Shkodra Region lies in the northern Albania, in albanian Alps (east -west), Western Lowlands and on the south eastern part of the Central Mountanious Region. It includes the districts of : Shkodra, Malesia e Madhe and Puka. Its surface area is about 2 528 km2. The relief is mainly mountainous, partly with hills and fields. The two main lowland zones: that of Mbishkodra (Malësia e Madhe district) and that of Nënshkodra (Shkodra district).

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Buna lake, Shkodër, Albania
Photo credits: Wikimedia / Planeti

The rivers are: the down flow of Drini, Buna (the only sailable river), Kiri, Cemi of Vermosh, Cemi of Shala, Përroi i Thatë and some other streams. The climate is lowland Mediterranean, hilly, partially pre-mountainous and mountainous. The annual average temperature is 15,30C, the average of the coldest month is 3,30C and the hottest is 360C. The annual average precipitation is 2 000 mm, thus the highest for the whole country, mainly during autumn and winter. In 1730, the Chamber of Commerce was created in Shkodra city.

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Photo credits: Wikimedia / Tobias Klenze Deutsch

The national Renaissance of Albania (1830-1912) finds Shkodra with a population of 50 000, and a rapid economical and cultural development. Due to the geographical position, it becomes an important commercial link for traffic between the coasts Adriatic and the inland regions of the BalkanFrom 1807 – 1809 the Old Market Place is built in the market area of the city, which was an important complex built by the hill on which the Rozafa castle stands, and it consisted of 2 500 shops and around 80 kinds of craftsmanship developed. Close to the market there was a mol on the Buna River, where many barks and small ships were anchored, which connected Shkodra and the Market with the Adriatic. In the years 1924 – 1939, the city witnessed  an industrial development, especially with small factories.

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Shkodra castle
Photo credits: Wikimedia / Christian Guther

During this time there were about 70 factories. During the period of the monarchy, the city had an administration of European behaviour with regular institutions and a number of progressive reforms took place.

Malësia e Madhe

In the 15th century, in the regions, which comprised the Principality of Pulti, smaller ethnographic divisions were created. These social – economical communities headed toward centralization in the following centuries, taking the name, Malësi (taking this from the organization in “mountains”).  For its protection, Malësia e Madhe established the united military forces, which played a major role in different wars.

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Vermosh, Malesi e Madhe
Photo credits: Wikimedia / Sigismund von Dobschütz 

The population usually was engaged in animal farming. The social relationships were regulated by the Code (Canon) of the Mountains. The spoken language was part of the northern Gegë dialect. Malësia e Madhe is the region where the legends of the Knights are preserved, where the lute and the pipe are used, and where there is a kind of dance, which is danced without musical track.

Cemi_i_Nikçit, Malesi e Madhe
Photo credits: Wikimedia / Albinfo

The type of the houses was that of tall ones, whereas in 20th century developed a variant of the “kulla” (a tall house built with stones). Kopliku (now the centre of Malësia e Madhe) was mentioned since the 15th century under the name of Kopenik. In the upper Kopenik, there is the old castle of Barleca, which was known by the natives with the name “the castle of Podgora”, built during the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.

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Lepushe, Malesi e Madhe
Photo credits: Wikimedia / Albinfo

Puka

Pukë is the capital of the Pukë District in northern Albania. The town has a population of 6,495 (2005 est.). At 838 metres above sea level, the town is one of the highest in elevation in Albania and a well known ski area. It is 150 km from Albania’s capital, Tirana. Situated on the road from the Adriatic to Kosovo, the town developed during the 4th–2nd centuries B.C. In ancient times, it was known as Picarea. The ancient town was destroyed by a barbarian invasion. The town has also been known as Pezhve. This area has a 2,000-year-old tradition of resin sculpture. The remains of this tradition are located in a quarter of Pukë town.

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Puka, Albania
Photo credits: Flickr / David & Bonnie

In the 20th century, Pukë was expanded as a military base and a centre of Catholic Education. The town is surrounded by a 400-hectare massif covered with pine trees. Since the end of the communist era, there has been a spread of disease in the pines caused by pine processionary moths, whose nests are conspicuous.

