed up Lear’s sexuality, Lear may have liberated Izano’s imagination.
The most distinguished contemporary manifestation of Anglo-Albanian relations is the work of the historian and polymath Sir Noel Malcolm. Malcolm’s interest in Albanian culture and history was intensified by the wars of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia. He foresaw the attempted ethnic cleansing of Kosovo and dispelled bogus historical claims in Kosovo: A Short History.
His achievement in his latest book Agents of Empire: Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits and Spies in the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean World is to show how a distinctively Albanian strand is woven into the history of relations between Western European powers and the Ottoman empire; or to put it in his words, to see how “Albanians crop up everywhere”. The result is as fantastical as anything dreamt up by Lear or Izano.
Source/photos: Newsweek , Colours of Albania
- See more at: http://invest-in-albania.org/newsweek-albania-has-long-been-a-mystery-to-the-west/#sthash.v36bjJr9.dpuf

Interview with Nëntor Oseku, the hiker which explores Albania each weekend

Nëntor Oseku is an Albanian photographer / hiker born and raised in the nearest Kosovar city to Albania, in Gjakova. He started his first hike in Tito’s Mountain with a group of professors and fell in love with skiing and exploring the nature. Once a skier whose career was hit by a fatal accident where Nëntor broke one of his legs, now the passionate alpinist goes in exploring adventures each weekend since five years in a row.
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Before starting the interview, Nëntor told us that his purpose’s visit to Tirana in the middle of his busy week was to take a photography prize at home. He recently won the first prize in a photography competition launched by the Albanian Ministry of Local Affairs for the best photo of rural areas of the country.
We encountered his name under a photo of Theth National Park in Wikimedia, while looking for photos taken in Theth for an article. Amazed by the professionalism of his photos, we discovered an entire collection of stunning photos captured in known and remote areas throughout Albania with a GoPro camera.
Nëntor accepted our invitation for a quick interview and shared with us his experiences while exploring the country of eagles, which is still being considered as Europe’s Last Secret.
Which is the place that you liked the most while exploring the country?
Curraj i Eperm village is a northern country in Tropoja, still pristine and untouched by the human hand. It is a wonderful place abandoned by the locals which return to visit it during the three months of summer. It is a remote village that you cannot reach by car and that’s the beauty of it.
When I first visited the village, my only instruction to find it was a map. Me and some of my friends started the journey by following the map instructions and we spend two days walking in northern villages to reach Curraj i Eperm. We crossed villages of Lekebibaj, Mulaj, Qeresh, Betoshe, Kuq and then arrived in Curraj i Eperm. When arriving in Qeresh village, we encountered in two locals which hosted us in their home and told us that we had followed the wrong path. They told us that there is a much shorter road to go to Curraj i Eperm by Curraj i Poshtem village. We didn’t know that, but we didn’t regret being wrong because the trip was worth it.
After we arrived in Curraj i Eperm village, we were amazed by the beauty of the nature, pristine and wonderful. The village was inhabited by Kola family. They were very much hospitable to us while sheltering to their house. According to them, we had walked into an old path, untraveled since 50 years by the people.
What type of tourism can develop in these remote pristine areas?
Despite being unique destinations for backpackers and camping, these areas are rich in water resources as rivers and small lakes with pure water and many species of fishes.
The Albanian Riviera is getting millions of visitors each summer in the past years. Can tourists still discover virgin beaches, not yet famous destinations?
Yes, the entire Karaburun part is unspoiled and rich in bays as Grama, Brestani and Dafina bays. I have visited these places and I was amazed by the beauty of them.
Which are your favorite places in Albania?
I prefer the Canyons of Osumi, Brari and Gjipe. Speaking about the beaches, I prefer Grama Bay.
What is the best thing the nature in Albania can offer to tourists?
The best thing of being a hiker, a backpacker or a nature explorer in Albania is that the diversity of the nature gives you the opportunity to enjoy different types of tourism in one day. For example, I took a trip with my friends with destination the Grama bay which takes seven hours by walking to go there and to arrive in the bay, first you have to pass through Llogara Mountain. We were walking in the snow and after some hours we were swimming in the warm and pure waters of Grama beach.
Every expedition has its own unique moments. You meet locals and speak with them, you learn more about the geographical and biological features of a place, and you enjoy a different natural environment. 
How much are people interested in exploring the nature of Albania and Kosovo?
There is a disparity between Kosovo and Albania in this regard. Women in Albania are much more interested in hiking and trekking, while in Kosovo is the contrary. I’ve noticed that people’s interest in exploring the country has increased significantly in the recent years.
* Nëntor is a participant of “Pashtrik” Association, Gjakova’s Mount Guide’s association. Pashtrik members along with Nëntor climbed the Mount of Rumia in Montenegro, bordered by the Albanian northern territory, a zone lived by Albanians which still speak the Albanian language and have the same traditions as Albanians, although residents in Montenegro.
“We faced false claims by some Montenegrin and Serbian newspapers for invading their country, after we shared a photo of our members holding the Albanian flag in their hands. “
Which are the places you haven’t visited yet?
I haven’t visited remote villages in the middle and southern of Albania yet, because I have been more focused in exploring the Albanian Riviera and the northern villages and rivers of the country.
If someone would ask an advice from you what to travel during the seasons of the year, what would be your suggestion?
The northern of Albania is the perfect destination to visit and explore during the winter because the mountainous areas covered with snow give you the opportunity to ski and hike. While, during the spring time people can visit the remote beaches which are a double opportunity to hike and swim as well.
My suggestions are: Curraj i Eperm, Thethin National Park, Valbona’s mountains, Cika Mountain, Gramoz and Tomorr mountains, the Karaburuni Peninsula and the island of Tongo in the south.
Nëntor’s advice to backpackers and nature explorers: Take with you some water, food and the will to hike and explore!
Interviewed by Alketa Halilaj, Editor in chief – Invest in Albania
Photo credits: Nëntor Oseku – Photographer / Apinist

