SHKODRA – ALBANIA
Shkodra has been a highly significant city during most of its long history, it is the traditional center of the Gheg cultural region, it is also one of the oldest cities in Europe. The ancient Rozafa Fortress has stunning views over the nearby lake, while a concerted effort to renovate the buildings in the Old Town has made wandering through Shkodra a treat for the eyes. Many travelers pass through here between Tirana and Montenegro, or en route to the Lake Koman Ferry and the villages of Theth and Valbona, but it’s worth spending a night to soak up this pleasant and welcoming place.
As the Ottoman Empire declined in the late 18th century, Shkodra became the center of a semi-independent pashalik (region governed by a pasha, an Ottoman high official), which led to a blossoming of commerce and crafts. In 1913 Montenegro attempted to annex Shkodra (it succeeded in taking Ulcinj), a move not approved of by the international community, and the town changed hands often during WWI. Badly damaged by an earthquake in 1979, Shkodra was subsequently repaired and is Albania’s fifth-largest town.
The municipality of Shkodra operates a tourist information office that is located across the square from the main post office; near the Rofaza Hotel. During the summer months, well trained, English speaking staff members will be at the kiosk and are able to give tourists all kinds of information. The kiosk offers a ranch of free leaflets, maps, guidebooks and souvenirs. The municipal police are kind and friendly and always willing to give out information and tips.
Traveling to Shkodra
From Montenegro, buses run between Ulqini (called Ulcinj in Serbo -Croat) and Shkodra all year round. The journey takes 1,5 hours; the one way fare is just 4 Euros. Helpfully the Montnegrin and Albanian authorities operate a joint border post at Muriqani, just 14 kilometers away from Shkodra, which saves alot of time. In Shkodra, buses depart from outside the Rofaza hotel; in Ulqini, from the main bus station. There are bus departures from Ulqini at 6.00, 12.30 and 16.30, buses leave Shkodra at 9.00, 14.15 and 16.00. Taxis also do this journey, taxis charge 8 Euros per person or 25 Euros for the whole car. In Shkodra, drivers look out for passengers outside the Rofaza Hotel.
There are two ways to get to Shkodra from Italy; the one way is to take a ferry to the Bar border which is named Tivari in Albanian in Montenegro, and then drive 30 kilometers to the border, or you could get on the bus which drives from Budva to Tirana. The other way to to take a ferry to Durres and then drive up the highway from Durres to Shkodra. The road is good all of the way, the journey by car takes about an hour while the journey by bus takes a little longer.
There are frequent buses and mini buses from Tirana to Shkodra, running from the early morning until the last bus which departs at 17.00, the journey takes about 2 hours and the bus fare is 300 lek (2,5 Euros). These buses leave Tirana from a side street just beyond the Zogi I Zi roundabout. In Shkodra, the buses for Tirana depart from Sheshi Demokracia, just outside the Radio Shkodra building. From the Tirana airport, a right turn at the roundabout at the exit from the airport will lead you to the Fushe-Kruja junction of the main north – south highway, 2.8 kilometers away from the airport, a taxi all the way to Shkodra from the airport should cost no more than 50 Euros. The drivers of the mini buses to Tirana from Shkodra or anywhere else in Northern Albania can drop passengers off at the airport upon request and with a 200 lek surcharge.
The outstandingly beautiful journey down the lake Komani from Fierza is one of the world’s greatest boat trips, through breath taking mountain scenery and narrow gorges. There is no longer a car ferry on this route, but it is the best way for cyclists or those using public transport to approach Shkodra or Lezha from Kosova or northern eastern Albania. The alternative is to use the old road from Kukesi, via the beautiful district of Puka.
ACCOMMODATION IN SHKODRA 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 bads 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 SHKODRA – ALBANIA
Bird watching: A very popular bird watching site is Lake Shkodra, shared with Montenegro and situated next to the town of Shkodra. This is the largest lake in the Balkans and considered one of the most important sites for migratory birds in Europe. Other possible locations for wildlife-watching include Theth national park and Valbona valley in the Albanian Alps, where hiking has so far been the main activity for tourists, and Butrint national park on the Adriatic coast, where ancient ruins can also be explored.
The hunting moratorium introduced by the Ministry for the Environment expired in March 2016, and the government’s announcement that it’s planning to expand it for another five years has received strong support from environmentalist groups and the tourism industry. Before the ban was introduced, hunting was booming because it brought considerable income to locals, but it seriously damaged the wetlands’ ecosystem and endangered the wildlife in the region.
