Naturally, there is much, much more to Albania. It has vistas and beaches that rival the French Riviera. It has an enviable Mediterranean climate. But, sadly, it has had a troubled history.
Until 1991, Albania was under Communist rule for 40 years. Then, in 1998-1999, the war in neighboring Kosovo brought 480,000 ethnic Albanian refugees into Albania, straining the country’s resources. (“Shok,” a short film nominated for an Academy Award this year, does a masterful job of telling the story of that war’s impact on the Albanian population. You can read about the film and that conflict in my two previous posts about Shok).
Millions more Albanians live abroad rather than in Albania. It is a question of survival. Although Albania’s largely agricultural economy is growing, life is still hard, as my Albanian contact, Elda, told me.