About the traveled area
The land of eagles!
Albania can trace its historical roots back to the prehistoric era some 300,000 years ago when nomadic peoples roamed the area, living out of various caves across the land.
Starting in the 7th century BC, Greek colonies began popping up along the Illyrian coast, and for the next several centuries the Illyrian tribes dominated the region. It wasn't until the 1st century BC that the Roman army defeated the Illyrians, ending their independence.
The Romans ruled here until 395 AD when the empire was split in half, and the area of present-day Albania was put under Byzantine command. Under the Byzantines, Albania endured raids by various European tribes including the Visigoths, Huns, Ostrogoths, Avars and Croatians, and by early 7th century AD most of the empire was either destroyed or weakened. In the mid-800s the Bulgarian Empire took over, and the area of eastern Albania became a valuable cultural center.
As the Bulgarian Empire declined in the late 13th century, Albania switched hands yet again, becoming integrated this time into the Serbian state. The Ottomans took control in 1385 with the Battle of Savra, and aside from a brief interruption during 1443-1478, they ruled for an astounding 600 years.
During this time many native Albanians reached notable rankings within the Ottoman government, remaining highly active and faithful during the Ottoman era. However, by the late 1800s the nationalism had faded, and the Albanian people began to pursue their independence. Toward the end of the 19th century many revolts were organized, and the Albanian National Awakening took place, but it wasn't until the Balkan War of 1912 that the Albanians were freed from their Ottomans rule. As Albania began to establish its new boundary lines and put together a government, World War I interrupted their efforts, and political turmoil overwhelmed the country.
Prince William of Wied, who was appointed King, left Albania during that war to serve in the German Army, and never returned to claim his position. Albania was consequently divided among Italy, Serbia, and Greece. As World War I ended, the country was still without a recognized government. Worried that their independence was coming to an end, Albania struggled to regain control. In 1920 the United States intervened in support of Albania's independence, which ultimately led to the League of Nations accepting Albania as a full member.
Despite the acceptance of Albania by the League of Nations, the government still scrambled to retain order. Between July and December of 1921 the premiership was switched at least five times. Finally, in 1924, Ahmed Bey Zogu victoriously defeated the current Prime Minister, Fan Noli, with the help of the Yugoslav military, and was elected president for a seven-year term. Zogu was given dictatorial powers, formed an alliance with Italy, and established good relations with Benito Mussolini.
Albania's parliament shifted in 1928, becoming a Kingdom with Zogu as appointed King. King Zog I, as he was henceforth referred to, still held onto his dictatorial powers. As Albania's alliance with Italy crumbled, and the country failed to make interest payments to Italy on loans, Mussolini's army invaded Albania, eradicating King Zog. Albania was one of the first nations occupied by the Axis Powers during World War II, and resulting in a tug-of-war between Italy, Germany and Greece.
Unfortunately this spelled disaster for the Albanians, and by the war's end some 30,000 residents were dead, 200 villages totally destroyed and around 100,000 left homeless. In their weakened state, Communists quickly invaded Albania, and isolated them from the rest of the non-communist world. This lasted until the early 1990s when most of the Communist doctrine collapsed across Europe. Albania took this moment to completely abandon its long-time Communist rule in favor of democracy and a move into the 21st Century.
Blessed with many natural resources, Albania has (for the most part) remained somewhat isolated from the world because of its mountainous topography and the policies of its former hard line government. In 2009 the country joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and has applied for EU membership. Tourism to Albania has increased in recent years, and this comes as no surprise due to the country's pristine beaches, impressive mountain ranges, delicious cuisine, and genuine hospitality. Albania's capital, Tirana, is host to a vibrant nightlife, while the countryside has become a growing mecca for backpackers.
The 20th Century: First partitioned in 1913 between Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo was then incorporated into the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later named Yugoslavia) after World War I. During World War II, parts of Kosovo were absorbed into Italian-occupied Albania. After the Italian capitulation, Nazi Germany assumed control over Kosovo until Tito’s Yugoslav Partisans entered at the end of the war.
After World War II, Kosovo became an autonomous province of Serbia in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (S.F.R.Y.). The 1974 Yugoslav Constitution gave Kosovo (along with Vojvodina) the status of a Socialist Autonomous Province within Serbia. As such, it possessed nearly equal rights as the six constituent Socialist Republics of the S.F.R.Y.
