July 1, 2013 |
Europe's unhappy family expands with Croatia Monday, July 1 -- Croatia, spun free 20 years ago after a brutal war with Serbs and Muslims over the remnants of a disintegrating Yugoslav federation, becomes the 28 th member of the European Union on Monday. The nation of 4.5 million people with hundreds of miles of stunning Adriatic Sea coastline and islands joins a club that has lost much of its luster in recent years as its members struggle through recession, debt, record unemployment and flagging confidence in the euro common currency used by 17 EU states.
April 10, 2013 |
Anila Rubiku grew up in a country that no longer exists, at least not the isolated, repressed and paranoid state that was Albania before Eastern Europe's anti-Communist revolutions. The Balkan country that broke away from its iron-fisted mentors in Moscow, Beijing and Belgrade to pursue an even more Stalinist path has changed dramatically in the two decades since democracy began making inroads. But the scars of despotism remain visible on the landscape and in the mentality of Albanians, tens of thousands of them having endured unimaginable brutality in “re-education camps” during the long post-World War II dictatorship of Enver Hoxha . Hoxha sowed fear among the 3 million inhabitants of his remote Adriatic Sea enclave with constant warnings of imminent invasion by Albania's real and imagined enemies.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
October 8, 2011
Ramiz Alia Albania's last communist leader Ramiz Alia, 85, who was Albania's last communist president and is credited with opening to democracy one of the world's most isolationist political systems, died Friday of lung complications, an Albanian official announced. He assumed leadership of the Albanian Communist Party in 1985 after the death of his longtime friend, dictator Enver Hoxha. After a series of massive student protests, Alia introduced political and economic reforms that paved the way for the country's first free elections in 1991.
August 21, 2011 |
The Zenelajes Albania is beautiful, but for decades it was cut off from the rest of the world by a communist dictator. "There were no foreign clothes, which was a big thing for us," Vilma Zenelaj says, drawing a deep laugh out of her older sister Greta, a dark-haired beauty often mistaken for Demi Moore. Albania's communist regime collapsed soon after the Berlin Wall fell. Vilma left first, arriving in Oregon as a high school exchange student in 1996. Greta stayed in Albania to finish her degree in journalism, even as civil war broke out. Luckily, Mom and Dad, both doctors, won the visa lottery and emigrated to Michigan.
February 7, 2010 |
If you go THE BEST WAY TO SARANDE AND BUTRINT The only daily cruises to Albania sail from the northern Greek island of Corfu. Communications are quirky in Corfu; my ATT cellphone, with a built-in GSM chip for Europe, worked perfectly in Athens and Santorini but not at all in Corfu. The safest way to buy tickets is to visit the head office of Ionian Cruises, a 15-minute walk from the heart of Corfu, and buy them with cash. Credit-card fraud is rampant throughout Greece. Seats are available even during the peak summer season a day in advance and often on the morning of the cruise.
February 7, 2010 |
Somewhere on Earth there must be a cheaper, easier, more exotic cruise, packed with even more beautiful sights and filled with more history, providing even tastier food, but for now, I'm happy to settle on this one: Ionian Cruises' daily excursion from Corfu, Greece, to Sarande, Albania. How cheap is it? Thirty-eight euros (about $55) for the round-trip boat ride, 19 euros (about $27) for a shore excursion that includes a fabulous buffet lunch. That's about $82 for an enchanting day in Albania, an additional dollar if you want a big glass of wine with your lunch.