Located just 45 miles from Italy, Albania shares a border with Greece to the south, Macedonia to the east, Kosovo and Montenegro to the north and has both the Adriatic and Ionian Seas to its west. It is a parliamentary democracy that is currently awaiting membership in the European Union, but is already a member of NATO and the United Nations. Its capital city is Tirana, home to around 727,000 people, but the total population currently stands at 3.6 million people. Tirana is the center of Albania’s financial sphere and the free market here has encouraged a great deal of recent investments from foreign sources to develop energy and transportation services. The country is well known for its red flag which features an eagle with two heads that are pointing away from one another, referencing the nickname of this nation, The Land of the Mountain Eagle.

The history of this country stretches back before the 8th Century BC when it was first colonized by Illyrians along its coast. This civilization was part of what is now modern day Greece, but over time many other civilizations would find their way here, creating a unique tapestry of cultures that is now known simply as ethnic Albanian. The coastal regions are the most inhabited areas of this country simply due to the fact that much of the rest of its territory is taken up by rugged, nearly impenetrable mountains which served for a strong defense in its early days. The coastal areas have a more balmy Mediterranean climate, while the mountain areas are much cooler and drier. Korab is the highest mountain in Albania and is just over 9,000 feet tall. There are many lakes across the country, including the historically important Lake Shkoder, a massive 140 square mile body of water which Albania shares with Montenegro. 

Despite so much of its land being heavily forested, Albania’s primary economic pursuit is agriculture which has flourished here for centuries. Other than agriculture, other industries focus on the harvesting of resources like copper, iron and bauxite. The Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza is Albania’s primary airport which services visitors, but there also motorways throughout the country as well as a network of railroads. 

Most of the people in this country are ethnic Albanians who speak the Albanian language. The religions which flourish here are Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism. A rich tradition of music, literature and art are found here, as well. The main cities of Albania, aside from the capital of Tirana, are Korce, Durres, Elbasan, Gjirokaster, Shkoder, Kukes and Vlore. 

Filed Under: The Balkans

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