KORCE OF ALBANIA
The south east of Albania fasinated and unexplored corner of the country of Albania, with many many medievil churches, a wealth of pre-historic sites, the wild Gramoz mountains (See the mountains of Albania) and the beautiful ohrid and Prespa Lakes. Korca, the regional capital is an ideal base from which you can visit these atrtractions. It is also also the home to the National Museum of Medieveil Art. The city itself is refreshingly civilized, with clean streets, free of litter which disfigures the rest of the country of Albania, traffic which recognizes the existance of some kind of highway code, and clean mountain air. Its altitude(850 meters above the sea level) and inland position make it very cold in the winter and the Spring, and delightfully cool in the summer.
The people of Korca are justifiable proud of their towns, cultured and tolerant traditions. It was one of the main centers of the Albanian cultural renaissance (Rilindja Kombetare) which created the sense of national identity that ultimately lead to the country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. The first Albanian medium school was opened here in 1887, with the first girls school following four years later, and the town was one of the focal points of the movements to standardize the Albanian alphabet. The building where the first school was opened is now a museum, with an interesting display of contemporary photographs and documents.
The history of Korca became rather chequered in the early 20th century. The Epirote Insurrection of the year 1913 saw much of southern Albania raided and terrorized by Greek irredentists, who sought its incorporation into Greece. Korca was occupied and the Albanian medium schools were closed, until the Greek government ordered its troops home in June of the year 1914. However, this was short lived and just a year later, a Greek army returned to occupy Korca and Berat, laying waste to Muslim villages and farmlands and driving streams of refugees across the country to Vlora. In the military confusion which overwhelmed Albania during the World War I, Korca actually became an autonomous republic, under the French military protection, between the years 1916 and 1918. Not surprisingly, this turbulent period saw a great deal of emigration, mainly to the USA, where Korcans still make up a large proportion of the Albanian – American community.
How to get to Korca: From Northern Greece, there are several bus companies that drive up to Korca from Kastoria (called Kosturi in Albanian), 70 kilometers away. There are also buses from Thessaloniki. If you have your own vehicle, the small crossing at Tre Urat (called Mertzani in Greeks), between Konitsa in Greece and Leskoviku in Albania, will take you on to the beautiful mountain road that leads up to Korca via Erseka. From Macedonia, there are two main border crossings into Albania, one at Qafa e Thane, southwest of Struga, and the other at Tushemishti, at the southern end of the Lake Ohrid. If you are travelling without your own transport via Qafa e Thane, you would probably have to arrange for a Struga taxi to take you up to the border; during the daylight, there are always Albanian taxis and minibuses on the other side.
Getting around Korca: As most times in Albania, public transport to the different towns around Korca depart from completely different areas in Korca. Intercity services leave from Sheshi Korca, the junction formed by Rruga Midhi Kostani and Rruga Kico Greco. The local bus station for destinations like Liqenasi and Voskopoja, but also the bus to Gjirokastra via Erseke and Permet is opposite the market. Minibuses to Erseke, however, leave from near the town hall in Korca. The taxi drivers are the only reliable guides to all of the nuances of bus and minibus departures.
Tourist information: The tourist information office
ACCOMMODATION IN KORCE OF ALBANIA
It is usually easy to find accommodation in most areas of Albania, what we have tried to do is to give you the many many options but to also give our own personal advise of the goods and the bad, as well as the exact location and the facilities of each accommodation choice. We would appreciate it if you would reserve your accommodation via this website and we will be there either in person or with a representative of ours to personally assist you while you are on your holidays in Albania.
ACTIVITIES IN KORCA OF ALBANIA
If you enjoy hiking and trekking, Korca Region can keep you busy for weeks. We invite you to come and explore the natural, geological and biological diversity of the region as it mixes with the unique culture and history of the region.
We would be happy to arrange a guided tour through the Tourist Information Center, or you can go independentely through beautiful natural and cultural zones such as the villages of Voskopoja, Dardha, Vithkuq, and Bozdovec, or protected natural areas such as Shelegur Lake, the National Park of Prespa or Drenova Forest.
SIGHTSEEING IN KORCE OF ALBANIA
The Prespa National Park: The Park is situated 45 km northeast of Korça. This diverse park covers a surface of 27,750 hectares and encompasses mountains, lake surfaces, forests and pasture lands. The park flora and fauna are quite unique: 56 kinds of plants; eight kinds of endemic fish (carp, eel, Merena, Skobuzi, Karasi, bleaks, etc.); and the rare White Curly-Hair Pelican (Pelicanus Crispus), which can be found only here and in Karvasta, Greece.
