Ermak Travel Guide

 

 

Shkoder

Shkoder

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transportation

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

Interesting information and useful tips

 

Description of Shkoder

Shkoder 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 Shkoder, 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 Skodra. The city has historically developed on a 130-meter hill strategically located in the outflow from Lake Shkoder 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, Shkoder 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 Skodra was founded in Shkoder 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 Schkoder

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 Fortress (2 km southwest of Shkodra, near the southern end of Lake Shkodra). 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.
Shkodra Historical Museum, Rr. Oso Kuka, no. 12, ☎ +355 22 243213. 09:00-14:00. The museum is situated at a traditional Shkodran house featuring valuable artifacts on every sphere of social life in the area. 150 lek.
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 Shkodra and Albania in general. Major part of the collection comes from three generations of Marubis. 700 lek.
Lake Shkodra. 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). This bridge was built in the 18th century by Kara Mahmud Bushati, the local Ottoman pasha.

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 Shkodra. 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.
Ebu Beker Mosque.
Shkodër Orthodox Cathedral.
Shkodër Cathedral.
Fretënve Church.

 

History

Early history
The earliest signs of human activity in the lands of Shkodër can be traced back to the Bronze Age. The favorable conditions on the fertile plain, around the lake, have brought people here from early antiquity. Artefacts and inscriptions, discovered in the Rozafa Castle, are assumed to be the earliest examples of symbolic behaviour in humans in the city. Although, it was known under the name Scodra and was inhabited by the Illyrian tribe of the Ardiaei, which ruled over a large territory between modern Albania up to Croatia. Queen Teuta, King Agron, and King Gentius, were among the most famous personalities of the Labeates.

The city was first mentioned during the antiquity as the site of the Illyrian Labeates in which he minted coins and that of Queen Teuta. In 168 BC, the city was captured by the Romans and became an important trade and military route. The Romans colonized the town. Scodra remained in the province of Illyricum, and later Dalmatia. By it 395 AD, it was part of the Diocese of Dacia, within Praevalitana.

The dawn of the Middle Ages saw the migration of Slavs. De Administrando Imperio describes how Byzantine Emperor Heraclius gave the Serbs a territory in this region during the first half of the 7th century. The southernmost, maritime polity of the Serbian Principality at Duklja, included the Shkodër region. After the death of Prince Caslav, the state disintegrated with Duklja retaining most of it. Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria had by 997 conquered all of Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia and most of Albania. In the early 11th century, Jovan Vladimir ruled Duklja amidst the war between Basil II and Samuel. Vladimir allegedly retreated into Koplik when Samuel invaded Duklja and was subsequently forced to accept Bulgarian vassalage. Vladimir was later slain by the Bulgarians. Shingjon (feast of Jovan Vladimir) has since been celebrated by Albanian Orthodox Christians.

In the 1030s, Stefan Vojislav from Travunia expelled the last strategos and successfully defeated the Byzantines by 1042. Stefan Vojislav set up Shkodër as his capital. Constantine Bodin accepted the crusaders of the Crusade of 1101 in Shkodër. After the dynastic struggles in the 12th century, Shkodër became part of the Nemanjić Zeta province. In 1214 the city became part of the Despotate of Epirus under Michael I Komnenos Doukas. In 1330, Stephen Decanski appointed his son Stefan Dusan as the governor of Zeta and its seat Shkodër. In the same year Dusan and his father entered the conflict which resulted with campaign of Decanski who destroyed Dusans court on Drin River near Shkodër in January 1331. In April 1331, they made a truce, but in August 1331 Dušan went from Shkodër to Nerodimlje and overthrew his father.

In the 14th century, Shkodër was taken by the Balšić family, who surrendered the city to the Republic of Venice in 1396, in order to form a protection zone from the Ottoman Empire. During the Venetian rule the city adopted the Statutes of Scutari, a civic law written in Venetian. Venetians built the St. Stephen's Church (later converted into the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Mosque by the Turks) and the Rozafa Castle. In 1478-79 Mehmed the conqueror laid siege on Shkodër. In 1479 the city fell to the Ottomans and the defenders of the citadel emigrated to Venice, while many Albanians from the region retreated into the mountains. The city then became a seat of a newly established Ottoman sanjak, the Sanjak of Scutari.

