Tag Archives: Albania

A Monastery in Montenegro

Thursday, August 27. We started the day with another great breakfast on the hotel terrace. Today was to be primarily a driving day to Montenegro.
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We drove several hours, making a rest stop about a half hour from the border of Montenegro, in Shkodra. Shkodra is an ancient medieval town, but also important in the revolution against the Communists. It was a bustling city with a great deal of traffic. Our experience was limited to pedestrian mall with a great many cafes. They were primarily filled with young people. A mosque was on the mall.

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Shkodra mosque.

Shkodra mosque.

We reached the Montenegro border, stopped at the border crossing and went from a country with a Muslim majority to one with a Eastern Orthodox majority. We drove along Shkoder Lake, shared with Albania. This is a fertile area with vineyards and fruit orchards.

Shkodra Lake, Montenegro

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Balkan Alps near Moraca Monastery.

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As we continued we ascended into the Balkan Alps with steep peaks and deep gorges. In time we made another rest stop at a roadside restaurant where we sampled the local grappa. In Montenegro they infuse the grappa with fruit. We tried the apricot and quince. It is strong drink but fortified us for the rest of the journey. Maybe it was the fruit.

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High in the Alps we came to the Moraca Serbian Orthodox Monastery founded in the 13th century. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and a small chapel is dedicated St. Nicholas. It had incredible frescoes and a beautiful crucifix on the icon screen. The grounds were beautifully landscaped backed by high peaks. There were many people there and the monks were attending them. Father Tom wondered how much peace they enjoyed as it was on a busy highway.

Church of the Assumption.

Church of the Assumption.

Facade of the Assumption Church.

Facade of the Assumption Church.

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Gazing heavenward.

Gazing heavenward.

Church of Saint Nicholas.

Church of Saint Nicholas.

We arrived at the ski lodge in Kolasin where we will spend the next two nights (elevation 3000 ft).

Tomorrow we spend the day at Dumitor National Park.

 

Ancient Illyria, Modern Albania

Flag of Albania

Flag of Albania

Wednesday, August 26. Today was our first full day of the trip. After breakfast today began the Tirana city tour. Tirana is the capital and largest city of Albania (1 million pop.). The city has gone through a tremendous redevelopment in the last decade following suppression under a strict Communist regime. Today it is made up of streets of tightly packed small shops and restaurants. Still, there are many parts of the city needing redevelopment.

Albania is largely Muslim (60%) followed by Orthodox, then Catholic. One of our first visits was the Et’hem Bey Mosque. In 1991, 10,000 surrounded the mosque in defiance of the Communist regime. This was the beginning of the fall of communism in Albania. Under Communist rule all religions had to go underground. There is a history of the religions living in harmony. The mosque is located on the main square. The interior is covered with frescoes, which is rarely seen in mosques. It is small so a much larger one is being constructed.

The women’s gallery.

The Islamic pulpit.

Mosaic of Albania History, National Historical Museum, Tirana.

Next we visited the National Historical Museum which had an incredible mosaic on the facade which recounted Albanian history.

This was called Illyria or Illyricum, which is mentioned in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 15:19). It was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century despite the heroic leadership of Albanian hero Skanderbeg. Their independence from the Ottomans came in 1912, followed by a monarchy until the Communists came following WWII. The Socialists followed the Communists until it became democratic in 1990.

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A Roman mosaic.

A Roman mosaic.

We were even more interested in the religious pieces representing its Christian history.

Epitaphion of Christ, National Historical Museum, Tirana

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Iconostasis, National Historical Museum, Tirana

Tribute to Mother Teresa in national museum.

Tribute to Mother Teresa in national museum.

In the afternoon we went to the mountain city of Kruje, named after the water springs. This was the hometown of Albanian hero Skanderbeg, who had resisted Ottoman occupation.

Skanderbeg, National Historical Museum, Tirana

Ruins of his castle mark his memory.

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There is a large bazaar which sells both inexpensive souvenirs next to antiques and textiles.

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We toured the Ethnographic Museum giving us a view of family life 250 years ago.

 Following the museum we had a typical dinner at a local restaurant with an incredible view.

Kruje Castle and Watchtower, built on ruins of Skanderbeg Castle.

The weather was stifling today. We decided to end the day by sharing the local beer.  A good way to conclude a day that has been hot and uncomfortable.

Tomorrow we travel to Montenegro.