An interesting website to visit about Northern Albania is the Albanian challenge website, which we admire alot!
SIGHTSEEING IN SHKODRA – ALBANIA
Rozafa Castle (fortress of Shkodra): The Rofaza castle is located at the entrance of the town, just 3 kilometers towards the south of the center of the city, located on rocky hill that is 133 meters high. It is one of the biggest and most famous castles in Albania. The Rozafa castle has a fascinating history, that relates to one of the most beautiful legends of Albania. Archaeological excavations have yielded finds extending from the early Bronze Age until the present day. Within its massive defensive walls stand the Church of St. Stephen, several Venetian administrative buildings, a belfry and some medieval rooms. There is also small museum and traditional restaurant. The castle is open from 08:00 – 22:00. The admission fee is 200 lek (1,5 Euros).
Drisht Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Drishtit) is a ruined castle above the modern Albanian village of Drisht, medieval Drivastum, in the municipality Postribë, Shkodër District, Albania. The earliest traces of fortifications date to the late Neolithic era. In the 9th century, it was part of the defences of the Zeta principality. Part of castle was built in the 13th century during the Byzantine rule. The current walls and towers date to 1396-1478 during the Venetian era. In the 14th century the castle became independent of Shkodra. In 1442 the castle was taken from Serbian Despot Đurađ Branković by the Venetian forces. It finally fell to the Ottomans during the massive siege of Shkodra in 1478. There are the remains of 11 houses inside the castle walls.
Drisht Castle: The Drisht Castle is situated 6 km from Ura e Mesit (The Mes Bridge) on the Kiri river. The present village is situated below the archaeological excavations of ancient Drivatium. The village was constructed during the Roman period, as a settlement on the road from Shkodra to Kosova and in the late antiquity it was one of a chain of fortresses defending Shkodra. In the 9th century it became an important fortification of the Zeta principality and was part of the Bar Diocese. The Drisht castle was constructed in the 13th century as a Byzantine fortress. The town flourished in the 14th century, a time when it also gained independence from Shkodra. In 1442 Drisht was occupied by Venetian forces only to be then taken by Skanderbeg and finally occupied by the Turks in 1478. The castle is situated on a hill 800 meters above the sea level. Within the walls of the castle there are 11 houses forming a neighborhood.
St. Stephen’s Church – stands in the principal court of Rozafa Castle. It was constructed in two phases at the end of the 13th and in the 14th century, and was later converted into a mosque.
The Leaden Mosque – stands below Rozafa Castle in a medieval quarter, once old bazaar area. It was built in 1773 by Mehmet Pasha Bushati on the model of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and is roofed with lead.
The Historical Museum – The house of Oso Kuka, who died defending Shkodra against the Montenegrin attackers in 1861, is now home to the town’s historical museum and provides the opportunity to see the traditional, domestic architecture. Ottoman-era building (1815) with archaeological and ethnographic collections.
National Photo Gallery “Marubi” – is located in the center of the town and is the richest and most important photographic archive in Albania. It contains more than 500,000 negatives, of which the earliest go back to 1858.
Catholic Cathedral (Kisha e Madhe) – one of the biggest catholic cathedrals in Balkans dedicated to St. Stephen. After it’s reconstruction in 1991, the cathedral was inaugurated by Mother Theresa and two years later it was visited by Pope John Paul II. Inside of the cathedral is a copy of the Turin Shrout. Free Access.
Al-Zamil Mosque, New Mosque – two mosques in the center of city.
