November 28 – Independence Day in Albania

Posted on November 28, 2018

I have already written a bit about today's world holiday here. But let's take a deeper dive into Albania and its national holiday!

Whether November 28 is celebrated by Albanian Americans living in the U.S. as a day of pride in their ancestry, or by folks living in Albania as a public holiday, it serves as National Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day. Albanians declared themselves independent of the Ottoman Empire on this date in 1912. 

Albania was invaded by Italy in 1939, became a Nazi German protectorate in 1943, and became a Communist state after World War II. It finally was restored to being an independent republic in 1991.

Here are a few things that make Albania special:

You know how the name for Germany in the German language (Deutschland) looks nothing like "Germany" and the name for Japan in the Japanese language (Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku) looks nothing like "Japan"? 

Well, in Albanian, the name for the nation that English speakers call "Albania" is
Shqipëria or Shqiptar. I have no idea how to pronounce those names!!!

Because of Albania's history - being conquered by outside forces, enduring a communist dictator and then having economic crises after the collapse of the communist regime - hundreds of thousands of Albanians emigrated to other lands, including nearby spots like Greece and Turkey as well as far-away nations such as the United States. The result is that there are more Albanians living outside of the nation than there are in the nation!

It's interesting to note that, during its communist years, Albania became one of the most isolated nations on Earth. Not only did the dictator, Enver Hoxha, have severe travel restrictions that made it hard to get in and out of the country, he also cut ties with other communist nations. He was super negative toward Albania's communist neighbor, Yugoslavia, and he also withdrew from the Warsaw Pact and broke ties with both the USSR and the People's Republic of China.

Because of that isolationism, Hoxha thought of other nations as enemies. He ended up dumping a lot of Albanian resources into the building of bunkers. Lots and lots of bunkers. Like more than 750,000! Which is practically one bunker for every four Albanians!

Most of the bunkers were never used. A lot of them have been abandoned and are being grown over, but a lot are being used nowadays as homes, cafes, even museums. 

Most countries have the occasional hamburger stand
and tattoo parlor, but Albania has the occasional
hamburger bunker and tattoo bunker!!!

Sazan Island, once a secret military base, is being transformed into a tourist destination, complete with its bunker designed to withstand a nuclear bomb...

...And Hoxha's own personal 5-level bunker - which includes more than 100 rooms! - is now being used as an art gallery and history museum.

Here is a bunker that was converted to a bed-and-bunker unit

In addition to bunkers, Albania is known for mountains...

...the seaside...

...pretty towns...

...and even Roman ruins!