Shkoder

Shkoder

 

Transportation

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

 

Description of Shkoder

Shkodër in Northern Albania is one of the most unique and interesting places not only in Albania, but also in the entire Adriatic basin. Its origin is unknown, but we know that it was an important trading city during the Greek expansion in the region. This is one of the oldest and most historic places in the Balkan Peninsula, as well as an important cultural and economic center. In classical times, Shkoder was known as Skodra and was the capital of the Illyrian tribe of Labeits.

The region, which today corresponds to the territory of Shkodër, was founded in the 4th century BC. ancient Illyrian tribes Ardaii and Labeytov. This is evidenced by artifacts and inscriptions found in the Rozafa Castle. At that time, the city was known as Shkodër or Skodra. The city has historically developed on a 130-meter hill strategically located in the outflow from Lake Shkodër to the River Buna. The Romans annexed the city after the third Illyrian war in 168 BC, when Gentius was defeated by the Roman army under the command of Anicia Gallus. In the 3rd century AD, Shkodër became the capital of the Praevulitans in connection with the administrative reform of the Roman Diocletian. With the spread of Christianity in the IV century, the Archdiocese of Shkodër was founded in Shkodër and officially adopted in 535 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

For many different eras, it has retained its status as a major city in a wider region, due to its strategic location, close to the Adriatic Sea and the Italian port cities, as well as land routes to other important cities and towns in neighboring regions.

During different eras, it retained its status as a major trading city due to its strategic position, close to the Adriatic Sea and the Italian port cities, as well as land routes to other important cities and towns of the neighboring regions. With a population of 77,075, it is the largest city in the north of the country, and in the Shkoder district there are 215,347 people as of 2011.

 

Description of Shkodër

Visitor information
Shkoder Tourist Info Center, Rruga Teuta (Southeast of Sheshi Demokracia). Provide city maps and can help with any of your inquiries, including bus time schedules.
North of Albania Travel, Rruga Kolë Idromeno 145 (in the pedestrian zone), ☎ +355 67 39 22 119. 07:00-21:00. Tourist information, tour operator, hostel, transport services, bike and car rental.

 

Kalaja/Rozafa Castle (2 km southwest of Shkodër, near the southern end of Lake Shkodër). Founded by the Illyrians, this fortress was rebuilt by the Venitians and the Ottomans. Rozafa is a woman buried in the ramparts, who supports the structure. The renovated museum inside the castle explains its history and that the area of the former city is now consumed by the rivers beside the castle. The museum costs 200 lek extra and there is a private guide you can ask about almost anything. There are amazing views from the highest point. 200 lek, 150 lek to enter the Museum.

 

Shkodër Historical Museum

Rr. Oso Kuka, no. 12, ☎ +355 22 243213. 09:00-14:00. 150 lek.

The Shkoder History Museum was established in 1949. It is based on collections collected by Jesuits and Franciscan monks at the end of the 19th century, as well as donations from private collections of famous families of Shkoder. The museum is housed in a monumental 19th century building, the massive residence of the Osa Cook family of wealthy businessmen. The building itself is interesting not only for the rarities it contains, but also as an architectural monument. Surrounded by fortress walls, this building is a typical merchant's house, confirming the important role of Shkoder as a citadel and an outpost of the merchant nobility, as well as a dense population of people along the ancient trade route between the Mediterranean Sea and Kosovo.

The Wasp Cook House was built in 1815, has suffered some damage from time to time, but has been restored to its original state. The internal exposition of the museum acquaints visitors with rich guest rooms, an exhibition of clothes, dishes, weapons and other exhibits. Of interest is the lower floor with a small collection of archaeological finds from the early Christian era, as well as artifacts from the Greek and Roman periods. In the garden you can see a Roman tombstone and a Venetian well.

 

Marubi National Museum of Photography, Rr. Kolë Idromeno, no. 34 (midway through main pedestrian street), ☎ +355 22 400 500, e-mail: info@marubi.gov.al. Mo-Su 09:00-14:00, 16:00-19:00. Albanian's only photo museum capturing development of Shkodër and Albania in general. Major part of the collection comes from three generations of Marubis. 700 lek.

 

Lake Shkodër. The largest lake in the Balkans. Take a taxi to the village of Shiroke. Alternatively ask around for the public bus which goes to the edge of the city, where it is a pleasant 5-km walk by the lake to Shiroke. There is a less frequent bus directly to Shiroke.