HISTORY OF SHKODRA – ALBANIA
The city of Shkodra is the oldest city in Albania. It seems the city existed since beginning of the time. The people of Shkodra are indigenous and autochthonous. The name itself has a meaning in the Albanian language. The name “Shkodra” is derived from “Shkodrin” which means “Go Drin” or “Drin goes.” The other names used for this city are “”Scutari,” and ”Scodri.” All of them have meaning and are Albanian words in today’s Albanian language. For example, Romans called the city “Scutari” and Latins called it ” Scodri.” The name “Scutari” comes from the Albanian name “Skutaqe” which means apron. The fortress of Rozafa stands as the symbol of sacred Shkodra. It is very hard to reveal the true story behind the walls of this castle. Was this the castle a kingdom?! Was this place a secret one?! Was there a sacrifice for something? The legend is about a woman who died, but she bagged that her breast be left open for her son to feed. The three brothers sacrificed their sister to make possible the wall of the castle to remain standing. She was immured because the oracle said it. She sacrificed her life for common traditions. For centuries, the people of Shkodra believed that in the walls of the castle is the “live body” of a mother. The story was told from generation to generation. Nevertheless, the city has a long history dating back not only in prehistoric time, but since the creation of it. Some scholars believe that the city existed since the neolite time. Some artifacts date since the 4th century BC. Based on these artifacts, the archaeologists believe that the city was founded around the 4th century BC. In the Tethii Mountain, the archaeological material found date since 2000BC. Nevertheless, some ancient drowings on the walls of some caves indicate life activities for more than 5000 years. In ancient time, Illyrians lived in Shkodra. The region was ruled by Illyrian tribe Labeates and Ardianes. The Illyrianology is considered the oldest discipline to study not only the ancient man, but also the start of the life. Not only Shkodra, but the entire Balkan Peninsula was inhabited by a native people who used same language, the Illyrian language or the Albanian language. The Illyrians left behind artifact representing an ancient mystery of intelligent civilization. The creation of a family, for first time, started in ancient Illyria where man and woman fell in love and united for the rest of their lives. The family had children, and they looked and took care. The husband and wife worked together to raise the children. They struggled, sought security, and had moral concerns. In general, they lead ordinary lives for their time. If one could walk into a typical ancient Illyrian home, he or she would find many of the trappings of modern life, recognizable yet ancient. Instead of putting locks and locking their doors, they built walls and surrounded themselves with fellow citizen for security. It is still eminent building walls around the houses among Albanians all over Albania. Illyrians built cities in convenient locations, near the mountains, or in an intersection road that connected the regions of Panonija and Pontija, and the Aegean coast to Adriatic coast. The city of Shkodra is built in a very beautiful place not far from the Adriatic Sea. This was an ancient military strategy to protect the chief town from being attacked from the enemies. It was the capital of Illyria and the kingdom of Queen Teuta. In the year 168 BC, the city was attacked and occupied by the Romans. Romans declared war to Illyrians because the Queen Teuta has ordered the captured Roman officers to be thrown to the lions. The Roman Empire concentrated the strongest armies and occupied the city. The Illyrians found occupied by the Romans. Even though the Romans tried by all means to introduce their culture, the Illyrians retained their own culture and traditions. The Roman Empire started building roads on the same trail of the ancient roads. The Roman ruler found faithful Illyrians to Roman Empire. Romans created four provinces in Illyria, which were directly run by Rome. Caesar and Rome occupied the cities of Illyria. The cities of Butrinty, Apollonia, Scutari, and other cities were declared as property of Rome in 59BC. Rome changed the name from Illyria to Illyricum. In 59 BC, Julius Caesar received as his province Illyricum and Gaul, and later Octavian and his generals, Asinius Pollio and Statilius Taurus, waged war there with such success that in 27 BC, at the partition of the provinces between Augustus and the Senate, Illyricum was regarded as wholly pacified and was assigned to the latter. The Romans turn Illyria into the province of Illyricum, and they ruled for about six centuries. Under Roman rules, Illyrian and Roman society underwent great change exchanging values and improving them, especially in its outward, material aspect. Art and culture flourished, particularly in Apolonia, whose school of philosophy became highly respected and celebrated in antiquity. Shkodra was not left behind, the city undergo a major construction and rebuilt itself. Largely, the Illyrians resisted assimilation into Roman. The land was rugged and mountainous, and civilization progressed but slowly; the Romans, however, seized five major cities and organized 5 Roman colonies within the province and a considerable number of municipals. Part of the remaining Illyrian tribes submitted voluntarily, and Augustus brought the rest under the Roman yoke by in 23 BC. The total transfer to Roman Empire and Emperor was in 11BC. Illyrian lived with own laws and tradition. The Roman Empire did not interfere with their religion and tradition. Around 4BC, Illyrians protested for their dissatisfaction. Some Illyrian senators visited the Illyrian tribes, and they managed to calm the situation down. In and around Shkodra, the plague called “Lija e Keqe” or the “Ugly Painting” killed many people. Roma and Roman commissioners did not do anything about. When the Roman Soldiers were infected with the deadly disease, the villages and people of today’s Tarabosh Mountain were burned. In some parts of Roman Illyricum, it was not totally peaceful. The Illyrian ranged wars against Romans. The Romans experienced huge losses and were defeated. The new army of Rome managed to pacify the region. Around 9AD, Rome divided Illyria into two parts, Pannonia and Dalmatia, in order to separate the rebellions and give the rebels administrative positions under Roman control. New missionaries were preaching about new religion. Their voice was heard very far. The rumors about new religion inflicted many parts of Illyricum. People were skeptical, and the new religion was something new for them. Shkodra during the Roman times was the center of the province of Praevalitania.
