TIRANA, November 27
If there would be a list of the best places to celebrate the 108th Anniversary of Independence Day and the 76th anniversary of Liberation Day, the most logical answer would be at home. Yet with a long weekend ahead, many might be planning at least one day doing something different.
How do Albanians celebrate Independence and Liberation days?
The Independence Day is an important event also for Kosovo, the Albanians of North Macedonia and Montenegro, and the Diaspora. Normally, many would travel to Albania and join the festivities while holding the flag, wearing traditional clothing or in red and black and the distinguishable Plis or Qeleshe (white wool hat).
People display the national flag of Albania on their balconies and windows. According to the law, every Albanian citizen has the right to keep, raise, or use the national flag. Exhibitions, craft and food fairs, music events were common events held in many cities, towns, and villages across the country. The city of Vlora is the epicenter of celebrations.
Meanwhile, every city has its own Liberation Day. The days begin with Corovoda, which was liberated on September 5th, 1944, and end with the liberation of Shkodra and the entire country on November 29th, 1944. However, Albanian authorities have been arguing on the day when the last German soldier left Albania. Hence some celebrate on 28 and some on 29. The commemoration includes wreath-laying ceremonies at the cemeteries of the martyrs in every city.
Celebrating in 2020
2020 is the second year that Albanians don’t hold proper celebrations for the Day of Independence and the Liberation Day as in 2019 country was in deep grief and chaos following the 26 November earthquake.
Yet, another year finds Albanians unable to celebrate the two most important historic events.
What to do in 2020
In the current situation, unessential traveling is not recommended, yet long stay-at-home and personal distancing are considered to have an impact on mental health. Hence, a nature trip or a visit to a cultural setting in the open would be the safest option. For those staying at home, or living abroad, a virtual visit to Albanian museums might come in handy.
Commemorate by supporting local businesses
Usually, those who can afford a long weekend away from home in Albania travel to the south towards Vlora and the coastal villages, or to the Korca region. Other choose, less conventional destinations in the northern part of the country. Given that the hospitality and travel industry was the worst hit from the pandemic, every booking for a guide, or night stay would support businesses operating in the sector, especially those in remote and rural areas. The best expression of patriotism would be through baking those that support the country’s economy, such as restaurants, inns, guesthouses, farmers, artisans, tour guides, etc.
Albanian farmers and small businesses provide almost every product or service to celebrate in authentic Albanian style. From wheat flour for traditional recipes to night-stays in century-old towers.
Visit a castle
On November 28, 1443, National Hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu raised the flag in Kruja Castle. Kruja is a great place for fans of culture and the outdoors. A day in Kruja offers the opportunity to visit the castle and the Gjergj Kastrioti Museum and the Ethnographic Museum. Hiking enthusiasts can climb Kruja Mountain up to the spiritual site of Sari Salltik. The place guarantees amazing sunsets. Another option would be to drive to Qafe-Shtama National Park, one of the best autumn road-trips. Remember to buy a handmade souvenir from the local artisans.
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More on Albanian Castles
Top 10 Most Popular Castles in Albania
Go on a hiking tour
Albania’s Best Fall Hiking Trails in Times of COVID-19
For those heading to the Vlora region
Museums and Cultural Sites in Vlora
Historical and Cultural Monuments to Visit While in Durres
Museums Worth-Visiting in Gjirokastra
Mirdita, the Place of Amazing Natural and Cultural Attractions
Photo Credit: Celebrations of the 100th Anniversary of Independence, Vlore November 2012, Photos by Bardhok Ndoji