With seven small rural villages here, and no towns or industries, a little known natural treasure can be discovered. The waters of Prespa Lake are transparent and the shore line is partly rocky and partly found with sandy beaches. The lake’s geologic composition is limestone, karstic and of tectonic origin. The cross border Prespa Lakes (Small and Large Prespas) have an Albanian surface area of 49.5km2 and also extend to FYR Macedonian and Greek territories. Lake depths are up to 54m with the water temperature in summer reaching 24° C and in winter dropping to 0-4°C. There is an underwater linkage between the Prespa Lakes and the lower and larger Lake Ohrid.
On the picturesque Snake Island (Maligrad Island) in the Albanian part of Little Lake Prespa are the ruins of an old basilica. Built in the XIVth Century in a rocky cavern, it is known for its beautiful Byzantine mural pictures, which can be found both inside and outside the structure.
Saint Maria church (XIV Century) on Maligradit Island
In Kallamas village (in the eastern part), Saint Marena Church, near Prespa Lake.
National Park of Bozdovec, Ostrovica, Lenia Lake, Rrungaja (the highest point of Vithkuq), Gora and Devolli, with rich flora and fauna.
The village of Dardha: This mountainous village is nestled among mountains and forests with rare natural beauty. It lies 20 km from Korca at an altitude of 1,344m above sea level. The climate is rich in oxygen and very healthy.
The green fields, fresh summer days and cold snowy winters make Dardha a popular tourist destination throughout the year. Winter sports, especially skiing, attract many tourists to Dardha. In the spring, summer and fall it is a popular destination for hikers, whether coming for a stroll or longer treks.
Amongst the many village springs can also be found the so-called “Uji i qelbur” (Pungent Water) which serves as curative water for stomach and kidney ailments. Characteristic stone houses complete the beauty of this village. The people are very hospitable and a diverse range of hotels and restaurants offer characteristic food and hospitality to tourists.
HISTORY OF KORCA IN ALBANIA
The Copper Age lasted from 3000 BC to 2100 BC. Mycenean pottery was introduced in the plain of Korçë during the late Bronze Age (Late Helladic IIIc), and has been claimed that the tribes living in this region before the Dark Age migrations, probably spoke a northwestern Greek dialect. The area was on the border between Illyria and Epirus and according to a historical reconstruction was ruled by an Illyrian dynasty until 650 BC, while after 650 BC a Chaonian dynasty. During this period the area was inhabited by Greek tribes of the northwestern (Epirote) group, possibly Chaonians or Molossians, which were two of the three major Epirote tribes inhabiting the region of Epirus. Archaeologists have found a gravestone of the 2nd or 3rd century AD depicting two Illyrian blacksmiths working iron on an anvil near modern Korçë.
Middle Ages and Ottoman rule
Iljaz Bey Mirahori Mosque
From the 13th century it was a small settlement called Episkopi (Greek: Επισκοπή, “bishopric”). The modern town dates from the 1480s, when Iljaz Hoxha, during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II, developed Korçë. The Ottoman occupation began in 1440, and after Hoxha’s role in the siege of Constantinople, in 1453; he was awarded the title, ‘Iljaz Bey Mirahor’. Korçë was a sandjak of the Manastir Vilayet in the Ottoman Empire as Görice. The city started to flourish when the nearby town of Moscopole was raided by the Albanian troops of Ali Pasha at 1788. 
In the late 1880s Gjerasim Qiriazi began his Protestant mission in the city. He and fellow members of the Kyrias family established Albanian speaking institutions in Korçë, with his sister Sevasti Qiriazi founding the first Albanian girls school in 1891.