The last known king of Illyrian having the thrown in Shkodra was king Genti or Gentius. The Romans built roads connecting the city with other cities. Shkodra very fast became an important trade and military center of the ancient time. In ancient time, people of Shkodra were mostly pagants. The jewish religion was not accepted in this region. The christianity in this region appeard around 33 AD. Throughout the time, Shkodra witnessed wars and unrests. The emissars did their work. Christianity came to the Illyrian lands in the first century A.D. Saint Paul wrote that he preached in the Roman province of Illyricum and legend holds that he visited Durracium or today Durrës. The life continued in the same way with same principles. The Illyrians paid their tax tributes to Romans and they were not bothered. The first century AD is characterized by building small Christian churches. The churches looked small and not different from their houses. Roman Senate promotes the welfare of the people in 50AD. The Illyrian senators welcomed the promotion. From 81 to 96 AD, the writers of the time were very well heard through the writings of historical novels and poetry. The legends and history became prime target for the ancient writers. The Roman Emperor, Domitian, was a cruel and suspicious tyrant in the years of his rule. The year 81 to 96 AD was the period of terror associated with many assassinations of the best ancient writers. At the end, Dometian ended with his murder. Among the murdered writers, some Illyrian writers in Rome were from the region of Shkodra. The Dardanian King, Trajan, was chosen to be the Roman Emperor from 98AD to 117AD. He managed to unite the Illyrian and Dacian tribes. The Emperor Trajan was noted in the history of Rome for his excellent administration. Under the administration of Emperor Trajan, the empire reached Cultural Revolution. During Trajan’s rain, Shkodra and region flourished in all the aspects of the life. The region of Shkodra culminated in industry and cultural work, and the region reached its greatest extent. The Roman Empire in the beginning of the new century, started to be rebuild. During this time, the Roman Empire was ruled for short time by Illyrian, Publius Helvius Pertinex. He ruled from December 192 to March 28, 193. The year 200AD is characterized with renaissance in the architecture all over the Roman Empire including Shkodra.
Constantius I Chlorus became the governor of Dalmatia and then, sometime around 292, Prefect of the Praetorian Guard. He was chosen for even higher office and had moved toward that ambition by removing his first wife, Helena, an innkeeper’s daughter, in favor of Theodora, daughter of Diocletian’s co-Emperor Maximian. In 293AD, the emperor Diocletian created the Tetrarchy. In this Tetrarchy, the Roman Empiror divided the Roman Empire into Western and Eastern portions. Diocletian became Augustus of the Eastern empire, with Galerius as his Caesar. Constantius was appointed Caesar to the Western Augustus. When the Roman Empire split, Shkodra became important city of the Byzantine Empire. Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus or Constantine the Great was born on February 27, 280AD. He was the son of Constantius I Chlorus and an innkeeper’s daughter, Helena. Constantine was well educated and served at the court of Diocletian after the appointment of his father as one of the two Caesar, at that time a junior emperor, in the Tetrarch in 293. On the death of his father Constantius in 306, he managed to be at his deathbed in Eburacum or today city of York, where troops loyal to his father’s memory proclaimed him Emperor. For the next 18 years, he fought a series of battles and wars that left him as supreme ruler of the Roman Empire.
During this time, the Illyrians worked and prospered. Many soldiers joined the army of the Constantine the Great. Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus was the first Roman Emperor to profess Christianity. Constantine I or Constantine the Greate not only initiated the evolution of Christianity in the Roman Empire, but he ended the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. He allowed every christian to practice his religion, but he instituted several legislative measures on Jewish people. They were not allowed to force their slaves to convert to jewism, nor he allowed them to have a christian as a slave. He prohebited the jewish to circumsize their slaves. Nevetheless, Jewish people were allowed to practice their religion, and he allowed them to enter Jerusalem on the anniversary of the destruction of their sinagogue. Constantine also enforced the prohibition of the First Council of Nicaea against celebrating Easter on the day before the Jewish Passover. Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus influenced in development of Christian Culture that grew up in Byzantine and Western part of Rome. He reserves the title “The Greate” because of his contribution to Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine rite, lists both Constantine and his mother Helena as saints. In 324, Constantine the Greate announced the decision to transform Byzantium into Nova Roma. On May 11, 330 AD, Constantine the Greate officially proclaimed the new city to be the capital of the Roman Empire. The city was renamed Constantinople. Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, Cnstantine the Greate died on May 22, 337 AD. His capital city would remain a capital of Byzantine until the end of Byzantine Empire in 1453.
