Shkodra is one of the oldest and most glorious cities in the Western Balkans. Near the shores of its famous lake and at the foot of a rock by the confluence of the rivers Drin, Buna and Kir, it represents a great center of culture, rich in history and typical architecture. Not only an economic, commercial and industrial core, but also the heart of Albanian Catholicism, Shkodra is the perfect proof that all religions can live peacefully together in one country. Nicknamed The Florence of Balkans, protagonist of the first photo taken in the whole peninsula, home of the first astronomical observatory of the region and much more, create only the outline of what this fascinating city can offer. These are, in my opinion, the 10 things not to be missed absolutely in Shkodra.
1.Breathing the atmosphere of the nineteenth century in the historic center
The pedestrian area of the Kol Idromeno road, which runs through the entire district of the historic center will transport you to a unique atmosphere of the nineteenth century. Picturesque two-storey houses of typical pastel-colored architecture, small bars, restaurants, museums and shops will make your walk pleasant, relaxing and will make you fall in love with one of the most beautiful pedestrian areas of Albania.
2.Admire one of the most beautiful photographic collections of Balkans
The National Museum of Photography Marubi holds a real cultural treasure, important not only for Shkodra and Albania, but also relevant at European level. Over 100,000 images document the life of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, capturing clothing, social norms of the time, images of city life and rural life, landscapes and many other aspects of the period. The photographs and the rich exhibited museum materials are fascinating, you will be completely immersed in the now disappeared world of Albania between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
3.Visit a typical northern Albanian house
One of the most interesting aspects during the visit to the Historical Museum of Shkodra is represented by the fact that this museum is located in the magnificent house of Oso Kuka, a patriot from Shkodra of the second half of the nineteenth century. Here you can admire a typical example of traditional architecture, authentic stone fortifications, elements of history, typical objects and costumes.
4.Discover the ancient Rozafa Castle
Rozafa Castle stands on a rocky hill, visible kilometers away. It is more than 2000 years old, but the remains of the walls, the church of Saint Stefan, the bell tower and other buildings date back to the Venetian period. The top of the hill offers a picturesque view of the lake, the Buna and Drini rivers and the surroundings of Shkodra. The large meadows that extend between the remains of the walls and towers invite you to enjoy the beauty of the landscape. The fortress owes its name to Rozafa, an Albanian girl who according to the legend, was walled up alive in the stone ramparts as an offering to the gods, so that they wouldn’t destroy the castle and make the construction firm.
5.Photographing the Lead Mosque
Built in 1773-1774 by Mehmet Pasha Bushati, the founder of the famous Bushatli family, the Lead Mosque is one of the oldest buildings in Shkodra and is the largest and most beautiful mosque in Albania until the first half of the 20th century, when large mosques began to be built. The mosque was given this name because it was lined with lead. Unlike the other mosques or churches in Shkodra, the Lead Mosque is not accessible internally, but it is certainly worth visiting and photographing it close up, not only from far above the castle.
6.Cross the Mes Bridge
Built along the ancient trade route between Shkoder and Pristina in Kosovo, this bridge is the largest and best preserved Ottoman bridge in Albania. The Mes bridge is situated in a picturesque landscape, surrounded by the hills of the Marai Natural Park on the banks of the incredibly clear blue water of Kir mountain river.
7.Attend the sunset on the lake of Shkodra
An incredible lake landscape awaits you, immense expanse of water overflown by seagulls and in the background the profile of the Albanian Alps. This large lake, 370 km², the largest of the Balkans, is a true treasure of biodiversity. You can admire this incredible scenery from numerous vantage points along the way or from the different restaurants in the villages of Shiroka or Zogaj, especially during the last hours of the day where everything looks more spectacular.
8.Get lost in the city on a bike
As soon as you set foot in this city, the first thing you will notice is the many bikes that populate the streets. Shkodra is not only known as a cultural pole but also as the city of bikes. Take one yourself, join the citizens and get lost in the streets of the old town and among the markets, you will live a typical Shkodran everyday life. For those more trained, try to reach the Lake of Shkodra by bike, the ride will definitely be worth it.
9.See the union of the rivers surrounding Shkodra
Shkodra strategically stretches between the swamps of the Lake and the hills of the Albanian Alps, trapped on three sides by rivers, Kir to the east, Drin to the south and Buna to the west. There are several points where you can go to see the union of rivers and capture from above the merging of their waters.
10.Participate in the most famous Carnival of Albania
The origins of the celebration of the carnival in Shkodra arise from the historical connection between this city and Venice, as the latter governed the area during its heydays. Here are also produced the most beautiful Venetian style masks aimed at exports to the Italian and foreign markets. The masks are a masterpiece and have also been designed for a series of productions and films such as Eyes Wide Shut. If it is not possible for you to be present during the period of the celebrations of the very colourful Carnival of Shkodra, make a stop at the factory of the Masks, it is definitely worth it.
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