 

Mes Bridge (Albanian: Ura e Mesit) (in the village of Mes, about 5 km northeast of Shkodër)

The Mes Bridge, located 8 km from the city of Shkoder on the Kir River, not far from the ruins of the Drisht fortress, is a cultural monument. Built in 1768 by order of Mehmet Pasha Bushati, the arched bridge served to connect the rest of the region with Shkoder. As an example of Ottoman architecture in Albania, it attracts many tourists. The length of the bridge is 108 meters, the width is 3.40 m. The peculiarity of the bridge is its non-linearity, the angle of inclination is 14 degrees in relation to the lower side, the span on the right is 5 m below the large arc. It is noticeable that the structure was erected in two stages: initially, the central arch and its foundations were built on the left and right. In the second phase of construction, a road was laid over the river and small retaining arches were built at each end. In total, the bridge has 13 arches, the largest in the center. Their arrangement is somewhat asymmetrical.

The material for the construction of the base and vaults of the bridge is hewn stone, and the roadway and sidewalk are made of stone slabs. An additional attraction to the bridge is the picturesque surrounding area and the river with rocky banks, rapids and clear clear water. The bridge suffered extensive damage from time, earthquakes, weather changes and river floods. Nevertheless, in May 2010, the restoration of the bridge was completed and it is perfect for walking and cycling.

 

The Shkoder Theater

The Shkoder Theater, named after the Albanian poet and writer Milos Migeni, is located in the very center of the city. The building was built in 1958.

 

Drisht Castle (above the modern village of Drisht, 10 km northeast of Shkodër). A ruined castle, the earliest traces of Frost Castle's fortifications date to the late Neolithic era. The walls and towers date to 1396-1478 during the Venetian era.

 

Shurdhah Island (Albanian: Ishulli i Shurdhahit). It is in the Vau i Dejës Reservoir, which is fed and drained by the river Drin. It is accessible by tourist boat in summer from the Vau i Dejës dam or Rragam. It contains the ruins of the medieval town of Sarda. You can visit the ruins of the 11th-century medieval castle, which includes two rings of defensive walls and towers (some submerged in the lake), the remains of a Byzantine church and other early medieval walls. The setting on the steep rocks rising from the lake is especially impressive.

 

Five Heroes monument. This was "one of Albania's best examples of socialist-realist sculpture". Unfortunately, it was removed from there and replaced by a bland contemporary fountain. The monument was temporarily dumped at the city's garbage dump, only to be finally put back at the Dobrac Roundabout in the northern entrance of Shkodër . The site is still a useful reference point for finding your way around. Interestingly, the fountain is surrounded by seating, in the centre of a busy roundabout called Sheshi Demokracia (Democracy Square) with no pedestrian crossings! Only in Albania!
Museum of Memory, Bulevardi Skenderbeu. Museum dedicated to the crimes of the communist regime in Albania featuring photographs, videos, and first hand accounts of political prisoners from Shkodra.

 

Religious buildings

Lead Mosque

The Lead Mosque is one of the most significant monumental cultural monuments in Shkodra. Among the numerous buildings built in the city by order of various rulers, the mosque is the only building with an exact date of construction - 1773. This is confirmed by a plaque installed on the main door of the temple, engraved in Albanian letters. The inscription reads: "1187 is the date of construction of the Great Mosque of Mehmet Pasha, the benefactor", and below: "1280 is the date of the renovation of the mosque." These two dates in the Islamic calendar correspond to the years 1773 and 1863.

The peculiarity of this mosque is the use of liquid lead as a binder solution between the elements. In addition, it is multi-domed and there is not a single minaret in it, which is a complete deviation from the standards for the construction of religious buildings of Muslim architecture. From the 18th century and over the next centuries, the building was repeatedly vandalized, and the lead domes were plundered more than once. The mosque withstood even the massive destruction during the communist regime.

For natural reasons (soft floating soils), the building sinks into the ground and is now several levels lower than it was originally built. The historical building is a 10-minute walk from Shkoder, and you can also get to the mosque by car.

 

Abu Bakr Mosque.

The Great Mosque, or the Abu Bakr Mosque, was built in 1995 in the Ottoman style with funds from the Saudi Sheikh Abdullah Al Zamil. The central dome is 24 meters high, and the two minarets are 41 meters each.

 

Church of the Nativity of Christ
The Church of the Nativity of Christ is the main Orthodox church in Shkoder. The temple was built in 2000 on the site of a church that had been damaged by an explosion two years earlier.