Ottoman Period
With two sieges, Shkodër became secure as an Ottoman territory. It became the centre of the sanjak and by 1485 there were 27 Muslim and 70 Christian hearths, although by the end of the next century there were more than 200 Muslim ones compared to the 27 Christian ones, respectively.

Military manoeuvres in 1478 by the Ottomans meant that the city was again entirely surrounded by Ottoman forces. Mehmed the Conqueror personally laid the siege. About ten heavy cannons were cast on site. Balls as heavy as 380 kg (838 lb) were fired on the citadel (such balls are still on display on the castle museum). Nevertheless, the city resisted. Mehmed left the field and had his commanders continue the siege. By the winter the Ottomans had captured one after the other all adjacent castles: Lezhë, Drisht, and Žabljak Crnojevića. This, together with famine and constant bombardment lowered the morale of defenders. On the other hand, the Ottomans were already frustrated by the stubborn resistance. The castle is situated on a naturally protected hill and every attempted assault resulted in considerable casualties for the attackers. A truce became an option for both parties. On January 25 an agreement between the Venetians and the Ottoman Empire ended the siege, permitting the citizens to leave unharmed, and the Ottomans to take over the deserted city.

 

After Ottoman domination was secure, much of the population fled. Around the 17th century, the city began to prosper as the center of the Sanjak of Scutari (sanjak was an Ottoman administrative unit smaller than a vilayet). It became the economic center of northern Albania, its craftsmen producing fabric, silk, arms, and silver artifacts. Construction included two-story stone houses, the bazaar, and the Central or Middle Bridge (Ura e Mesit) over the Kir river, built during the second half of the 18th century, over 100 metres (330 feet) long, with 13 arcs of stone, the largest one being 22 metres (72 feet) wide and 12 metres (39 feet) tall.

Shkodër was a major city under Ottoman rule in Southeast Europe. It retained its importance up until the end of the empire's rule in the Balkans in the early 20th century. This is due to its geo-strategic position that connects it directly with the Adriatic and with the Italian ports, but also with land-routes to the other important Ottoman centre, namely Prizren. The city was an important meeting place of diverse cultures from other parts of the Empire, as well as influences coming westwards, by Italian merchants. It was a centre of Islam in the region, producing many ulema, poets and administrators, particularly from the Bushati family.

In the 18th century Shkodër became the center of the (pashaluk) of Shkodër, under the rule of the Bushati family, which ruled from 1757 to 1831. Shkodër's importance as a trade center in the second half of the 19th century was owed to the fact that it was the center of the vilayet of Shkodër, and an important trading center for the entire Balkan peninsula. It had over 3,500 shops, and clothing, leather, tobacco, and gunpowder were some of the major products of Shkodër. A special administration was established to handle trade, a trade court, and a directorate of postage services with other countries. Other countries had opened consulates in Shkodër ever since 1718. Obot and Ulcinj served as ports for Shkodër, and later on Shëngjin (San Giovanni di Medua). The Jesuit seminary and the Franciscan committee were opened in the 19th century.

Before 1867 Shkodër (İşkodra) was a sanjak of Rumelia Eyalet in Ottoman Empire. In 1867, Shkodër sanjak merged with Skopje (Üsküp) sanjak and became Shkodër vilayet. Shkodër vilayet was split into Shkodër, Prizren and Dibra sanjaks. In 1877, Prizren passed to Kosovo vilayet and Debar passed to Monastir vilayet, while Durrës township became a sanjak. In 1878 Bar and Podgorica townships belonged to Montenegro. Ottoman-Albanian intellectual Sami Frashëri during the 1880s estimated the population of Shkodër as numbering 37,000 inhabitants that consisted of three quarters being Muslims and the rest Christians made up of mostly Catholics and a few hundred Orthodox. In 1900, Shkodër vilayet was split into Shkodër and Durrës sanjaks.

 

 

 


 

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 Shkodra via the highway from Prizren.

Get around
Finding your way round Shkodra 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
Shkodra 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, Shkodra: 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 Shkoder. 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 Shkoder and to get into the Albanian Alps or to other cities in the country. €15, breakfast included.
2 Camping Lake Shkodra Resort. Modern campsite 8 km from Shkodra 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
Shkodra 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.

 

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

 

 

Interesting information and useful tips