Ever Wondered About Albania?

What to blog about? While contemplating this question I thought I’d turn to our library’s mission: Serve the people of Laramie County by encouraging and supporting lifelong learning and adventure. So what shall it be today, people of Laramie County? Learning? Or Adventure? Well here’s a way I can provide both. This is a topic I know something about!


(psst, it’s a country) The country of Jim Balushi, Mother Teresa, and the bad guys on the movie Taken, it is also where Voldemort was in hiding for 12 years!

If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you’ll be interested to know that Albania is historical Illyria, the setting of Twelfth Night. It’s just north of Greece, across from the heel of the boot of Italy.

At the beginning of WWII it was estimated that Albania had a Jewish population of about 200. By the end of the war it had around 2,000.  Jews in Albania remained totally protected from the Nazis by the Christian and Muslim population.

Albania was once the most closed country in the world; think North Korea.  Their dictator was a man named Envar Hoxha (Hoja).  He was the same kind of guy as, say, Hitler or Stalin, but in a much smaller country and, therefore, not so famous.  He was so paranoid that America would attack Albania that he had 173,371 concrete bomb shelters built. That’s a little less than an average of 15 per square mile!  Communism fell in Albania in 1990 a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

As a vacation spot, Albania is an untapped secret. It combines ancient Byzantine architecture, a bridge that Paul of Tarsus walked on, Mediterranean weather, beaches, castles, mountains, and, of course, concrete bunkers. The cuisine is most similar to Greek cuisine but has plenty of Italian-type food as well.  The haunting traditional music can be heard blaring out of almost every bar or bus.

If you’d like to read a library book about Albania, check out:

Christ and the Kalashnikov
Call number: 261.8325 LOR
(a pretty short and easy read, one of the characters even lives here in Cheyenne!)

The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines
Call number: 940.5449 LIN

~Robin Papaleka  (honorary Albanian)