 

Shkodër Cathedral

Shkoder Cathedral is dedicated to St. Stephen, one of the first martyrs, who is also considered the patron saint of the still existing church of the ancient castle of Rozafa. According to the memoirs of one of the famous Albanian historians and humanists, after the siege of Shkoder and its capture by the Turks, Christian believers decided to build a cathedral church by sending a request for permission from the Sultan to Istanbul in 1851. Work began 7 years later, on April 7, 1858, during the administration of the province of Ali Pasha. The delay was due to the lack of money to finance the project by an unknown Austrian architect. The construction was supported by influential clergy and famous people at that time.

Shkodra Cathedral was named the Great Church, since then it turned out to be one of the largest churches in the Balkans. The temple was opened in 1865. The cathedral was in the center of the battles with the Montenegrin army in 1912-1913, was subjected to artillery attacks, despite the women and children hiding in it. Several shells hit and the fire damaged the southeastern corner.

With the onset of the 1967 "cultural revolution", the temple was closed, like all churches in Albania. The building of the Cathedral was given as a sports palace. In 1973, it hosted a women's communist congress.

The revival of St. Stephen's Cathedral began on March 7, 1991, when it was reopened. The first Mass was celebrated by the House of Zeph Simonyi with other priests in the presence of Mother Teresa and thousands of believers. Since 1993, the statue of St. Michael and marble bowls for holy water have been returned to the site. On April 25, 1993, the Cathedral was visited by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II during a visit to Albania. In the presence of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, he celebrated Holy Mass and ordained four bishops.

 

Franciscan Church
In 1947, an arms depot was discovered in the Franciscan church of Shkoder. The priests pleaded not guilty, but the church was closed. It was reopened in 1990. Particularly popular are anti-communist paintings that can be seen in the interior of this temple.

 

History

First settlement and Illyrians
The earliest traces of human settlement date from the 2nd millennium BC. They were found south of today's city near Tepe and can be classified in the Bronze Age.

At the time of its first mention in the 4th century BC Schkoder was the seat of the Illyrian tribe of the Ardieans, who ruled over an area between the present-day states of Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Numerous artifacts and inscriptions in the city fortress Rozafa bear witness to this time. After the Ardieans, the Labeates, also Illyrian, took their place and were far more powerful than their predecessors. Queen Teuta, King Agron and King Genthios were among the most famous personalities of the Labeaten and had many silver coins minted, which mostly show their names in Greek or their portraits.

Romans
The Labeatic kingdom had long been a thorn in the side of the Romans; they began in 229 BC for the first time with the dispatch of a Roman army to Illyria. The First Illyrian War began, and before Shkodër , Queen Teuta's Illyrian armies had to surrender to the Romans. The Labeatic Kingdom fell apart and the dynasty only ruled over the city. 168 BC It was also conquered by the Romans and the then King Genthios interned in Iguvium in Italy. From the 1st century, Scodra was part of the Roman province of Dalmatia. In the course of the administrative reform of Emperor Diocletian, it became the capital of the newly created province of Praevalitana at the end of the 3rd century. With the spread of Christianity, the Archdiocese of Scodra was founded in the 4th century and placed under the newly created Archdiocese of Iustiniana Prima by Emperor Justinian in 535 - Scodra was therefore downgraded to the diocese.

In the second half of the 6th century, the ancient city of Scodra was conquered by invading Slavs.

Middle age
In 1040 Shkodër was conquered by the principality of Zeta. From 1360, the noble family of Balšić (Albanian Balsha) ruled over Zeta and made Shkodër their capital. Zeta, which has been part of the Serbian Empire since 1185, unsuccessfully defended the city from the Ottomans in 1393, who occupied it for a short time.

In 1396 the Republic of Venice took power in Shkodër, which now became part of the Venetian Albania. In 1403 there was a revolt of the Shkodrans against the Venetian rule. During the rule of the Lion Republic, the city flourished into a rich trading city.

Ottoman time
In 1479 Shkodër was conquered by the Ottomans after a long siege of Rozafa Castle, and Shkodër became the capital of the Vilayets of the same name. However, it took a long time for the city to recover from the destruction and depopulation resulting from the Turkish conquest and become a major trading center that benefited from exchanges between the Ottoman Empire and the rest of Europe. In 1614 a French traveler described Shkodra as a small town with barely 300 houses. The Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi, on the other hand, describes it about 50 years later as a flourishing trading town with 1,800 houses (that corresponds to about 9,000 inhabitants, a little more than Berlin had at that time) - up to this time Rozafa Castle had also served as a residential area. By the end of the 16th century, almost all of the city's residents converted to Islam.