Early 20th century
Ottoman rule over Korçë lasted until 1912; although the city and its surroundings were supposed to become part of the Principality of Bulgaria according to the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878, the Treaty of Berlin of the same year returned the area to Ottoman rule. In 1910 the Orthodox Alliance of Korçë led by Mihal Grameno proclaimed the establishment of an Albanian church, but the Ottoman authorities refused to recognize it. Korçë’s proximity to Greece, which claimed the entire Orthodox population as Greek, led to its being fiercely contested in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. Greek forces captured Korçë from the Ottomans on 6 December 1912 and afterwards proceeded to imprison the Albanian nationalists of the town. Its incorporation into Albania in 1913 was disputed by Greece, who claimed it as part of a region called ‘Northern Epirus’, and resulted in a rebellion by the local Greek population that asked the intervention of the Greek army. This rebellion was initially suppressed by the Dutch commanders of the Albanian gendarmerie, that consisted of 100 Albanians led by Themistokli Gërmenji, as a result the local Greek-Orthodox bishop Germanos and other members of the town council were arrested and expelled by the Dutch. However, under the terms of the Protocol of Corfu (May 1914), the city became part of the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus inside the borders of the principality of Albania, while on 10 July 1914 the Greek Northern Epirote forces took over the city.
In October 1914 the city came again under Greek administration. During the period of the National Schism (1916) a local revolt broke out and with military and local support Korçë came under the control of Eleftherios Venizelos’ Movement of National Defence, overthrowing the royalist forces. However, due to developments in the Macedonian Front of World War I the city came soon under French control (1916–1920). During this time fourteen representatives of Korçë and Colonel Descoins signed a protocol that proclaimed the Autonomous Albanian Republic of Korçë under the military protection of the French army and with Themistokli Gërmenji as president. It ultimately remained part of Albania, as determined by the International Boundary Commission, which affirmed the country’s 1913 borders.
World War II
National Warrior Monument in the center of Korçë
Italian forces occupied Korçë in 1939, along with the rest of the country. During the Greco-Italian War it became the main forward base of the Italian air force. Nevertheless, the city came under the control of the advancing Greek forces, on November 22, 1940, during the first phase of the Greek counter-offensive. Korçë remained under Greek control until the German invasion of Greece in April 1941. After Italy’s withdrawal from the war in 1943, the Germans occupied the town until October 24, 1944.
During the occupation, the city became a major centre of Communist-inspired resistance to the Axis occupation of Albania. The establishment of the Albanian Party of Labour—the Communist Party—was formally proclaimed in Korçë in 1941. Albanian rule was restored in 1944 following the withdrawal of German forces.
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Center in Korçë
The period of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania was a difficult time in the region. President Enver Hoxha targeted the rich, despite the fact that they had fought for the creation of the communist state by fighting against the Fascist occupations. Right after World War II many people fled to Boston, United States joining a community of the Albanian-Americans, who had previously emigrated there.
After 1990 Korçë was one of the six cities where the New Democratic Party won all the constituencies. Popular revolts in February 1991 ended with the tearing down of Hoxha’s statue.
Korçë renovated backstreet
Post-communism and rebirth
After the fall of communism, the city fell into disregard in many aspects. However following the 2000s, the city experienced a makeover as main streets and alleys started to be reconstructed, locals began to renovate their historic villas, a calendar of events was introduced, building façades painted, and city parks reinvigorated. The European Union is financing the renovation of the Korca Old Bazaar while the city centre was redesigned, and a watch tower constructed.
USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT KORCA IN ALBANIA
Korca is known as the “cradle of Albanian culture” and is the largest city within the region. Historical documents refrencing the city date from the early medieval period – the first half of the XVth century – when Korca province was the property of Muzakajt, one of the feudal families of that time.
The city has served as a very important trading market. Throughout the centuries Albanian caravans began their travels from here to Turkey, Greece, and Russia.
In the second half of the 19th century, the city rose to be a very important economic, trade and cultural centre. Korca city today remains the most important economic and cultural center in the region. It exhibits eastern characteristics, along with traces of French influence in its urban scheme and grand architectural planning.
The first Albanian language school, orignially for boys only, opened in 1887 and today it houses the National Education Museum. A separate school for females was opened in 1891. A French Lyceum opened in Korca in 1917 following independence.
Korca patriots were well organized from 1906 – 1912, and took part actively in the movement to liberate the country from Ottoman occupation. One of the most famous Albanian sculptors, Odhise Paskal, immortalized the freedom movement with the monument “National Hero” depicting men descending from the mountains to liberate the city. Korca enjoyed a heightened period of prosperity in the interwar period when many of its characteristic cultural institutions, mansions and boulevards were built.
The city of Korca continues to highlight its sophisticated and historic urban values by taking great pride in being a welcoming and accessible city. Visitors can experience this by walking through the city’s many parks, clean streets and characteristic cobblestone walkways and roads.
