I’ve included 2 youtube videos .. the first one, at the beginning, for the tourists, the second, at the end, for people who want to see and know the real Albania.
Following the collapse of communist rule in 1990, Durrës (second largest city in Albania) became the focus of mass emigrations from Albania with ships being hijacked in the harbour and sailed at gunpoint to Italy. In one month alone, August 1991, over 20,000 people migrated to Italy (which is why ITALIAN and not English is the second most used language in Durres).
In 1997, Albania slid into anarchy following the collapse of a massive pyramid scheme which devastated the national economy. An Italian-led peacekeeping force was controversially deployed to Durrës and other Albanian cities to restore order, although there were widespread suggestions that the real purpose of “Operation Alba” was to prevent economic refugees continuing to use Albania’s ports as a route to migrate to Italy. (Wikipedia) (my additions in purple)
- Durres was occupied by Italy in 1915 during the 1st World War
- By Austria-Hungary in 1916-1918
- It was captured by the Allies in October 1918
- Restored to Albanian sovereignty, Durrës became the country’s temporary capital between 1918 and March 1920.
- It experienced an economic boom due to Italian investments and developed into a major seaport under the rule of King Zog, with a modern harbour being constructed in 1927. (I will be visiting King Zog’s residence later)
- An earthquake in 1926 damaged some of the city and the rebuilding that followed gave the city its more modern appearance
- The Second World War saw Durrës (called Durazzo again in Italian) and the rest of Albania being annexed to the Kingdom of Italy between 1939–1943, then occupied by Nazi Germany until 1944
- Durrës’s strategic value as a seaport made it a high-profile military target for both sides. It was the site of the initial Italian landings on 7 April 1939 (and was fiercely defended by Mujo Ulqinaku) as well as the launch point for the ill-fated Italian invasion of Greece.
- The Communist regime of Enver Hoxha rapidly rebuilt the city following the war, establishing a variety of heavy industries in the area and expanding the port. It became the terminus of Albania’s first railway, begun in 1947 (which does not go outside of the country of Albania, nor does it connect with any surrounding country).
- In the late 1980s, the city was briefly renamed Durrës-Enver Hoxha.
- The city was and continues to remain the center of Albanian mass beach tourism during the summer months.
This is the home of the boat builder, just a short distance from the hostel. You can see the roof of his house in the previous photo.
This plaza is new in the last 4 years. A dutch man who stays at the hostel from time to time told me how he viewed the improvements each time he visited the area. This is directly across the street from the hostel. Actually you can see the hostel fence between the trees in the bottom of the photo.
As you can see, there is a definite separation between the old and the new, the haves and the have nots. The tourist area, the main street up from the beach is bright and shiny, but not far away, it is what we think of when we say “third world country”.
Tomorrow I will be going by bus 2.5 hours southeast to Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I will be staying in a new 4 star hotel, for which I will be paying 26 US dollars, and it includes breakfast.
See you in a few days, Sherrill
Now, here is a 1 hour and 12 minute documentary on Albania .. country, people, government. Enlightening.