Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Albania - but didn't know who to ask...

(from http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/europe/albania/)

This pint-sized, sunny slice of Adriatic coast has been ground down by years of poverty, blood vendettas and too many five year plans, but Albania still manages to pack a wild punch of traditional Mediterranean charm and Soviet-style inefficiency.

It's a giddy blend of religions, styles, cultures and landscapes, from Sunni Muslim to Albanian Orthodox, from idyllic beach and rocky mountain to cultivated field. Relics from one of the longest dictatorships in Eastern Europe rub shoulders with citrus orchards, olive groves and vineyards.

Decrepit, Chinese-built factories stand next to breathtaking mosques; ornately decorated Orthodox churches face off 'Soviet Brutal' palaces of culture.

Kicked around by the Balkan big boys for millennia and turned upside down by its very own Maoist Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, Albania is now tentatively embracing democracy, the outside world and a few foreign travelers. Some things won't ever change, though: the spectacular forested mountains, the warm Mediterranean sun, and the heart-rendingly blue waters of the Adriatic all endure the country's ups and downs.

Warning - The security situation in Albania is improving, although visitors should continue to exercise care and maintain a high level of personal security awareness. The northeast of the country, which borders Kosovo, is the only region travelers should avoid. Unexploded ordnance is still scattered through some parts of this region.

Full country name: Republic of Albania
Area: 28,748 sq km
Population: 3.5 million
Capital City: Tirana
People: Albanians, with Greek, Vlach, Macedonian and Roma minorities
Language: Albanian, Italian, English, Greek
Religion: Sunni Muslim (70%), Albanian Orthodox (20%), Roman Catholic (10%)
Government: Emerging democracy
Head of State: President Alfred Moisiu
Head of Government: Prime Minister Fatos Nano

GDP: US$15.69 billion
GDP per capita: US$4,400
Inflation: 6%
Major Industries: Cement, chemicals, food processing, hydropower, mining, oil, textiles and clothing, timber
Major Trading Partners: Italy, Greece, Germany, Belgium, USA, Bulgaria, Turkey, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Member of EU: Application Pending


Want to know even more about Albania?

Check out the CIA World Factbook at http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/al.html - but keep in mind that these were they guys who accidentally targeted the Chinese Embassy during the Kosovo intervention, and though there were WMDs in Iraq...

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