The Illyrian lands were under Byzantine force, and ruled by Illyrian. Nevertheless, Illyrian were administered by Eastern Empire, but they were deppendable on Rome. All the Illyrians were Christians. The Illyrians that lived in Mountainous region were Catholics; while the ones that lived in valley region and arround major cities were Orthodox christians. The region of Shkodra ramined to be addorable to Rome. The city was divided. As the people relocated from mountanous region to valley region, they converted to eastern Christianity known as Orthodox Christians. However, the Romans built road passing through this region. The region had division, but dominated by Catholics. In the 4th century, the region of Shkodra had two orthodox churches and three catholic churches. During this time, many young Illyrian patriots from the villages around Shkodra went to wars east for conquering Asia and Middle East. They never returned to this region. The young men of the city remained to live happy until a plague appeared. Shkodra was raged by a plague called Black Death. Black Death was much transmitted disease that has no cure. It is similar to Ebola virus. Many people died. It is believed that the entire city or part of it was burned. Half of the population vanished. For centuries, life continued in this region under the laws and canons of feudal lords that regulated the trade and trading. The anarchy and blood feud was eminent throughout the time in this region. Constantine the Great called the First Council of Naissus to settle the problem of Aryanism, a dispute about the personhood and godhood of Jesus. Constantine may have favored the losing side of the Arian controversy; an Arian bishop, Eusebuis of Nicomedia, baptized him.However, people lived in peace and mutual understndings.There were churches in alomost every village. The churches were not as big as today cathedrales, but the church was just a house that gothered people to warship. What destinguished Illyrians is the clock towers buildt in every each town. In similar way the towers were later joined to the church. The trade and business continoued mostly with Ulqin and other cities.
The Roman Empire invested in the city. The Church supported the city. Shkodra became one of the most important trade and military center during the V and VI century AD. The city was as a transit road of the trade between the North and South. Many trading caravans that came down from the northern part of the Balkan Peninsula, they passed through Shkodra. People of Shkodra were artisans and traders. The neighboring cities of Obot and Ulqin served as ports for Shkodra. After the collapse of the Huns empire in the 5th century, the Slavs began expanding toward southeast of Europe. It was ideal chance for Slavic Gypsies. They rushed into free land by murdering not only the Huns, but native people too. They moved west into what are now the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The other parts such as Dacia and Trachea were under rules of Huns. The Slaves started slowly to move from Carpathians, Caucasus and other regions. At this time, the economy and progress of region of Shkodra was slowed due to the political and military activities. All the men went to wars to assist the northern front and the southern fronts in 602 to 610 AD.
With the help of Illyrian forces, particularly from the region of Shkodra, Kumanova, Shkupi, Prizren, Peja, and other cities, the Emperor Heraclius wins back the golden cross “Cross of Christ” from Persians in 614. The wars continued. Heraclius wanted to defeat Illyrian tribes in the western part because they were supporters of Roman Empire, and they were Catholics. At this time, the warriors of Shkodra did not support the emperor. In the 6th Century AD, the Slavic Gypsies arrived in Balkans and occupied the region of Dacia, today’s Rumania, and Trachea today Bulgaria. The Slavs from area of modern Poland, Slovakia, Russia, Byelorussia, and Ukraine came to assist the Emperor in this war. Led by generals of Emperor, the supporters of Rome were defeated. The people did not change their religion, and they remained Catholics. However, the Slavs did not win the war. Almost all the Salvic soldiers were murdered. The small number that remained alive was forcefully converted into supporters of Roman Catholicism later during the 8th and 9th century AD. In the 9th century, they were totally Catholics. The rest of Slavs were pushed back or killed. The region of Shkodra remained calm. There was two part of Christianity: Illyrians that believed in Catholicism and the other who believed Eastern Orthodox Church. There was no war. In Shkodra both communities lived in peace and mutual understanding. In 732 AD, the Byzantine emperor, Leo the Isaurian, subordinated the area to the patriarchate of Constantinople. Thereafter, the Albanian lands became an arena for the ecclesiastical struggle between Rome and Constantinople. Most Albanians living in the mountainous north remained Roman Catholic, while in the southern and central regions, the majority became Orthodox. Mountainous people did not move very often to the cities. When they were going to the city for trading, they traveled in a large group so no one could attack them. From 600 AD to 800 AD, the Slavic nomadic invaders washed over Dacia, Trachea, and Helenia or today’s Greece. These “barbarians” created a “dark age” in the Balkans during which written Hellenic records cease. In 800 AD, Hellenic written culture reappears. Apparently, these “invasions” can also be characterized as an intermingling of peoples. Hellenic civilization seems to have survived in small cities, and ultimately the newly arrived Slavs became Hellenized. Shkodra was run by few feudal lords who did not allow to have a Slavic Slaves and prohibited the Slavic and other Gypsies to enter the city. The region of Shkodra was raged by a disease. The feudal Lords did not allow any villager to enter the city. The villagers could not work their land and cultivate their farms. The famine was unavoidable during the end of the 9th century AD. The people in the city lived very well while the villages were dying. The feudal Lords paid people to burn the villages infected with the disease. The traders were avoiding the city and the region. The feudal lords did not help the villages. The city was not affected, but the famine created perfect condition for unrest. The city was almost destroyed, and some of the feudal lords were killed. The famine, disease, and unrest caused the city to lose its importance.