Nëntor’s Gallery:

Fierzë – Koman lake trip 
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Canyon of Osumi
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Valbona National Park
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Gjipe Bay
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 Theth National Park 
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- See more at: http://invest-in-albania.org/interview-with-nentor-oseku-the-hiker-which-explores-albania-each-weekend/#sthash.I5mvPHlM.dpuf

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

10 places in albania that look like they've been taken out of fairy tales


1.    Albanian Riviera.

Albanian Riviera
Albanian Riviera
Source: Link

2. Berat.

Berat
Berat
Source: Link

3. Apollonia.

Apollonia
Apollonia
Source: Link

4. Lake Koman.

Lake Koman
Lake Koman
Source: Link

5. Gjirokastra.

Gjirokastra
Gjirokastra
Source: Link

6. Kruja.

Kruja
Kruja
Source: Link

7. Shkodra.

Shkodra
Shkodra
Source: Link

8. Vlorë.

Vlore
Vlore
Source: Link

9. Ksamil.

Ksamil
Ksamil
Source: Link

10. Sarandë.

Sarande
Sarande
- See more at: http://lazypenguins.com/10-places-in-albania-that-look-like-theyve-been-taken-out-of-fairy-tales/#sthash.bAYNXv7L.dpuf

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What to visit in Theth National Park (photos) this summer 2015

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Theth National Park has officially opened the summer tourism season for tourists from all over the world. Why you should visit Theth National Park and what to see?
Climbers in Theth national park, photo by: ATA
THETHITheth is one of the most beautiful and untouched natural spots, one of the most visited touristic places by Albanians and foreign tourists, mostly in summer. Situated in northern Albania, Theth is rich with many natural resources as canyons, lawns, waterfalls and caves which have often attracted not only tourists but also speleologists, geographers and climbers. The Grunas Canyon is about 2 kilometers long and large depth and offers a spending natural panorama.
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Theth national park, photo by: Nëntor Oseku
Also, in Theth tourists often visit famous caves as the Cave of Harapi and Bira e Rratheve which contain in their inner space underground lakes and galleries. These caves are surrounded by many legends and myths which are inherited from generation to generation orally by the locals. The Thethi Waterfall has an altitude of 25 meters and it’s near to Bloja Mill, another interesting place to visit when you go to Theth.
Old church in Theth, photo by: Nëntor Oseku
?????????????After visiting Theth national park, climber Georg Heinshemer described it as the most proper place for tourism in the Northern Albania’s Mountains, comparing it to the Tirol of Austria.
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Lawn in Theth national park, photo by: ATA
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Featured photo (credits): Nëntor Oseku (Wikimedia) 
- See more at: http://invest-in-albania.org/what-to-visit-in-theth-national-park-photos/#sthash.kAQEDIdC.dpuf