Today, the region of Korca, is:
– One of the most important cultural and economic centers in Albania. It has inherited traces of French influence that can be seen in the architecture and urban planning of the city of Korca.
– An example of religious tolerance between Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Catholics.
– One of the country’s most important educational centers with numerous primary, secondary, and professional schools, as well as the Fan S. Noli University of Korca.
– Well-known for its Korca Serenades, Carnivals and Masked Balls. Founded in 1927, the characteristic choir “Lyra” is well known throughout Albania for its wonderfully harmonious songs, giving the city a magical timbre.
– The embodiment of medieval art and ancient culture, with the Museum of Medieval Art, Archeological Museum, churches and frescos from David, Konstandin, the Zografi Brothers, and many pre-historic explorations that testify to a rich ancient culture.
– A place of great natural beauty, featuring the renowned Ohrid and Prespa Lakes, mountains and national parks.
UNIQUE CULTURE OF ALBANIA
The Albanian culture is an exotic blend of traditions that have evolved over thousands of years. From the ancient Illyrians and Greeks to the Romans and the Ottomans, the language, music, arts, and cuisine of the Albanian people are a rich and vibrant mix of many civilizations. Once you discover our culture, you are bound to fall in love with this new destination on the Mediterranean.
Hospitality is in our nature. Welcoming guests and ensuring their comfort is a hallmark of Albanian heritage and is epitomized by our very own Nobel Peace Prize recipient: Mother Teresa. The spirit of cooperation and friendship thrives in Albania, and it is not uncommon for guests to be invited to eat and drink with curious locals wishing to learn more about you.
Besa is a concept related to the Albanian code of honor and is an idea that is very important to the Albanian people. In the Kanun (a set of traditional Albanian laws), Besa is described as the highest authority, so essential to personal and familial standing as to be virtually a cult. Besa has been the subject of some stories and novels by Albania’s foremost modern novelist, Ismail Kadare, a Nobel Prize Candidate for Literature and winner of several international prizes. Kadare’s work has been published in over forty countries and translated into more than thirty languages, making Kadare the best ambassador of Albanian literature worldwide.
If we are speaking about the food and drinks of Albania, then we must mention the country’s deliciously-unique cuisine. It has many similarities to Turkish and Greek dishes, but offers a healthier, Mediterranean twist. Come try our wide variety of phyllo dough delicacies, including a melt-in-your-mouth sensation called byrek, or the original sweet treat known regionally as baklava.
Albania also has a long tradition of wine craftsmanship, which is lately being revived to its former glory. While you’re here, taste a sampling of our wine, produced from a rich soil that has been under cultivation since the ancient Greeks and Romans. Regardless of your culinary inclinations, we guarantee that our rich history and culinary traditions have created a menu of mouth-watering specialties for you to try.
Each region of Albania likes to specialize in its own brand of music, thus giving the music aficionado an incentive to explore the entire country in search of each community’s sense of style. For example, UNESCO has classified a type of music from southern Albania, known as Iso Polyphony, to have tremendous cultural value to humankind. Our music has even given rise to a few prominent artists of global acclaim, including opera lyric soprano, Inva Mula, and the distinguished violinist, Tedi Papavrami.
In regards to style, when you arrive in Albania, you will notice that the men take great pride in their appearance and will often don a suit and tie when in public. Even if their errands only involve a short trip to the grocery store, the men will dress to impress.
Depending upon the type of festival or time of year, you might even catch a glimpse of Albanian men in traditional folk attire. The National Folk Festival held in Gjirokastra is a prime example. This special autumn event is held once every four years and attracts artists from around the world.
The women of Albania also share a flair for style, especially at traditional Albanian weddings. At these events, the families of both the bride and groom will gather together in their finest dress and celebrate with great fervor. Weddings are often the ideal opportunity to witness the best of Albanian culture all in one event, and if you’re invited to one, the experience will undoubtedly be extraordinary.
Albanian culture is unique in many ways and we hope you’ll visit us to see it firsthand. We say ‘yes’ by shaking our head from side to side, both men and women greet each other with a kiss on either cheek, and our conversations are loud and passionate in an effort to entice others to join in. Visit Albania and discover why our culture is a new Mediterranean love.
MAP OF ALBANIA
PHOTO GALLERY OF KORCA
MAP OF KORCA