192-Part Guide To The World: Albania

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The Independent Travel

Official name: The Republic of Albania.

Official name: The Republic of Albania.

Population: About 3.5 million.

Size compared with Belgium: A bit smaller.

Environment: Forested, mountainous terrain, prone to devastating earthquakes. Flora typical of the Mediterranean.

Best monument: The 13th-century medieval citadel town of Gjirokastra is perched on the top of a mountain overlooking the Drino Valley in the south of the country. The streets and the houses, which have no downstairs windows, are all built of the same black and white stones. The entirety is a perfect fortress.

Most famous citizen: Although she took Indian citizenship - and her place of birth was not Albania but Macedonia - Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, to Albanian parents.

National dish: The most widely eaten food is probably qofte, a variation of Turkish sausage.

Best moment in history: Between 1443 and 1468, the national hero, Skanderbeg, led an extraordinary resistance against the Turks from his stronghold at Kruja. In 25 years he won 25 battles and the conquerors of Constantinople were never able to dislodge him.

Worst moment in history: The anarchy and financial collapse of 1997.

Essential accessory: Antiseptic soap. Bear in mind that this is a country which was recently reported to have only a couple of ambulances in its capital, Tirana.

How to behave: Nod when you mean "no".

How not to behave: Don't expect anything to work.

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