Mati

MATI – ALBANIA

GENERAL INFORMATION

Mati was the home district of Ahmed Zogu who became King Zog and the town is full of history: fortified houses, ancient bridges, caves and castles. The district capital, Burreli, is only 45 kilometers away from the Miloti junction on the main Tirana – Shkodra high way. It is worth the detour or a stop on the way to or from Peshkopia.

The traditional family houses of Northern Albania were highly defensible stone buildings, usually two storeys high called kulla, whose literal meaning is “tower”. The word is often translated into English as “tower-house” which is quite confusing because these houses are not towers in reality. Kulla are big enough for a traditional extended family to live in; the living quarters are usually on the first floor, accessed by an external staircase; where there is a third story, this was usually used for the bedrooms. The windows are small – hard to fire into and easy to shoot out of – and are often protected by stone embrasures, called frengji, instead of wooden shutters. Mati has several well preserved kulla, some built as recently as the 1930’s – these later buildings have windows of a more normal size, because by then security was better. The imposing cluster of kulla where the Zogu family lived in Burgajet just across the river from Burreli, was raised to the ground after World War 2, the site can be seen from the terrace of the villa Bruci Hotel.

Getting to Mati and getting away

From Tirana, mini buses to Burreli depart from a side street off to the north of the Zogu i Zi roundabout. The journey takes about 2,5 hours, depending on the traffic in the outskirts of Tirana. From Peshkopia, the mini buses to Tirana go through Burelli, taking about 2,5 hours or, if there is a meal stop, a little bit longer. This is a very scenic route, through pretty woodlands and then along the beautiful Mati River(See: the rivers of Albania), with fortified houses that are visible from the road. The fare for either of these journeys is 400 lek (3 Euros).

From Macedonia, the buses from Debar (Dibra e Madhe) to Tirana could also drop passengers in Burreli. All these timings will change if the new high way connecting Macedonia with the Adriatic-Rruga e Arberit is ever built.

For cyclist, bikers and those with their own 4×4 transport, an alternative route is from Kruja, over the Shtama pass (Qafa e Shtames) about 50 kilometers. There is no public transport on this route and the pass is closed when there is snow.

ACCOMMODATION IN MATI 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 MATI OF ALBANIA

Albania is qualified today as one the most attractive holiday destinations in the whole of the Mediterranean. The wonderful nature, the land, the museums, the ancient monuments are all places that must be explored. The natural environment of Albania gives you the opportunity to exercise many kinds of sports. More than the two thirds of the country are mountainous terrain and in these areas in the autumn and winter, sports like skiing, mountaineering, climbing, trekking etc. can be exercised.

 

 

SIGHTSEEING IN MATI

The Burgajet Castle: The Burgajet castle used to be a large fortified house, located in the location of Burgajet in the District of Mati of Albania. It was the birthplace, and family seat, of the famous Albanian King Zog I. The British famous lecturer Dr. Jason Tomes described to be: a solid rectangular building with two small wings facing into a courtyard. This was  the Burgajet Castle, the citadel of the chieftain of Mati . . . and the biggest house for miles and the only one with double glazed windows. The interior was even more distinctive…Fancy furnishings, imported from Austria, had recently become the hallmark of wealth. Salon chairs, draperies, table-lamps, and bric-a-brac… His family were the traditional feudal rulers of the Mat District of Albania and were large landowners. On ascending the throne, King Zog I, took up residence in a palace in Tirana (with a Summer Palace in Durrës). This was a factor leading to Castle Burgajet falling into ruins. Before King Zog I was forced to flee Albania he had an ambitious plan to rebuild the Castle but this never transpired; during his reign, however, a plaque commemorated his birth there. When asked why he did not rebuild Burgajet, King Zog replied “I was too busy rebuilding my country.”

The best places to see fortified houses in Mati are in the villages of Macukullu and Guri i Bardhe. However the roads to these villages are very rough and a 4×4 vehicle is needed. Easier to access are the kulla near the town of Klosi. The beautiful white stone bridge called the maiden’s bridge (Ura e Vashes), is also near Klosi and can be reached in a normal car. As for the caves, they are in the north of the district, on the border with Mirdita. Excavations in the Neziri cave (Shpella e Nezirit) have revealed evidence that it was inhabited in the Hellenistic Times. The Villa Bruci Hotel can arrange transportation to all of these sites, given a few days notice. The caves and the kulla at Macukullu can also be reached from Mirdita; there is another interesting cave across the district boundary in Mirdita, which is thought to be connected to the Neziri Cave by an underground tunnel.

What to see in Burreli

Burreli’s main attraction is as a base for exploring the rest of Mati. The small museum is definitely worth a visit. The gunpowder machine is particularly interesting. Gun powder was produced in Mati from the Ottoman times until 1939, when Italy annexed Albania. The occupying forces closed down the gun powder factories because they thought, probably quite correctly that the Albanians might use the product to blow up Italian soldiers or strategic targets such as bridges. Aficionados of socialist Realist Art will like the murals in the main hall, one of them painted by Fatmir Haxhiu (1927 – 2001). The museum is open only on week day mornings; the entrance is at the side of the building, not through the main gates where the local mini buses wait.

