Tirana, Albania

Photo: Spaz Tacular (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Spaz Tacular (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons
The holidays are about to start. The festivities begin with Thanksgiving and Hanukkah later this week. But in Albania, they’re getting ready to celebrate a holiday that many people associate with the summer.

On November 28th, while Americans are pulling turkeys out of their ovens, Albanians will be celebrating White Night to mark their independence from 500 years of Ottoman control. In the capital, Tirana, they’ll celebrate with parades, music, black-and-red clothing to symbolize their flag, and, of course, fireworks. And lately, Albanians have even more to celebrate.

Albania spent way too many years being occupied. Besides the Ottomans, the Fascists and the Nazis controlled the country, before a communist dictator arrived in 1944. Over the next 50 years, historical architecture was destroyed, religion had to be secretly practiced in the atheist state, private car ownership was banned, and the country was isolated from the rest of the world. Since the communist government was dissolved in the early 1990s though, Albania has been celebrating.

Photo: Albinfo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Albinfo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons
In Tirana, old communist buildings were repainted and brightened. Mosques and churches reopened. And Blloku, the area once controlled by high-ranking communist leaders, became the most vibrant part of the city. Spend a quiet morning riding the cable car up Mount Dajt for amazing views of the city, the man-made lakes, and a glimpse of the Adriatic Sea in the distance. Visit the Clock Tower, the symbol of the city in the old historic core. See the beautiful artwork in the Et’hem Bey Mosque.

And then join the crowds in Skanderbeg Square. Coffee drinkers switch to raki as the party begins. The streets fill with people. Some cheer, others sing, but all have huge smiles on their faces. The energy is infectious. Regardless of which holiday you’re celebrating, you’ll be rooting for this little country along the Adriatic Sea.

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