The nomadic Slavic tribes in small numbers started moving from north toward south. The Byzantine Empire already has given the permission to Slavic nomadic people to live in the Empire. In 997, the Bulgarians and other Slavic tribes including Asiatic tribes of Cuman and Oghuz attacked the Byzantine Empire. The attack failed. In the battle, some e of the officers of the Byzantine Empire came from the region of Shkodra. The life in Shkodra slowed, and many people fled the city. The rich people stayed in the city. Nevertheless, the economy and trade vanished from the city. There was no workforce. They used the port of Ulqin and Durres to purchase Slavic Slaves that were being brought by Ships. The first Slavic Slaves in Shkodra were purchased in 1015 AD. During this time, the Churches allowed the Slavic Slaves to pray and use Church facilities. North of Shkodra, the Church allowed the Slavic to create their community. Their community grew to be a village, and they called it Zeta. In 1040 AD, the Slavic nomadic people celebrated because they created the first Slavic village in the vicinity of Shkodra. The Slavs wanted to be a part of Rashka, another church given to the Slaves. Another large church given to the Slavic Slaves was the Zeta church. The church of Shkodra given to the Slavic joined the Zeta Church. In the modern time, the Russian Gypsies known as Serbs falsified the history. They declared that in 1040, Shkodra was occupied by the Serbs. The Byzantine Empire was very strong during 1040. The Empire would not allow to the Serbian to create empire within empire. In addition, the Russian Gypsies known as Serbs claimed that all the churches in Shkodra were built by Slavic people, and all of them including catholic churches belonged to the Slavs. The Slavic people were in small number. In 1040, Shkodra had only 23 Slavic or Slaves. However, the Serbian did not occupy the city of Shkodra in 1040AD. In 1054 AD, was a dispute over authority of Vatican and the Pope. The Vatican and Pope claimed authority over the insertion of the filioque clause into the Nicene Creed. In the other side, the Eastern Christians claimed primacy, and the Patriarch of Rome does not have the authority to change the decisions of Ecumenical Councils. In addition, the variance over liturgical practices and conflicting claims of jurisdiction were a cause the church to split into two. By 1100AD, the Church officially split on doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographic lines.
The city of Shkodra was ruled for generation by the Balsha feudal family. In 1396, the city failt under Venetians and after few yars it was liberated. It is believed tha Bushati family surrendered the city to Venitians in fear of Ottoman Turks. In 1389, Ottomans attacked in the southern part of Balkan Peninsula. Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs fell one after one, and they found occupied for the next five centuries under the rules of Ottoman Empire. The Bulgarians and Greeks were defeated and burned alive while the Russian Gypsies known as Serbs were decapitated. The Hungarians barely were resisting, and in the southwestern part, the Albanians were heroically battling the ottoman armies. The Ottoman Turks advanced ahead. Shkodra found itself under the fire of Ottomans in 1474. The Ottoman attack failed in Shkodra, and the askers of Ottoman Turkey were defeated. The Ottoman Empire sent more soldiers to attack Shkodra. The attack started in 1478 and ended in 1479. After the Turkish occupation, the city was devastated. Some people could not accept the defeat, and decided to move. Large number of the population fled for Italy. The city was occupied for the next five centuries by the Ottoman Turkey. With its natural sources and beautiful views, Shkodra became the economic center during the Ottoman rule. Its craftsmen produced fabric, silk, arms, and silver artifacts. The city started to incorporate the Islamic architecture. The reconstruction involved the building of the shopping place or “Bazar,” the two story houses, but it still retained the Illyrian style.
