Today Ela, one of the hostels’ Albanian staff took me to see the residence of King Zog I, King of the Albanians.
The walk up the hill was interesting. As you can see, I’ve found the “door to nowhere”. Notify Sarah Palin, she may want to put this with her “bridge to nowhere”.
Along the way this puppy, who obviously has a great nose, could smell the doggie biscuits in my pocket and “dogged” us all the way up to the barbed wire.
Well, now at the residence I must say, the research I’ve done tells me King Zog was a man with an “interesting” history.
His residence, now under unknown ownership – but with a security guard, is in ruins. Everything I’ve read about the property said you cannot gain access.
Guess who gained access, yep! Nope, not giving out my James Bond secrets.
The property is cordoned off with barbed and razor wire and a large hinged gate apparatus.
The palace has 3 floors and an elevator shaft that once held the iron horse; and, more than 20 rooms including a sauna for the queen.
Ela and I at the bottom of the grand staircase.
Zog had a bird’s eye view of Durres from this side and a great view of the Adriatic Sea from the other side.
Come dance with me in the grand ballroom, overlooking the blue Adriatic Sea.
It’s unfortunate the owner of the property could not see the potential for tourism dollars. Vandals have hacked away big chunks of marble; torn up the parquet flooring, and removed all of the plumbing.
Talk about a room with a view? Bet those buildings were not there when the “palace” was constructed. It was beachfront property then.
- King Zog created his throne for himself as Europe’s only Muslim king and ruled Europe’s most obscure country.
- January 31 1925 Ahmet Zogu is elected President of the republic of Albania
- September 1, 1928 the constitutional assembly proclaims Albania an inheritable democratic parliamentary kingdom.
- However, Zog’s constitution forbade any Prince of the Royal House from serving as Prime Minister or a member of the Cabinet, and contained provisions for the potential extinction of the Royal Family. Ironically, in light of later events, the constitution also forbade the union of the Albanian throne with that of any other country.
The proclamation as King of the Albanians:
During 1920s, Albania was experiencing extended periods of political turmoil and instability. The parliament decided to take under consideration the proposal made by the deputies of Skrapar, the issue of constitutional change. Immediately after the early elections on August 25, 1928, it was proposed to change the governing structure. The Statute Commission was held, which proposed the regime change, from Republic into Monarchy.
After he accepted the Throne, His Majesty Zog I, King of Albanians took His oath on the Bible and Quran, with these words: “I, Zogu , King of the Albanians, at this very moment I step foot on the Throne of the Albanian Kingdom and, undertaking the Monarchy Power , I swear to the Almighty power to preserve the National Union, the Independence of Land and State. I swear to be loyal to the Statute and act according to its articles and laws in power, considering, always the well-being of the people. Lord may help me”
It was reported that he often left his residence in Albania to “carouse” in European capitals where he was prone to gambling and drinking. This was something he could not be seen doing in Albania, the poorest country in eastern Europe; I guess that’s how he “considered the well-being of his people” – what you don’t know can’t hurt you, theory.
He offered the crown to any heiress who would marry him and bring $1,000,000.00 to Albania. I’m not sure if that was for the economy of Albania or Zog.
He eventually married a US /Hungarian heiress who was, unfortunately, down on her luck, but who had royal connections. Geraldine Steuart, was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, a daughter of Count Gyula Apponyi de Nagy Appony (1873–1924).
The King’s sister had approached Geraldine on behalf of the monarch. The King had seen the young Hungarian woman’s photograph. She went to Albania and within days the couple were engaged to be married. Known as the “White Rose of Hungary,” and Geraldine was raised to royal status as Princess Geraldine of Albania prior to her wedding.
On 27 April 1938, in Tirana, Albania, Geraldine married the King in a ceremony witnessed by Galeazzo Ciano, envoy and son-in-law of Il Duce and Prime Minister of Italy, Benito Mussolini. She was Roman Catholic and King Zog was Muslim. They drove to their honeymoon in an open-top scarlet Mercedes-Benz 540K, a present from Adolf Hitler.
Their son was born a year later, on April 5, 1939. He was given a 101-gun salute and the title Crown Prince Skander, but two days later Mussolini’s army invaded the country.
After exhorting his people to “fight to the last drop of blood to defend our independence” King Zog took his wife, newborn heir, sisters, nephews, nieces and a 20-strong retinue of courtiers, advisers and bodyguards, and fled Albania.
• May 2 1939 he moves to Turkey
• August 1939 he moves to Paris and leaves Bordeaux, France, 8 hrs before the German invasion on the 27th of June 1940 to England. They caught one of the last boats out of France ahead of the invading Nazis and moved into the Ritz Hotel in London, where they took up almost an entire floor.
• In 1946 he moves to Egypt, 1951 he visits the United States of America and purchases a mansion in Muttontown, New York on the Gold Coast of Long Island.
According to the Nassau County Department of Parks, King Zog was the last monarch of Albania, and fled his country after the Italian invasion in 1939. He acquired the Knollwood Estate at Muttontown in 1951 for over $100,000, and it included a 60 room granite mansion. Zog chose to live in Europe and Africa instead, but he envisioned this mansion to be his new palace, staffing it with fellow Albanians. Sadly, he never moved there and sold the estate in 1955. The mansion lay abandoned, and rumors began to spread about his hidden treasures within the mansion walls. Vandals quickly looted the property, and the new owners had the mansion demolished in 1959.
• In 1948-1951 King Zog becomes one of three leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
• In 1949 before the Arab Israeli war he gains the support of the Arab league to resist the communist regime.
It has been in estimated that King Zog is in the top 10 rulers to have the most assassinations attempts on their lives, 55.
There were about 600 blood feuds reportedly existing against Zog. One of these occurred inside the corridors of the Albanian Parliament premises on 23 February 1924. Beqir Valteri, originating from the same area as Zog, was waiting for him and opened fire suddenly. Zog was shot twice. Meanwhile, Valteri fled but, surrounded by the militia, took refuge in one of the bathrooms, refusing to surrender and singing patriotic songs.
• In 1954 he organizes covert operations against the communist regime with the support of the allies, betrayed by a Russian spy (Kim Philby).
• July 1955 he returns to France to settle in Cane where he eventually dies.
And, that’s the end of the story of King Zog I, Ruler of Albania.
(Many different sources helped me with this history, wikipedia, History Today, Cracked.com, metafilter.com, and Albanian History.com.) Virtual Tourist, King Zog, Durres, Albania will give you additional information and photos.
But, not the end of my day. Ela and I wandered down the hill to the Venetian Tower which now houses a bar/coffee house where we sat and had cappuccinos served to us by a very nice young man who spoke English, Italian and Albanian.
Inside the tower.
After coffee and on the way to the hostel we passed the chocolate bakery/coffee bar and found ourselves sitting there sharing a lovely “postre”. We do not remember opening the door, or ordering the yummy dessert swirled with white chocolate. This woman just showed up at the table.
It was magical.
Where will the next adventure take us?