From funny to nonsensical, from nature’s
blessings to superstitions about sneezing, from loving to not being able to
actually say it, here are some fun facts you don’t often hear about Albania.
1. It has one of the most diverse geographical reliefs in Europe
Mountains, rivers, lakes, gorges, canyons, seas, thermal springs, waterfalls, lagoons – you name it, Albania has it and probably more than one. The entire western side of Albania is a actually a coast, or two. The northern half is the Adriatic and the southern, the Ionian. The north of Albania is positively alpine and the south, both tropical and Mediterranean. It’s crazy, we know, but true!
2.We have both a very traditional and extremely inclusive cuisine
What we mean is that in Albania is where the cuisine of all the neighboring countries merges. Italian, Greek, Turkish and Albanian are all seamless parts of Albanian cuisine. Espresso? In every corner of the country. Meze, the Greek appetizers? You will find them in every seafood restaurant. Baklava and Turkish coffee? You bet. But, we also have such a delicious strictly Albanian cuisine, as well. You have to visit to understand!
3. The word for “thank you” literally translates to “I bow to your honor”
The word “falemnderit” (thank you) comes from the verb “falem” which can mean to pray, salute, forgive, or bow and the noun “nder” which can mean honor, honesty or integrity. So when you hear this unusually long word said left and right, remember that it is our solemn bow, or tactful appeal, to your integrity and honor.
4.Albania has around 300 days of sun each year
You may have heard this said about Albania. It’s not a myth. It is true that the ratio of sunny to rainy days is abnormally high in Albania. Combined with a mild climate, this makes for a very pleasant general atmosphere. We consider it one of the greatest blessings!
5.We make confusing gestures
For instance, when we are very involved in a story and want to hear the rest of it, we urge our interlocutor by shaking our head “no.” We realize it doesn’t make sense to non-Albanians, but if you see someone eagerly shaking his/her head “no,” don’t get alarmed. This is us saying “Yes, go on.”
6.The word “bread” can mean “meal”
Albanians find it very hard to have a meal without some kind of bread in it. I t can be whole grain loaf, pita, corn bread, baguette, you name it. We just cannot fathom any meal without bread. This is why when we ask “should we eat something” we are actually saying “should we eat bread”?
7.We believe that when someone sneezes, a truth has just been revealed
This goes all the way back to antiquity and is actually referenced in Homer’s epic tale The Odyssey. As such, we can say this weird but resilient custom has endured for thousands of years. When someone sneezes out of the blue, we believe that what was said right before the sneeze is indisputably true. In other words, the sneeze confirms or reveals a truth, kind of like a Freudian slip does.
8.Mother Teresa is Albanian…and so are the Belushi brothers
Albania’s history with religion is uncommon, to say the least. Born to Albanian parents in Skopje in 1910, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s birth name was Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhi. She was raised in a catholic Albanian household but actually visited Albania fairly late in life, 1989 to be exact, because of the country’s strict anti-religion Communist regime. As you can see, the entire story is kind of miraculous. The Belushi brothers are another miracle.
9.We rarely say “I love you”
While Albanians have the reputation of being warm, sometimes hot-blooded, people, we must admit we don’t just throw our “I love you’s” around. We have a great sense of humor but we take our feelings very seriously and, though we are extremely social, can be pretty shy about confessing any feelings. So while in other countries you may hear “love you’s” thrown around, in Albania you may never get to actually hear the sweet phrase.
10.We don’t use street names when giving directions
When you travel to Albania, you should prepare yourself to interpret the directions given by the locals. If you ask them where a street is located, chances are most people won’t know. You should go with landmarks or areas. Albanians will describe the road to get anywhere in the most creative of ways. They may even offer to walk with you part of the way or take you there. But they cannot help you with those street names.
11. Albania has more than 1 million goats
That’s right! 1 million goats stroll up and down the countless mountain and cliff sides of the country. In a country of about 3 million residents, that is quite the presence. They are all around so you can’t miss them on the road to your destinations, running down to the road to say hello. They come out of nowhere, hiding in and out of abandoned buildings in pristine beaches like Porto Palermo. They will cross your path and you will love it.