Albania was considered one of the most isolated communist countries behind the iron curtain. The result was little contact with other countries and little to no development for the benefit of it's people. Today the country is finally free from the communist dictator that controlled the country, but it is may years behind the rest of Europe. I traveled to Albania in 2012 on a tour of the Balkans and was happy to see the country finally working on it's infrastructure, yet I was also reminded of the countries past as I walked the streets of its capital Tirana.

It is believed that Albanians are the descendants of the ancient Illyrians, a Stone Age people that lived in the Balkans prior to the migration of the Slavs. Even though they had close ties to Ancient Greece, the Greeks never conquered Albania. However, in 229 BCE, the Romans did conquer the area.

After the fall of Rome, the Byzantine Empire took control of the area. During the middle ages, Albania became and important region within the Byzantine Empire. Eventually, in 1388, the Ottoman Turks took control of the area. However, between the years of 1443 and 1468, the Albanian's had a brief period of independence, before the Ottomans regained control. It was during the beginning of this second conquest of the Turks that Albania suffered the most as it was cut off from the rest of Europe and it's economy suffered greatly. As a result of continued rebellions in Albania, the Turks forced the conversion of two-thirds of Albania's population from Christianity to Islam.

It wasn't until 1912 that the Albania regained its independence from the Ottomans. However, in 1938, Italy invaded and captured Albania. Soon after Albania regained their freedom at the end of World War II,  Enver Hoxha a communist party member and a friend of Joseph Stalin became the dictator of Albania. Hoxha was an advent isolationist and paranoid schizophrenic. He had bunkers built throughout the country. The result was a people and an economy the suffered greatly. Hoxha finally died in 1976, but it wasn't until the fall of communism that Albania was able to finally become part of the world economy again.

Shkodra and Northern Albania 2012

Tirana 2012

  Tirana 2012