In 1757 the local feudal lord Mehmet Bej Bushati declared himself pasha of the Shkodër region. He ran political affairs almost independently and thus gained more autonomy from the Sublime Porte. The paschalik of Shkodër only reached its heyday with his son Kara Mahmut, who extended the borders of his sphere of influence to Kosovo and Berat. In 1785 he attacked neighboring Montenegro and was able to conquer the pirate bastion Ulcinj, whose fleet he set on fire. Western Europe quickly became aware of him and Kara Mahmut asked the Habsburgs for weapons and money in order to fight the Ottoman Empire. This quickly sent their troops to Shkoder to be reconquered, so in November 1787. But after three months of siege of the fortress Rozafa, the Ottomans had to surrender to the superior soldiers Kara Mahmut. In 1796 he made another attempt to attack Montenegro, but this time he was defeated and was even beheaded. After his death, his youngest brother, Ibrahim Pasha, succeeded him. However, he was always an opponent of his brother's policies and was always loyal to the Sultan. He administered the paschalik of Shkoder until his death in 1810.

 

Time of the national movement "Rilindja"
In 1860 Jesuits founded a seminary and in 1870 a theological grammar school of the Franciscan order was set up with the help of Austria-Hungary. The Austrians aimed to increase their influence in Catholic northern Albania. However, the priests and pastors who worked and worked in Shkodër did not have a good reputation among the local population. They were accused of deriving only their own advantages from the trade relations with Austria-Hungary and of betraying the local small traders. The Muslim Shkodrans - and the Albanians in general - were more than suspicious of the dual monarchy. In order to minimize the Austrian influence in Shkodra as much as possible, Italian schools were also opened in the city.

As the only significant city in Albania that was not significantly influenced by other cultures, it was an important place of the Rilindja, the Albanian national movement, at the turn of the century.

20th century
In the turmoil of the Balkan Wars of 1912/13, Montenegrins and Serbs claimed the city for their states (there were minorities of Serbs and Montenegrins in the region, but these have largely been assimilated or emigrated).

After the assassination of the Ottoman commander Hasan Riza Pasha, the Montenegrin army occupied Shkodra for some time. Under pressure from the major European powers, it had to withdraw again in 1914, and Shkodra was assigned to Albania, which had just become independent. During the First World War from 1916 to 1918, the city was under Austrian occupation. After the war, the French followed, handing Shkodër over to the young state of Albania in 1920.

Until the upswing of the new capital Tirana in the 1930s, Shkodër was the most important city in the country (at times in competition with the port city of Durrës). More than 40,000 people lived here in the 19th century. The many Catholic residents had strong ties to Italy and Austria, which was conducive to development. Catholic monks opened various schools. In 1879 a newspaper was published here for the first time in Albania and in 1901 important meetings of the Albanian national movement Rilindja (rebirth) took place.

Shkodër was the last city in Albania to be evacuated by the occupying forces of the German Wehrmacht in November 1944.

In 1990 the city was a center of the uprising against the communist dictatorship. Four people were killed in demonstrations. The Catholic priest Simon Jubani celebrated the first service after over 30 years of religious prohibition in the so-called old Catholic cemetery of the city and thus heralded the end of this provision.

 


Transportation

Get in
As in the whole of Albania there is no bus station per se. Instead there are a few gathering points for buses/furgons scattered around the city.

By bus
Buses departing to Tirana and Durrës. Majority of buses depart from the main city square with a fountain (called Sheshi Demokracia). This includes buses/furgons to Tirana that leave every round hour; the journey lasts for 2 hours (116 km) and costs 400 lek (2018). There are also direct buses to Durrës (avoiding Tirana) for 700 lek.
Furgons to Velipojë. 2 blocks south-west along Rruga studenti, about a 10-min walk from Sheshi Demokracia there is a small furgon station from where they depart to the nearby coastal village of Velipojë.
Furgons to Kelmend and Thethi. To catch a furgon to Albanian Alps, head 2 km north of Sheshi Demokracia. There is a gathering point for transport going to Kelmend and Thethi.
Furgons to Koman. This also includes some other locations in an eastbound direction, including Vau i Dejës dam.

To Montenegro
From Ulcinj (Montenegro), buses cost €5 (plus €1 if you have baggage) and leave at 06:00, 07:00, 12:30 and 16:30. If they are not available, you can take a taxi to the border at Muriqan (€10) and after crossing the border, take another taxi to Ulcinj (€8). However, the return ticket from Shkodra to Ulcinj costs €5 and buses leave at 09:00 and 16:00 from the city center fountain.

From Podgorica, take public buses to Tuzi, then hire a taxi either to the border or to Shkodra.

Minibuses to/from Hani i Hotit (the Montenegro border on the way to Podgorica) run from around 300 lek. Taxis for this journey cost €15.

