Albania - Land of the Eagles
Albania's recent isolation means that there is still a magical sense of a time-warp in some areas. A coastal and mountainous country between Greece and Italy, much of its classical past is untouched - romantic ruins in glorious countryside. See what Jeremy Seal, writing for the Daily Telegraph, thought of our tour.
Geographically, and until recently, also culturally isolated through a post-war Stalinist regime, Albania is unlike any other European country. Caught between Greece and Rome, Albania was once home to classical cities which
vied in splendour with those of her mighty neighbours. There is a wonderful sense of discovery about Albanian archaeology: this is a place where pristine ruins really do still stand untouched, in splendid isolation, often amid meadows of wildflowers.
Oliver Gilkes, Andante’s archaeologist guide, has witnessed at first hand how the country has struggled to assert its new-found freedom during his 15 years of excavating and working here. His observations make fascinating listening, and add interest and depth to our study of this land in ancient times.
Andante has hand-picked an interesting mix of hotels (albeit from a fairly limited offering!) and has created a varied, expertly planned itinerary, introducing sites from many periods of Albania’s history. As modern Europe strengthens its hold, the remnants of the past will vanish in this country which has awoken after 50 years of isolation - so we suggest you visit now!
Highlights include the World Heritage Site of Butrint, once a prosperous ancient city, with wonderful views across to Corfu, and the attractive medieval town of Berat – where Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques jostle for space along the narrow streets.
"Albania’s adverse reputation is unfounded. It is clear that this is a country with a huge history undergoing very rapid change, so you were correct to advise seeing it now. The Andante team was absolutely first class in showing us this spectacular and unknown country."
Albania on our Blog:
A Hungry Archaeology in Albania - Guide Lecturer Oliver Gilkes on the highs (and occassional lows) of Balkan cuisine
Our Man in Albania - One of our hard-working Tour Administrators, Joe Shingles, recounts his first trip to Albania with Andante
NB Order of visits on Days 8 and 9 will vary according to flight times.
2 + 1 nights in a modern 4* hotel in Tirana on the corner of Skanderberg square - comfortable rooms and generous breakfast;
2 nights in a hotel in the town of Fier close to Berat.
This list is no more than a guide to some books that you may find useful to read in advance of the tour. Talks given on the tour will attempt to fill in the background to what we are seeing, so no prior knowledge or pre-tour cramming is expected or needed. In many cases, we expect that you will find some of these books even more interesting and useful to read once the tour is over.
General Guide Books:
There are few good general guides in English. Many were written under the regime and are now hopelessly out of date, for example Philip Ward's·Guide to Albania, although still to be found on sale. There are two, however, which are, with some reservations, not too bad.
Robert Carver (1998)·The Accursed Mountains·(This is a strange book. Carver provides an overly bleak view of Albania and many of his comments are simply not accurate, even considering that it describes a journey in 1996. However, it is very readable and provides a modern take on the incomprehension with which many people first meet Albania.)
Gillian Gloyer (2006)·The Bradt Guide Albania. An excellent guide to the country, the best and most up to date currently available in English, though it does have some odd lapses and gaps. Highly recommended.
James Pettifer (1996)·Blue Guide: Albania. The latest edition (updated 1996) of the Blue Guide series which traditionally have a strong reputation to maintain. This is provides very full coverage, although there are still many inaccuracies and some misleading information.
Linda White (1994)·An Albanian Journal and Guide. This guide is interesting as it is done as a sketch of the country before and after the fall of the communist regime. It is now a little dated as things have changed a lot in the past 9 years.
Jason Tomes (2003, pbk 2007)·King Zog, self-made monarch of Albania. Excellent study of 1930's Albania and its peculiar monarch.
Miranda Vickers (1995)·The Albanians: A Modern History. The best short history of Albania currently available, providing insights into its modern condition. Highly recommended.
Donald Nicol (1993)·The Last Centuries of Byzantium. A general account of the closing years of the Byzantine Empire with a lot of information about the Balkans and the origins of Albania. Recommended.
John Wilkes·The Illyrians. A modern survey of this ancient people who figure very strongly in the concept of modern Albania. Recommended.
Katherine Fleming (1999)·The Muslim Bonaparte: Diplomacy and Orientalism in Ali Pashas Greece.·Good modern study of the enigmatic Ali Pasha
Lord Byron·Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Available in many editions, Byron's great poem is at least partly auto-biographical, recounting his meeting with Ali Pasha at Tepelene. Recommended.
Edith Durham (1908 - but available in Phoenix Press)·High Albania
Richard Hodges (2006)·Eternal Butrint·Periplus Books
Edward Lear (1847 - but available in a modern paperback edition)·Diary of a Landscape Painter in Greece and Epirus. Lear was one of the early travellers in the area of Albania who has left his impressions of the country. Recommended.
Enver Hoxha (1986)·The Artful Albanian. A drastically edited version of Hoxha's 40 volume memoirs. It can be heavy going but it is an interesting insight into the complicated personality of the ex-head of the Party of Labour of Albania. Recommended.
Tom Winnifrith (2002)·Badlands Borderlands: A History of Southern Albania/Northern Epirus.
David Smiley (1994)·Irregular Regular. A personalised account of the activities of the Special Operations Executive in Albania during the war.
For the enthusiastic there are also several ancient authors who provide information on the area. The following are all available in Penguin Classics:
Caesar·The Civil War
Cicero·Letters to Atticus·and·Letters to his Friends
Anna Commena·The Alexiad
Livy·Rome and the Mediterranean
Polybius·The Rise of the Roman Empire
Slightly more difficult to acquire are the works of early travellers, especially William Martin Leake, François Pouqueville (in French), Thomas Smart Hughes, and Henry Tozer. However they do repay the effort (especially Leake and Hughes) providing vivid accounts of travelling in 19th·century Albania. They can be acquired as new paperbacks from Elibron classics at·http://www.elibron.com/english/
Bartholomew publish a·European Travel Map of Albania, scale 1:450,000, though beware, there are no accurate maps of Albania's roads generally available.
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