Friday, January 16, 2015

Albania - About

Albanian Rivera
On to our first European country in our culinary tour, Albania.  It's located across the Adriatic from Italy, pretty much in line with the heel on Italy's boot.  It's other neighbors include Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro and Kosovo.  It is a majority Muslim country, just barely at 60%.  Even though the country is only 10% Roman Catholic, Mother Teresa is from Albania.  That being said, Albania is not very religious. 

Albania is a little bit bigger than Maryland.  About 2.8 million people live in Albania, which is about the population of Manhattan.

Unsurprisingly due to it's location, various empires have claimed this land including the Greeks, Romans, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Turks.  During WWII both Italy and Germany occupied Albania.  Eventually Albania went communist.  Now it's an emerging democracy.

The region is considered part of the Balkans which is named for the Balkan peninsula. Apparently "the Balkans" is re-branding itself "Southeastern Europe".  Other countries in the Balkans include Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, Romania, Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia.

Funny story.  Hoxha, the communist dictator, thought that "the West" would want to attack Albania so he put up 750,000 little bunkers around the country.  To be fair, WWII was pretty awful for them since Germany and Italy both spent some invasion time in Albania, so a part paranoid, but a part worried about not-to-distant history.  When the chief engineer insured Hoxha that the bunker could survive a direct tank assault, Hoxha threw the guy into the bunker and ordered a tank to attempt bunker destruction.  The bunker and the engineer were both unharmed.

Bunker to protect against invasion

In Albania, dinner is usually served around 8pm, but their major meal is lunch.  Businesses close so that people can eat lunch with their families.  Men and women traditionally eat at separate tables.  Vegetables are very important in their foods and are in pretty much every dish.  Bread is also an important aspect of their meals.  Along the coast just like all coasts everywhere, seafood is popular.  Spices include black pepper, oregano, mint, basil and rosemary.

Prokletije or the Albanian Alps

Further Reading:

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