In 1981, riots broke out and were violently suppressed after Kosovo Albanians demonstrated to demand that Kosovo be granted full Republic status. In the late 1980s, Slobodan Milosevic propelled himself to power in Belgrade by exploiting the fears of the Serbian minority in Kosovo. In 1989, he eliminated Kosovo’s autonomy and imposed direct rule from Belgrade. Belgrade ordered the firing of most ethnic Albanian state employees, whose jobs were then assumed by Serbs.
In response, Kosovo Albanian leaders began a peaceful resistance movement in the early 1990s, led by Ibrahim Rugova. They established a parallel government funded mainly by the Albanian diaspora. When this movement failed to yield results, an armed resistance emerged in 1997 in the form of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The KLA’s main goal was to secure the independence of Kosovo.
In late 1998, Milosevic unleashed a brutal police and military campaign against the KLA, which included widespread atrocities against civilians. Milosevic’s failure to agree to the Rambouillet Accords triggered a NATO military campaign to halt the violence in Kosovo. This campaign consisted primarily of aerial bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (F.R.Y.), including Belgrade, and continued from March through June 1999. After 78 days of bombing, Milosevic capitulated. Shortly thereafter, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244 (1999), which suspended Belgrade’s governance over Kosovo, and under which Kosovo was placed under the administration of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and which authorized a NATO peacekeeping force. Resolution 1244 also envisioned a political process designed to determine Kosovo’s future status.
As ethnic Albanians returned to their homes, elements of the KLA conducted reprisal killings and abductions of ethnic Serbs and Roma in Kosovo. Thousands of ethnic Serbs, Roma, and other minorities fled from their homes during the latter half of 1999, and many remain displaced.
The 21st Century: In November 2005, the Contact Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) produced a set of “Guiding Principles” for the resolution of Kosovo’s future status. Some key principles included: no return to the situation prior to 1999, no changes in Kosovo’s borders, and no partition or union of Kosovo with a neighboring state. The Contact Group later said that Kosovo’s future status had to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. In its declaration of independence, Kosovo committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Ahtisaari Plan, to embrace multi-ethnicity as a fundamental principle of good governance, and to welcome a period of international supervision.
The United States formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state on February 18. To date, Kosovo has been recognized by a robust majority of European states, the United States, Japan, and Canada, and by other states from the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Shortly after independence, a number of states established an International Steering Group (ISG) for Kosovo that appointed Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith as Kosovo’s first International Civilian Representative (ICR).
The historic country of Macedonia was once the Kingdom of Macedon, ruled by Alexander the Great (355-325 BC).
Over many centuries it was exploited by the Romans, Byzantines, Bulgars and Serbs; before finally being conquered by the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman's reign over the area was exceptionally brutal, and beginning in the late 19th century several campaigns set out to secure the independence of Macedonia.
Unfortunately by 1913, as both Balkan Wars had come to end, the Ottoman Empire had dissolved and much of Macedonia's territories were divided amongst Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia.
Then, along with the rest of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Macedonia was integrated into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929.
For the Macedonian's, independence was still a forefront thought, and the country struggled to gain their freedom over the next several years. As World War II began in the early 1940's, the people of Macedonia found themselves invaded by the Axis powers (along with the rest of Yugoslavia). With help from the Bulgarians in 1944, the German forces were pushed back, and the region of Yugoslavia fell under the authority of the Bulgarian Communist Party. By 1963 Yugoslavia had been reformed, and once again Macedonia was incorporated into the now Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. However, for Macedonia, their formal name became the Socialist Republic of Macedon Twenty-eight years later, Macedonia gained its independence peacefully from Yugoslavia in 1991, but Greece's objection to the new state's use, of what it considered a Hellenic name, delayed international recognition, which occurred under the provisional designation of "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."
In 1995, after Macedonia revised its flag and constitution, Greece lifted a 20-month trade embargo and the two countries agreed to normalize relations. The Kosovo War in 1999 caused over 350,000 Albanian refugees to flee to Macedonia, and Skopje became a transit corridor for NATO forces to intervene in case of a Serbian invasion. Through all of this, Macedonia remained neutral, and refused to engage in the war. In 2004 negotiations continued between Greece and Macedonia to resolve the name issue, despite 112 of the 191 country members of the UN acknowledging the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name, and to date it has yet to be decided. Tourism is a considerable factor in Macedonia's economy, as the country is home to an ample amount of natural and cultural attractions. The capital city of Skopje contains many archaeological sites, as well as modern museums.
During the first century AD Romans overpowered much of Europe, including the region of Montenegro.
Slavic peoples migrated and settled throughout the 5th and 6th centuries, and created a semi-independent administrative region known as Duklja.