The name Pukë comes from Latin via publica “public road” as it was located on an old trade route. Puka is considered to be a great potential for investments in ski resorts and mountain climbing. There exist great profiting opportunities for all investors that may think of investing in ski areas, considering that these areas are huge and unused until now.  Also, Puka is very rich in natural and mineral resources, medicinal plants and various kinds of mountain tea.

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Pukë, Albania
Photo credits: Flickr / ardian pali 2

Cultural and touristic values of this county

St. Stephan church

One religious object is situated at the western part of the castle; the only building remained from Shkodra of the 13 th century. This church took its name in honor of St. Stephan, who was the defender of the town in the 13 th century. The building has a roman-gothic construction style with quadrate asides, and is supposed that is constructed in the 13 th century.  After the ottoman occupation, the Roman Catholic population was obliged to leave the castle that was transformed in a military base and the church was also transformed in a Mosque(the mosque of Sultan Mehmet Fatih II), in memory of the Sultan  who conquered Shkodra. This building is considered as the oldest building of the Islamic religion. The mosque was abandoned on 1865 when the ottoman administration of the Vilayet moved definitively to the new town.

The Turkish Hammam

It was constructed at the beginning of the 18 century and was functioning until the beginning of the 20 the century. The Hammam was a public building of oriental style construction and was in service of the citizens.  Today it is considered a cultural monument preserved by state authorities.

Kulla Marka Gjoni

Tower of Gjon Marka Gjoni is located in Shkodra’s city center and dates to the 16th century. It houses Shkodra’s prettiest tower (kulla) decorated in the neo-Reneissence style, topped with a zig-zag roof. The tower was added in the early 20th c. and designed by famed Albanian architect Kole Idromeno. The private property is hidden and inaccessible behind the concrete wall. The tower is part of the residence of the Gjon Marka Gjoni (Gjomarkaj) family who has made important historical contributions to Albania throughout its history.

The English clock tower

The clock tower and the characteristic house near it, was constructed by the English lord Paget at the end of 19 th century, who was thinking to transform it in an Anglican Church. This church never laid its activity because was not allowed by the catholic inhabitants of the town.

Gajtani Cave 

In this cave and close to it were found some tools made of bones of the middle Paleolithic period.  The importance of this discovery is the fact that today it is considered as the only clue to prove the prehistoric life in Shkodra region.

The fortified habitation of Krauli (Boks, Postrribe)

This Illyrian castle (I-II B.C.) is supposed that was constructed by the last Illyrian King Genti, like a defense check point of the eastern borders of his Kingdom. There also exist some fortified walls and gates. The surrounding walls are made of massive blocks of plaster.

Illyrian sepulchers 

These are cemeteries with Illyrian sepulchers belonging to the prehistoric period (I and II Millennium B.C.). Time before there were approximately 250 sepulchers. They have the shape of a small knoll, made of stones and soil. In the middle is the central grave surrounded by other graves. Some of them are in groups and some are isolated. During the archeological diggings were found objects such as: ceramic, arms, trimmings.

The township of Ganjolla

It is a fortified Illyrian habitation located on a craggy hill of the village of Ganjolla. According to the archeological diggings, there were identified two phases of life: Ganjolla I- Prehistoric wall scripts (XX-XVII B.C.), Ganjolle II-Walls of the civil period (I-II B.C.). Down the fortified hill, on the national road, there are several terrace olives, where are found some ceramic and architectural objects showing the possible settlement town during the second period of his life.

Danja’s Castle

This castle is mentioned in the documents of the XII century, it was an Episcopal centre and one of the most important revenue centers of the time controlling the road Shkoder-Prizren. This Medieval castle was part of the fortified system of Shkodra valley and controlled the Drini valley. During the 80’ of the last century, were done several archeological diggings that show the location of the rulers, Zahariaj’s family. This family played an important role in the in the events of Scanderbeg’s period.

Vigu’s Castle

It is a Castle of the late roman period IV A.D. it controlled a very important road point.

Shurdhahu’s Castle (Sarda)

The medieval town of Sarda, laid on a hill’s slope, was part of the Dukagjini’s family. It has its development peak at the XI-XII centuries. During the formation of feudal princedoms, this town takes tipically the shape of a medieval town.

Baleza’s Castle (Rrjoll)

Medieval Castle of the XIII-XV centuries. The traces of the surrounding walls are still preserved, and the church ruins.

