Books on Albania
Update No: 136 - (25/09/08)
The coming country
Albania is a country that is doing brilliantly out of recent developments. It is
even likely to do well out of the current global credit crunch.
Albania the new jewel
This is an extraordinarily beautiful place. It is also unspoilt, that is, by
capitalism. It was of course spoilt in a way by half a century of communism; but
it at least left the environment more or less intact.
Foreign investors have turned their attention to Albanian real estate,
especially in tourist areas by the sea. In a time when investors and tourists
alike have explored Mediterranean beaches, largely untouched Albania is turning
more heads. The stable economic and political situation and the prospect of EU
and NATO membership make Albania even more attractive.
Experts in real estate confirm that EU and NATO integration processes under way
in Albania, will ensure considerable appreciation in real estate over the next
five to ten years. Some predict annual appreciation of 30 p.c. "We are very
confident that Albania has a bright future. The country ... will become an
attractive market in three to five years," said Philip Bay, regional
director of Colliers International Southeast Europe.
Another advantage for the Albanian market is that it offers the lowest prices on
the continent of Europe. Investors buy properties along the entire coast.
Shengjini in the north has been in the bull´s eye of Russian investors, who are
turning to Albania after buying up numerous properties, indeed20much of
Montenegro. Real estate agents say the south of Albania from Vlora to Saranda
remains a prime market, but they see buyers beginning to covet Lalzi Bay in
Durres, still a large and pristine area.
Western Europeans are now buying apartments, especially those along the southern
coast in Vlora and Saranda. Most of the buyers come from the United Kingdom,
Ireland and Norway. German investors are showing particular interest in
territory between Durres and Tirana. Robin Barrasford, managing director of
Barrasford and Bird, a British real estate consultancy, says Albania represents
an excellent opportunity. "We advise the investors to buy, as they will
make money in three years," said Barrasford. In an Albanian magazine
interview, he likened the country's prospects to Bulgaria´s real estate boom a
few years ago.
Foreigners investing in Albanian property need to prepare for potential
drawbacks, such as trying to obtain clean title deeds. The government is still
in the process of returning property to its pre-communist owners, and disputes
over ownership can arise. Therefore, most foreign buyers of real estate in
Albania ask for legal advice before investing.
The remarkable archaeological complex at Butrint
Albania is attractive to ‘culture tourists’ as well as property investors.
The ancient town of Butrint, for example, is the core of one of the most
extraordinary archaeological sites in Europe. When Albanian communism collapsed
in 1990, the state ironically and disastrously withered away and Albania's
archaeology ceased to have any protector.
Lord Rothschild, a long-term holidayer on nearby Corfu, and his friend Lord
Sainsbury of Preston Candover, came together to form the Butrint Foundation,
aimed at preserving the site and the area around it. The departing director of
the foundation is Rupert Smith.
From Corfu, Albania is all bare-looking mountains and emptiness - the
Communists, fearing invasion and sabotage, would not allow their citizens to
live by the sea - save the shallow crescent of Saranda and a low-lying green
area soon giving way to more mountains, behind which is Butrint.
The town is on a lumpy, testicle-shaped peninsula, surrounded on three sides by
the waters of Lake Butrint and the Vivari River, not far from the sea. The
foundation myth of the city involves a fleeing Trojan, Priam's son, Helenus. The
first major contributors were Greeks of the Hellenistic era (post-Alexander),
who built wonderfully cut stone walls and gates, a theatre, a sanctuary for
Aesculapius, the medical god, and a few other bits and pieces.
The town continued in a low-key way, until the fleets of Augustus destroyed the
ships of Mark Antony and Cleopatra's navy, not far south, at Actium in 31BC. By
way of marking the occasion, Augustus ordered the building of Buthrotum, and
over the next four centuries the Romans put up baths, a huge aqueduct, a forum
and a palace or two. When Rome fell, Butrint came under the Byzantine Empire and
received churches, a cathedral and a baptistery.
The Venetians bought the place in 1386, along with Corfu, building towers and,
finally, under the Ottomans, Ali Pasha put up a castle not far away, to confront
the British who were, by now, ensconced on Corfu. What is remarkable about
Butrint as a site is that all these periods co-exist, alongside or on top of one
One can walk along the river path, from ruin to ruin (some of them three storeys
high), and can read the story of the city in the stones. The buildings are well
labelled, the museum in the castle at the low summit is excellent and, at the
site's entrance there is a large, shady café in which you can recover after a
Between Saranda, the sea-port, and Butrint, on a hilly isthmus, is Ksamil, which
looks like the first town ever built entirely by anarchists. Cows amble along
unmade roads lined with the beginnings and middles of apartment blocks and
houses. People are drawn here by the local beaches, unspoilt, and - sitting
below the cliffs - very lovely.
Then inland there is Gjirokaster, an impossibly steep city of stone roofs and
old Ottoman houses. Its famous children include the novelist Ismail Kadare, and
the Stalin of Albania, the long-lived Communist dictator Enver Hoxha. Here the
Packard Humanities Institute of California has been working hard to preserve and
rebuild the extraordinary architecture of the town.
There is certainly much to see and admire in Albania.