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Albania

Bathed by the Adriatic Sea, the southern coastline remains unspoilt and many activities such as swimming, diving, sailing and fishing are possible. Albania is one of Europe’s poorest countries and continues to face severe difficulties adjusting to the new Europe after decades of Stalinist isolation. Only in 1985, after the death of Enver Hoxha, its president, did Albania began to develop contacts with the outside world. More recently, conditions were worsened by regional political instability and the collapse of ’pyramid’ investment schemes in 1997. New components of the economy, such as tourism, which were mostly set up with foreign investment, suffered badly in the wake of the 1997 upheaval.

Practical Information

Area: 27 398 km² (11 100 miles²)

Capital: Tirana. Population: 585 700

Population: 3.2 million

Currency: Lek (ALL) = 100 qindarka

Government: Democratic Republic since 1991.

Tipping: Previously frowned upon by the authorities, tips are gratefully received in restaurants or for any service provided.

Time zone: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October)

Languages: Albanian

Additional descriptions

Albania: Social customs

Nearly half of the population lives in urban areas, with the rest pursuing a relatively quiet rural existence. Some Albanian characteristics and mannerisms resemble those of the mainland Greeks, most notablyRead more in the more rural areas; for instance, a nod of the head means ’no’ and shaking one’s head means ’yes’. Handshaking is the accepted form of greeting. Albanians should be addressed with Zoti (Mr) and Zonja (Mrs). The former widespread greeting of Shoku (Comrade) has all but disappeared. Small gifts are customary when visiting someone’s house, although flowers are not usually given. Any attempt to speak Albanian is greatly appreciated. Visitors should accept offers of raki, coffee or sweets. Dress is generally informal. Bikinis are acceptable on the beach; elsewhere women are expected to dress modestly although attitudes are becoming increasingly relaxed. Offices and restaurants are often unheated. Visitors should be aware that foreigners tend to be charged a lot more than locals, with this applying to entry fees as well as general merchandise. Smoking is permitted except where the sign Ndalohet Duhani or Ndalohet pirja e duhanit is displayed. Penalties for drug-related crimes are severe. Homosexuality, although legal, is not fully accepted and discretion should be exercised.

Albania: Food and local specialties

Private restaurants are appearing rapidly in Albania. In the more popular places, it is necessary to reserve a table and to be punctual. Food is typically Balkan with Turkish influences evident on any menu byrek, kofte, shish kebab. The national specialties are: Fërgesë tirane, a hot fried dish of meat, liver, eggs and tomatoes, and tavë kosi or tavë elbasani, a mutton and yoghurt dish. The koran, a trout from Lake Ohrid and the Shkodra carp. Popular Albanian desserts include oshaf, a fig and sheep’s milk pudding, cakes soaked in honey and candied fruits or reçel. A favourite in the south is kukurec (stuffed sheep’s intestines). Continental breakfasts are usually served in hotels, but in the country the Albanian breakfast of pilaf (rice) or paça (a wholesome soup made from animals’ innards) may not be to everyone’s taste. All bars and restaurants serve raki, local red and white wines and different liqueurs. The Albanian cognac, with its distinctive aroma, is also popular. Many imported drinks can also be found, including Austrian canned beer, Macedonian wine and ouzo from Greece. Turkish coffee (kafe Turke) is popular with Albanians, but many bars also serve Italian espresso (ekspres). Read more menu byrek, kofte, shish kebab. The national specialties are: Fërgesë tirane, a hot fried dish of meat, liver, eggs and tomatoes, and tavë kosi or tavë elbasani, a mutton and yoghurt dish. The koran, a trout from Lake Ohrid and the Shkodra carp. Popular Albanian desserts include oshaf, a fig and sheep’s milk pudding, cakes soaked in honey and candied fruits or reçel. A favourite in the south is kukurec (stuffed sheep’s intestines). Continental breakfasts are usually served in hotels, but in the country the Albanian breakfast of pilaf (rice) or paça (a wholesome soup made from animals’ innards) may not be to everyone’s taste. All bars and restaurants serve raki, local red and white wines and different liqueurs. The Albanian cognac, with its distinctive aroma, is also popular. Many imported drinks can also be found, including Austrian canned beer, Macedonian wine and ouzo from Greece. Turkish coffee (kafe Turke) is popular with Albanians, but many bars also serve Italian espresso (ekspres).

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