The Ottoman Empire expanded greatly under Sultan Selim I who reigned from 1512 to1520. It was under his son, Sultan Suleyman who ruled from 1520 to1566, called “The Lawmaker” in Islamic history and “The Magnificent” in Europe, that the empire would reach its greatest expansion over Asia and Europe. Süleyman took control of parts of Persia, most of Arabia, and large sections of Hungary. By the early 16th century, the Ottomans had also defeated the Mamluk dynasty in Syria and Egypt. The leading officers of the Ottoman Army were Albanian Yanichers of the region of Shkodra. On September 28, 1538, the Albanian city in Epirus, Preveza was found on the fire. The Albanian fleets in alliance with other Christian fleets assembled by Pope Paul III attacked the Ottoman Turkish navy forces. The Albanian soldiers were from the region of Shkodra. Soon, the fight was over. The Ottomans occupied again Preveza. In the 17th century, Shkodra became the Sanjak of Shkodra. Shkodra turned to be an important trade center in the second half of the 18th century. Aside from being the center of the sanjak of Shkodra, it was an important trading center for the entire Balkan Peninsula. It had over 3500 shops, clothing, leather, tobacco, and gun powder were some of the major products of Shkodra. A special administration was established to handle the trade. There was a trade court, and a directorate of postage services which was the connection with other countries. Other countries had opened consulates in Shkodra ever since 1718. Obot and Ulqin served as ports for Shkodra. The Bridge of Mesi or “Ura e Mesit” over the Kiri river is built during the second half of the 18th century. The bridge is 100 meters long with 13 arcs of stone, the largest one being 22 meters wide and 12 meters tall. In the 18th century Shkodra became the center of the pashallek of Shkodra, under the rule of the Bushati family, which ruled from the year 1757 to 1831. In 1756, Mehmed Pasha Plaku founded the Bushati dynasty, which set up his own rule and established diplomatic relationships with the other European states. Under Kara Mamoud Pasha Bushati, Shkodra had 70,000 inhabitants and was renowned for its craftsmen. In 1831, the Sultan set up a military expedition to get rid of the Bushati rule. After the fall of the pashallek, the people of Shkodra had a number of uprisings against the Ottomans, in the years 1833-1836, 1854, 1861-1862, and 1869. The struggle for independence did not stop. Shkodra played an important role during the League of Prizren. The branch of the League of Prizren for Shkodra, which had its own armed unit, fought for the protection of Plava and Gucia, Hoti and Gruda, and Ulqin.
While the Slavic people were talking about fighting the Ottoman Turkey, the Slaves prepared hidden plans to anex the Albanian territories. The Serbo-Montenegrin forces or better known as Russian Gypcies attacked the villages arround Shkodra. The Albanian villagers organized well managed to win the battle. The bestfighting is described in the book of Gjergj Fishta, “The Rzhanica Bridge.” Father Gjergj Fishta was sent to a village to replace the local priest in 1902. Father Gjergj met and befriended an aging peasant Marash Uki from Hot, Marash Uki told the young priest of the heroic battles between the Albanian highlanders and the Slavic Gypsies known as Montenegrins, in particular of the famed battle at the Rrzhanica Bridge in which Marash Uki had taken part himself. The first parts of ‘The highland lute’ subtitled ‘At the Rrzhanica Bridge,’ were published in Zadar in 1905 and 1907.
It was a big celebration in Shkodra when Ismail Qemali declared independency. While the Albanian forces were exhousted from the battles with Ottoman Turkey, the Slavic Gypcies known as Serbs and Montenegrins entered the city. However, the Slavic forces were thrown out of the city. The Serbo-Montenegrin forces lost 12 500 soldiers. During World War I, Montenegrin forces once again entered Shkodra on June 27, 1915. The Serb-Montenegrin forces did massacres in few villages. The Serb-Montenegrin force was totally destroyed by Albanians. No Slavic soldier escaped alive from Shkodra. In January of 1916, Shkodra sided with Austria-Hungary and was the center of the zone of their occupation. Later, the French military governed the city of Shkodra. After World War I, the international military administration of Albania was temporarily located in Shkodra, and in March, 1920, Shkodra was put under the administration of the national government of Tirana. In the second half of 1920, Shkodra resisted another threat, the military intervention of the forces of the Yugoslav kingdom.