Beltoja’s Town (Beltoja village)

A fortified Illyrian settlement in phases: Beltoja I- Prehistoric walls (Xii-X B.C.) ; Beltoja II- The walls of the civilian period (III cent. B.C.)

Marshejit settlement

Fortified settlement. Marshej I- This prehistoric wall defending the only possible way to climb to the western side of the hill. The preserved wall is worked on the rocks and filled out with middle size small stones. It a length of 70 m and a width of 3.5 m; Marshej: wall tract II-I century B.C.

Fountain 

These stones made of tuff tricked out with geometric ornaments. On the graves there are big crosses made of stone that belong to the catholic ritual, in a vertical position. It is possible that the third grave is a familiar one, because of its big dimensions.

Fortified settlement of “Gjyteti” (Kir-Pult)

The name’s origin comes from a small district made of three or four houses, in front of Telash, down a massive snow crest that rises in the middle of the valley like a giant obelisk. The settlement is made of unit of small parcels of different levels hanged in a very split terrain, crating the image of a natural castle, which controls the valley. At the middle of a terrace appears a small hill just like an Illyrian grave. It is surrounded by dry walls, a middle sized stones. At the surface of the hill the vegetation is very is dense, we can distinguish two structures of dry walls and direct lines.

The house of “Bajraktari” (Abat-Shale)

On the highest peak of Abat village is distinguished a house with a very special magnificent and elegant architecture it belongs to one of the richest families of Shale. It stands on a three floor building in the hill paved with cameo. The characteristic windows and the roof of alpine style, raise the architectural values of the house. It is considered as a monument Albanian construction tradition.

The house of Lulash Keqi (Theth-Shale)

It is a two floor house belonging to the XIX century, with a traditional architecture of the northern highlands. It seems like a perfect monument because of its fortified style, the location on a rocky massif, and the wooden balconies and roof.

Qyteza (Pepsumaj-Shosh)

The word “Qyteze” is very diffused in Shkodra but also in other Balkan regions. This results as the nomination of an earlier prehistoric settlement. The identified trace in this old document worked with big rocky blocks welded at the edge of a terrace, on a creek side. The wall is similar to the walls those of Grunas in Gimaj (Shala).

Old settlement (Mollkuqe-Shosh)

After the Qafe-Pylle, exactly at the bend where the valley takes the direction towards the village of Kiri, about 100 m at the side of mountain, down the street are located two or three scaled terraces. At the second terrace are situated the ruins of a quadrate building, worked on a mountain side. At the inner side of the wall 1 m height, there are three quadrate dugouts equidistant from each-other. Even one of the wall sides at the right has a dugout of the same level. The circumference walls keep the height of 1-2 m.

The graves of Telashi  (Kir-Pult)

At the entrance of the village on a hummock with chestnuts there is an old cemetery of the village with 20 graves oriented at the east-west direction. There are two types of graves: simple graves, which is the major part. These are designed with stone slabs and two other long slabs placed in vertical position. There are three monumental graves in sarcophagus shape; two are close to each-other and the third is separated.

Zhupi’s Castle

This is an early medieval castle (VII-IX century A.D.)

Koman’s Cementery

The cemetery is situated on the hill called “Dalmaca’s castle”. The archeological diggings have discovered many objects that belong to the Arber culture of the early Middle ages (VI-IX A.D.).

Road station “Ad Pikarium” Puke

This a road station of Roman period (II-I A.D.)

Prehistoric settlement of Grunas (Theth-Shale)

It is a recent discovered fortified settlement in the Grunas district. There are preserved the prehistoric medieval walls (VIII A.D.) and terrace walls of these periods. The special values of this project are that for the first time there are found traces of prehistoric periods.

Dakaj’s Castle

This castle is situated in Shla Dukagjin, Nenmavriq village, on a rocky hill. This has served in the late medieval period, XIV-XV century as a residence of the home-brew feudal lords. At the top of the hill there are found the ruins of an old church surrounded by a wall made of a plaster and lime mixture.

The ancient church of Kodershnjergj (Shosh-Dukagjin)

It is a big church of basilica style constructed with stones, is destroyed during the years of the dictatorship, at the right side outside the surrounding walls aside the valley appears the bases made of cameos.