The other interesting site in Burelli is the large statue of King Zog, just off to the side of the main square. The statue is modern, of course, since during the communist period, it would have been completely out of the question to erect even a small bust of the exiled king.

HISTORY OF MATI

The last archaeological researches has explored different trails which demonstrate the population of the area till al the paleolithic and after. The valley of Mati, has been populated during all the historic periods. The main inhabitant were the Illrian Tribe Pirustae. They resisted the Roman invasion until the second century BC.

King Zog’s monument in the center of Burrel
Burrel is one of the largest districts in Albania. It is also known among Albanians as the “Land of Kings”, as Gjon Kastrioti, the father of Gjergj Kastrioti, better known as Skanderbeg, was born there. He was a hereditary prince of a large district of Epirus that included Mat. Another famous native of Burrel was Ahmet Zogu, first King of the Albanians (born Ahmet Zogolli, later changed to Ahmet Zogu; October 8, 1895 – April 9, 1961), who reigned as King Zog I from 1928 to 1939. He had previously been a Prime Minister of Albania between 1922 and 1924 and President of Albania between 1925 and 1928.

Burrel was a miners’ town during Communist Albania, but the mines closed, with the exception of a ferrochrome plant still operational near Burrel.

During the Kosovo conflict there was a refugee camp near Burrel for 2,000 people.

Prison of Burrel
The city used to be the site of one of the most terrible prisons of the communist regime, where both ordinary criminals and political prisoners such as Bashkim Shehu and Fatos Lubonja or the Catholic priest Dom Simon Jubani were held. Another famous inmate was Pjetër Arbnori, later to become a member of the free Albanian Parliament. Arbnori was known as “the Mandela of the Balkans” because of the length of his internment, which lasted for over 28 years. It was one of the Communist Albania concentration camps. The political prisoners used to be condemned for attempts at overthrowing the state or anti-communist propaganda and agitation, for terms of at least 20 years. Often they were re-condemned while in prison. After the fall of the communist regime, the government of the Democratic Party of Albania closed the prison and made it a museum. However in 1997, Sali Berisha re-opened it as an active prison.

Archaeology
The region of Mati is a real archaeological museum and an ancient cradle of the Illyrian culture. Here has been explored objects which demonstrate fact for all ancient historic periods, cultural development not only from the region of Mati but even for all the surroundings. It is a very important zone for the study of the Illyrian culture.

 


 

USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT MATI IN ALBANIA

Mati was the home district of Ahmed Zogu who became King Zog and the town is full of history: fortified houses, ancient bridges, caves and castles. The district capital, Burreli, is only 45 kilometers away from the Miloti junction on the main Tirana – Shkodra high way. It is worth the detour or a stop on the way to or from Peshkopia.

The traditional family houses of Northern Albania were highly defensible stone buildings, usually two storeys high called kulla, whose literal meaning is “tower”. The word is often translated into English as “tower-house” which is quite confusing because these houses are not towers in reality. Kulla are big enough for a traditional extended family to live in; the living quarters are usually on the first floor, accessed by an external staircase; where there is a third story, this was usually used for the bedrooms. The windows are small – hard to fire into and easy to shoot out of – and are often protected by stone embrasures, called frengji, instead of wooden shutters. Mati has several well preserved kulla, some built as recently as the 1930’s – these later buildings have windows of a more normal size, because by then security was better. The imposing cluster of kulla where the Zogu family lived in Burgajet just across the river from Burreli, was raised to the ground after World War 2, the site can be seen from the terrace of the villa Bruci Hotel.

Getting to Mati and getting away

From Tirana, mini buses to Burreli depart from a side street off to the north of the Zogu i Zi roundabout. The journey takes about 2,5 hours, depending on the traffic in the outskirts of Tirana. From Peshkopia, the mini buses to Tirana go through Burelli, taking about 2,5 hours or, if there is a meal stop, a little bit longer. This is a very scenic route, through pretty woodlands and then along the beautiful Mati River(See: the rivers of Albania), with fortified houses that are visible from the road. The fare for either of these journeys is 400 lek (3 Euros).

From Macedonia, the buses from Debar (Dibra e Madhe) to Tirana could also drop passengers in Burreli. All these timings will change if the new high way connecting Macedonia with the Adriatic-Rruga e Arberit is ever built.

For cyclist, bikers and those with their own 4×4 transport, an alternative route is from Kruja, over the Shtama pass (Qafa e Shtames) about 50 kilometers. There is no public transport on this route and the pass is closed when there is snow.

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

map of Albania

map of Albania

PHOTO GALLERY OF MATI

MAP OF MATI