When the biggest crises occupied the western world, Shkodra had a slow but stable industrial development. The small manufacturing enterprises produced food, textile, medication, and cement. From 43 of such in 1924, the number rose to 70 in 1938. In 1924, Shkodra had 20,000 inhabitants according to Catholic Church; the number grew to 29,000 in 1938. The real number of Shkodra was 56 000. Shkodra was the center of democratic movements for the years 1921 to 1924. The democratic opposition won the majority of votes for the Constitutional Assembly, and on May 31st, 1924, the democratic forces took over the town and from Shkodra headed to Tirana. Shkodra was center of democratic movements of the years 1921-1924. The first laic school was opened in 1913, and the State Gymnasium was opened in 1922.
Shkodra was city with Christian community and Muslim community. The half-Catholic, half-Muslim population, but the people of Shkodra were always western-oriented. Albania and Shkodra had close ties with Italy. Five century under the Ottoman Rules, Shkodra was free. The writers of Shkodra were profoundly aware of the misery around them, and it is perhaps the extreme diversity of their social environment which furthered their talents. They looked to the West and longed for a new, European Albania, yet they found themselves in an archaic society, one so bound by the force of tradition and custom that progress was impossible. For most people, any sort of change was quite inconceivable. They were out of place in their own country and reacted to their situation in various ways, some with an outpouring of sentimental attachment to popular traditions, and others with strong feelings of revolt at the poverty and backwardness which they saw. Their writings reflected and gave full expression to this dilemma. The life flourishes in Shkodra. The economy was booming. There was always readiness to fight with axis of evil, the Russian Gypsies Serbia and Montenegro. The Albanian government opened the door for business. The Italian government did not like the relationship of Albania with other countries. On April 8, 1939, Italy invaded Albania. After the annexing Albania on Good Friday 1939, the fascist forces settled in Albania. Mussolini assisted Albania with 3 million liras. The Albanian parliament voted to unite Albania with Italy. The king of Albania, Ahmet Zogu, fled to Greece. The intellectuals of the period were forced at any rate to come to terms in one way or another with the political and cultural dilemma of Italy’s growing influence in Albania. The Albanian writer from Shkodra, Ernest Koliqi, was among the intellectuals. He accepted the post of Albanian minister of education from 1939 to 1941. During his time as a minister, Ernest Koliqi assisted the Albanian people in many areas of education. For instance, he made possible to publish the historic publication of major anthology of Albanian literature. With the defeat of fascism, Koliqi fled to Italy again, where he lived until his death on January 15, 1975. Not only he kept abreast the contemporary literary trends in the Albanian-speaking world, but he also gave voice to Arbëresh literature and continued to uphold the literary heritage of prewar authors, many dead and some in exile, who were so severely denigrated by communist critics in Tirana. Ernest Koliqi thus served as a distant voice of opposition to the cultural destruction of Albania under Stalinist rule.
New era and new war for Shkodra and Albania was beginning. The 1939-1944 periods are the pivotal point in twentieth-century Albanian history. The events that transpired during this time frame determined the type of government that emerged in the post-war era. The Albanian Communist Party was founded on November 1941, and Enver Hoxha became the first secretary of the party. The communist party was active in the war against the fascism. On September 1942, the Communist Party organized a National Liberation Movement. In other side the Albanian National Head, National King Zogi Party, and other non communist parties formed units to resist Italian occupation. On September 1943, the German troops came to assist the Italian troops. The Communist Party and National Head forces advanced in the fight against the fascist forces, and they entered central and northern Albania on July 1944.The city of Shkodra was liberated on November 28, 1944.
The chief officer of National Head in Shkodra was Major Gjergj Vata and Pjetër Daragjatin. On May 4, 1944, in front of “Rozafa” cinema in Shkodra, the meeting took place. In this meeting, Gjergj Vata, Mark Gjon Marku, father Anton Harapi and 152 other people participated. The meeting ended with new units for defending the northern Albania from fascist and communist. The chief officer was chosen Colonel Luigj Mikeli. On November 1944, the communist forces were allowed to enter. Nevertheless, the communist forces tried to wipe out everything that was not a communist. The National Head counted 2000 soldiers. The war continued for two years. The communist forces in a lurking way have betrayed Gjergj Vata. On December 7, 1946, Gjergj Vata, Arap Sadikaj, Kel Vata, and Memo Metos were killed and massacred by the communist partisans. On March 3, 1995, the Albanian president declared them as the national heroes and Martyrs of Democracy.
Source: ILIRIAPRESS, Author: S.K. Shkupjani, Courtesy of ILIRIAPRESS
USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT SHKODRA IN ALBANIA
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 SHKODRA
MAP OF SHKODRA