The Republic of Albania, simply known as Albania, is a small country located in southeastern Europe. The country shares land borders with Greece to the south, Montenegro to the northwest, North Macedonia to the east, and Kosovo to the northeast. Albania is one of the top tourist locations in Europe for several reasons. The country is home to many mountains, making it one of the perfect destinations for tourists interested in nature walks or hikes. Also, despite not being as populated as many other European countries, the people of Albania are some of the friendliest people on the continent, making tourists from around the world feel safe and welcome. Albania is also safer than most counties, and it has a bunch of different food options for people that are keen on trying new cuisine.
Apart from its beautiful scenery, good food, and archeological artifacts, Albania is well known for its flag, which is one of the most unique flags used by any European country or any other country in the world. In this article, you’ll learn about the Albanian flag, its history, meaning, and symbolism, as well as some facts about the country itself.
Where Is Albania Located on a Map?
Albania’s capital Tirana is 746 km away from the Italian capital Rome. It can be reached from that point following a flight of approximately 90 minutes.
Albania: Geography and Climate
Albania is located on the Balkan Peninsula, which sits between south and southeast Europe. The country’s shorelines run across the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea respectively. Most of Albania’s area is made up of mountains and hills that rise more than 650 feet (200 meters) above sea level, making it a very mountainous nation. The remaining areas of the nation with no mountains or hills in sight are coastal lowlands and alluvial plains. The northern part of the country is home to the most rugged mountain terrains in the country, the Albanian Alps. This area is heavily forested and is not as inhabited as the rest of the country, and the mountain in this region reaches a height of around 8,900 feet (2,700 meters).
The central region of the country is home to Skanderberg Mountains; this region is not as rugged as the north, and it is also more populated. Albania’s highest point is located in the east, Mount Korab or the Korab Mountains, reaching an impressive height of 9,030 feet (2,752 meters). Albania is also popular for its lakes, many of which are important, such as the Lake of Shkodër, which is the largest lake in Southern Europe. Another important lake in the country is the Lake of Ohrid, which is one of the oldest lakes in the world.
The subtropical Mediterranean climate prevails in Albania. Mountains, hills, and the country’s coastline make up most of its geography, and the nation’s geology and climate contribute to an enormous network of rivers and lakes. The country’s climate ranges from dry and warm summers to wet and mild winters. The Adriatic and Ionian Sea Coasts are officially considered the warmest regions of the nation. On the other hand, the northern and eastern highlands are home to the coldest regions. Although Albania receives a lot of rain, it falls unevenly across the nation and at different times of the year. Most of the country’s precipitation occurs during the winter, and not as much during the summer. Less than 30 inches (760 mm) of yearly precipitation fall along part of the eastern border, although the North Albanian Alps get more than 100 inches (2,500 mm) of precipitation on average each year.
Albania: Culture and Cuisine
Albania has a total population of almost 2.9 million people spread over 28,748 square kilometers (11,100 square miles). Albania is the 145th-largest country in the world by land area and the 18th-smallest in Europe. The nation is the 137th most populous in the world and the eighth-most populous nation in the Balkans. With less than 10% of the population made up of non-Albanians, Albania has one of the most homogeneous populations in all of Europe. Vlachs, Greeks, who are predominantly concentrated in the southeast, and Macedonians, who reside along the eastern border, make up the three largest minorities.
The Gegs (Ghegs) in the north and the Tosks in the south make up Albania’s two largest subgroups. Although these two groups were not very different in the early days, their differences became more pronounced after World War II. Up to the communist coup in 1944, the more populous Gegs controlled Albanian politics. They were known for their fighting prowess and independent spirit, and they have historically rebelled against external authority, whether it be that of foreign forces or the Albanian central government. Their system was based on tribal groups, with each one led by a traditional chief. However, the advent of communism abolished this practice.
Albanian society places a strong emphasis on hospitality. Welcoming visitors and guests often involves serving food. As such, Albanian cuisine is popular in Europe and is one of the primary reasons many tourists look forward to visiting the country. The country’s cuisine is largely Mediterranean, characterized mostly by the use of fish, vegetables, olive oil, etc. The cuisine of the nation is further broken down according to the different regions of the country; the rural, highland, and coastal regions. Additionally, numerous herbs are used, giving food a distinctive and delectable flavor. Examples of such ingredients that are used across the different regions include garlic and onions.
Albania: Language and Religion
Albanian, which is spoken by the vast majority of people in the country, is the nation’s official language. Although it is clearly based more on the Tosk dialect, its present spoken and textual form has been altered and combined from the two primary dialects, Gheg and Tosk. The lexicon of Albania has included many words from Latin, Greek, Turkish, Italian, and Slavic languages, as a result of centuries of influence by foreign domination. Greek is the second most-spoken language in the country, and there are other languages spoken by minorities, such as Bulgarian and Serbian.
Due to over five centuries of Ottoman hegemony, Albania is mostly a Muslim nation. The second most practiced religion in the country is Christianity, with Roman Catholicism being the most common denomination. Many Albanians today, however, are nominal members of religious movements and lead essentially secular lives as a result of the strict enforcement of atheism under the communist dictatorship.
Albania was declared an atheistic nation by the communist party in 1967, at which point all houses of worship (including churches, mosques, etc.) were shut down, their property was seized, and religious observances were outlawed. The party persecuted religion extensively throughout the duration of its 45 years of absolute power, and churches and mosques didn’t start reopening until 1990 when religious freedom was reinstated. As a result, freedom of religion, belief, and conscience is protected by the country’s constitution in Albania, which is a secular nation with a wide range of religious traditions.
History of the Flag of Albania
The Eastern Roman Empire, which reigned over Albania for a significant portion of the country’s early history, served as the inspiration for the Albanian flag. In the closing years of the Roman Empire, the nobles who came to dominate Albania adopted the double-headed eagles and red banners used to represent the Emperors as their own personal emblems. They continued to be a representation of Albania even after it was included in the Ottoman Empire as it grew into the Balkans.
By the 19th century, a nationalist movement that was primarily concerned with the country’s independence was formed. This movement adopted a flag that bore a close resemblance to the one currently in use. The only difference was that there was a white star above the eagles. This variation of the flag was adopted after the country got its independence in 1912, but a different variation was introduced two years later. This new one featured a bigger eagle that had colored feet and gold beaks. By 1920, the white star above the eagle was removed from the design, and by 1926, the colors on the eagle were removed, and the country reverted to the all-black eagle.
When Italy invaded Albania in 1939, there was yet another modification to the flag’s design. A crossed hammer and sickle was added to the canton in 1944, the year communist control began. In 1992, the new flag was created by purging the previous one of all communist connotations and lightening the red color.
Meaning and Symbolism of the Albanian Flag
The Albanian flag is a red field with a black, double-headed eagle in silhouette in the middle. There has been very little change made to the Albanian flag since the first one was approved and adopted. Since the Middle Ages, the double-headed eagle has served as a representation of Albania and its monarchs. The design was most likely copied by the Albanians from Roman banners, which signified the might and majesty of the Roman Empire.
Albanians call themselves shqiptarë, which is often translated as “sons of eagles.” However, this also has to do with their association with the country’s language. On the other hand, the red field on the flag represents fortitude, courage, valor, and the blood shed by the Albanians on the field of battle.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/dikobraziy
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