This month I’ll be learning more about my first Balkan country – Albania! So, what do I know already about Albania?
- I know it was a communist country during the Cold War, and that it was notable for being the one European state to side with China during the Sino-Soviet split – that’s definitely something I’d like to learn more about.
- I also know that Cold War-era relations were tense between Albania and Yugoslavia, that modern day Kosovo (which has now broken away from Serbia) is mainly Albanian and that this was a factor in the Balkan Wars of the 90s, though most of my knowledge of that time period is half-remembered news stories as a kid. I assume there must still be tensions between Albania and its neighbours – the shifting borders of that part of Europe over the past century has not been a recipe for stable friendships.
- I know that Albania is a majority Muslim country, with a significant Christian minority, but that it isn’t particularly known for religious tension and it’s a largely secular country.
- Mother Theresa was Albanian, though her birthplace is now in modern-day North Macedonia, and was in the Ottoman Empire when she was born – well before today’s borders.
- I don’t know too much about the food yet, but it seems to be a blend between Mediterranean and Balkan – the pastry situation looks particularly tasty. I think there’s an Albanian bakery somewhere here in Ottawa that I’m going to check out.