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Albania The undiscovered gem

Albania, also known as “the land of the eagles”, situated on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe, is a small country but well known for its wonderful coastline, turquoise beaches, alpine landscape, historical regions as well as UNESCO world heritage sites, ancient citadels, castles and cities, welcoming and smiling people, and delicious food.

The photos depict Albania at the end of the 19th and early 20th century. These photos were taken mainly by Albanian as well as foreign photographers, travellers, diplomats or scholars, who, during their journeys through the country, recorded interesting landscapes, castles, bridges, traditional folk garments etc. Interesting collections of early Albanian photos can be found in the prestigious “Marubi” Studio, in the well-known cultural city of Shkodër, where the first photo was taken in 1858 and which marks the beginning of Albania’s photography history.

The Mesi Bridge, 1904, Joseph Bubenichek, National Library of Albania, Public Domain Mark
The Mesi Bridge, 1904, Joseph Bubenichek, National Library of Albania, Public Domain Mark

The Mesi bridge is located 8 kilometres outside the city of Shkodër on the Kir River. It was built by Mehmet Pashë Bushati in 1768 in order to connect Drisht and Shkodër. Its length is 108 metres, its width measures 3.4 metres, and it counts 13 asymmetric arches. Hewn stones were used for its construction. The Mesi bridge is a cultural monument of great value and a symbol of ancient civilisation. The picturesque surroundings replete with rocks and pristine bodies of water makes it even more attractive.

Public Flower Garden, Shkodër, 1875, Pietro Marubbi, National Library of Albania, Public Domain Mark
Public Flower Garden, Shkodër, 1875, Pietro Marubbi, National Library of Albania, Public Domain Mark

The famous public flower garden in Shkodër represents one of the former splendours of northern Albania. With a history of settlements spanning more than 1,000 years, the city was also one of the metropolises of Balkan civilisation, and produced many distinguished writers, linguists and historians. The 19th century witnessed a boom in art, architecture and cultural institutions, with museums and libraries emerging, which reflects the connections of Shkodër with the civilised European world. Pietro Marubbi is recognised as the first person to photograph the Balkan region.

Panoramic view of Gjirokastër, 1931, Erich Andres, National Library of Albania, Public Domain Mark
Panoramic view of Gjirokastër, 1931, Erich Andres, National Library of Albania, Public Domain Mark

The city was named Gjirokastër in the 13th century after the fall of Hadrianopolis. The castle is the city’s main feature, which, most likely, was founded by Gjin Bue Shpata who named the city. The castle is made of stone. In the middle of the castle’s grounds runs a wide road (east-westerly direction); the castle’s grounds also hold 200 houses. It was protected by seven towers, some of them reaching 30 metres in height. It is one of the most magnificent and best preserved castles in Albania. Gjirokastër was an important administrative centre in the19th century, populated by landowners who built magnificent fortified tower houses. The city lists more than 500 historical buildings. Gjirokastra was included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 2005.

Discover more material from Albania at europeana.eu.