To Kosovo
Buses from Gjakova go at 06:00 directly to Shkodër via the highway from Prizren.

Get around
Finding your way round Shkodër is complicated by the fact that all of the roads have been renamed, and some of the old names have even been re-used in different places! All roads have got new road signs. Since all the maps and guides (including this one) give the old names, finding your way round is a bit like being in a parallel universe.

There are some public buses running inside city. There is also infrequent bus to the nearby village of Shiroke.

By bike
Shkodër is the bike capital of Albania, because it's flat. This is a heritage from the Hoxha era.

 

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Budget
1 Hotel Rozafa (Hotel Turizmi) (Right in the city centre, Rruga Marin Barleti close to Sheshi Demokracia). Old communist-style hotel; clean; gentle and English-speaking personal; nice view over the city if you book in an upper floor; 91 rooms; no air conditioning. 2000 lek for a double room (2013).
Florian's Guest House, Shkodër: shtoj i ri, reparti ushtarak. kodrajt (By car, turn down from E762 road towards Shtoj i Ri. Pass a few local shops, look and for sign on the right hand side of the road.), ☎ +355682335921, e-mail: fokodra@hotmail.com. This is a 12-bed B&B/guest house run by Florian and his family, located amongst orchards and vineyards. It is outside, but within walking distance from the centre of Shkodër. Breakfast is included, and lunch and dinner are offered for €4, serving Albanian cuisine made from organic food farmed in the own garden. The family can help to arrange tours of Shkodër and to get into the Albanian Alps or to other cities in the country. €15, breakfast included.
2 Camping Lake Shkodër Resort. Modern campsite 8 km from Shkodër with restaurant, Wifi and access to the lake, organises tours to Thethi.
3 Belvedere Apartment, Bulevardi Bujar Bishanaku 16 (From the main square "Sheshi Demokracia" follow a North-West direction onto "Bulevardi Bujar Bishanaku" for 250 m.), e-mail: info@belvedere.al. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. This is a holiday and short-stay apartment near main square "Sheshi Demokracia". The apartment is fully furnished and features a fully-equipped kitchen. The 80-m² living space includes: one bedroom, one living room with open kitchen, a bathroom, hall and a balcony. The balcony offers you a great panoramic view over the city, castle and mountains. €40.

Mid-range
4 Hotel Kaduku (at Sheshi Demokracia, immediately next to the Rozafa Hotel), ☎ +355 22 242216. Highly recommended - friendly staff, large clean room with A/C, right in the city centre. €50 for double, with breakfast.
5 Hotel Tradita (Tradita G&T), Rr. Risto Siliqi, no. 25, ☎ +355 22 240 537. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. As close as it gets to being invited to the dining hall, the kitchen and courtyard of the local Ottoman Pasha. €50.
6 Hotel Colosseo, Rr.. 14 rooms. Single: €50; Double: €60; Suite: €70.
7 Grand Hotel Europa, Sheshi 2 Prilli, ☎ +355 22 241 211. Prestigious luxury hotel. 50 rooms. From €123.
8 Hotel Argenti, ☎ +355 22 439 09. This is a modern hotel in the Velipoja area with comfortable rooms furnished with A/C, TV, bathroom and showers. The restaurant provides traditional Albanian and European cuisine.

 

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Carp fish in Shiroke village
Restaurants
Lots of dining options are available on the main pedestrian street - Rruga Kolë Idromeno. There are also some nice restaurants and pizzerias on the promenade near Buna River Old Bridge (Rruga e Molos street).

1 Restaurant, Rruga e Molos. This is ampscale restaurant by Albanian standards, serving delicious food including fish. It has a nice atmosphere and is in a small garden. 300 - 700 lek.
2 San Francisco Bar & Restorant, Rruga Kolë Idromeno. A proper restaurant's look and feel and an extensive menu are provided. Some portions are huge, some aren't. The quality of food varies a lot, from superb to simply uneatable. It has a second floor terrace. 300 - 1500 lek.
3 Green tavern, Rruga Kolë Idromeno. This restaurant has a little bit of a club atmosphere, but is nonetheless very ambient. Pizzas, pastas, and salads are provided. 200-350 lek.

Cafes
Shkodër is famous for its numerous patisseries where you can eat delicious sweets, and it's possible to come to Shkodra for this alone.

4 Cafe Oraldi (Pasticeri Oraldi), Parruce, ☎ +355 68 274 6492. Superb cakes. Definitely one of the best in Albania. Extremely popular with locals. 80 - 150 lek.

Drink
Local beers "Korça" or "Tirana" and the famous Albanian spirit called Raki.