In 1042, Duklja became fully independent, and spent the following years expanding its territory. However, by 1186 there was a significant decline in power resulting in the loss of freedom, and this pushed the region into assimilating with the Serbian Empire.
During World War I, Montenegro formed an alliance with Serbia, and unfortunately for the two were overrun by the Central Powers. As Austria-Hungary occupied the region, King Nicholas escaped to France and controlled operations through Bordeaux. Upon liberation by the Allies, King Nicholas was banned from returning to Montenegro, and the country was subsequently united with Serbia (despite the violation this caused with the constitution). In the years leading up to World War II, the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs together formed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and as a part of Serbia, Montenegro was also lumped into the New Kingdom.
In the 1940's during World War II, Montenegro was annexed to Italy. Despite this, as the first uprising occurred Montenegro rallied against the fascists. When the war ended, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was restored, and Montenegro received additional political independence until the establishment of a new constitution in 1974. By 1992 Socialist Yugoslavia dissolved, but Serbia and Montenegro remained as a smaller Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Together the two nations formed an alliance against Croatia and Bosnia, and in an attempt to gain additional territory waged wars over the next few years.
The Montenegrin government eventually cut off ties with Serbia in 1996, and created its own economic policy. Serbia's leader at the time, Slobodan Milosevic, was less than thrilled, and tension between the nations arose. In 1999 Montenegro was bombed by NATO forces, and eventually Serbia and Montenegro reached an agreement over the future of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 2003 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was dropped in exchange for the more moderate name of Serbia and Montenegro. This union was very short lived, and after a vote (although rather narrow in percentages) in May 2006 Montenegro and Serbia parted ways.
Montenegrin government consistently takes steps to bring tourism to the country. The Adriatic Sea offers a gorgeous backdrop, and is the top attraction for visitors to Montenegro. And the ancient town of Kotor, which is bordered by an impressive wall, surely cannot be missed, as it plays host to the striking Mediterranean landscape. Other notable places of interest include the city of Ulcinj (known for its nightlife), the Durmitor mountain region, and Tara River Gorge.
Legend has it that the island was Scheria or Drepani, home of the Phaeacians - Alkinoos's people - in Homer's "Odyssey". Early settlers from Euboea on the mainland were displaced in about 735BC by a colony from Corinth. These people were very independent and would not obey the rulers of Corinth and around 664 BC the first naval battle in Greek history took place just off the Corfu coast. As a result the colony was eventually punished and heavily reduced by the Corinthian tyrant Periander. Over the next century or so the colony regained its independence and fought hard to become a commercial centre, benefiting from its geographical location. In 435 the island's government asked Athens to assist in a quarrel with Corinth. This request was granted, and was one of the contributory factors leading to the Peloponnesian War (431-404BC). Corfu ended its involvement in the war in 410BC, but a further alliance with Athens in 375 caused more hostilities.
After a short period of relative stability the island changed hands many times during the 3rd century BC. In 229BC, Corfu sought help from Rome in sorting out the difficult situation in the Aegean and voluntarily became part of the Roman Empire. The Romans recognised Corfu's naval significance and retained the island as a free state. They established an Aristocracy and there are several sites with Roman remains including the castle at Kassiopi. In 31BC Octavian (later to become the emperor Augustus) used it as his naval base against Mark Anthony and founded a new town at Nicopolis on the mainland. Augustus decreed that the population relocate to the new town and so began a period of decline for Corfu.
The Roman Empire split in 337AD and Corfu came under the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire and thus the military and administrative jurisdiction of Constantinople or Byzantium. Dark times were to follow during the greater part of the 5th century, and in 455AD the Vandals of Genzerichou, who were basically pirates, savaged Rome and also attacked the Ionian Islands, starting with Zakinthos and then moving on to Corfu. The island was again depopulated and heavily damaged. By 535 such population as there was had strengthened themselves again and contributed ships and men to an imperial force led by Belissarius, the renowned general of the Emperor Justinian (527-565). In retaliation, the King of the Goths, Totila sent 300 ships to Epirus after which, they laid waste to Corfu and its neighbouring islands.
There follows a period of some four centuries where very little information is available about the history of the island although it is believed that raids from numerous sources continued to blight the island. In the 7th century, the Byzantine Empire was reorganised into themes and Corfu first came under the rule of Epirus and later, the theme of Kefallonia.
In 968 there is the first reference to the islands name of Corypho, which is where the old fortress stood with it's two peaks. The name gradually spread to include the whole island.
Arab raids continued to ravage the islands during another period of unsettlement. Corfu's position between Greece and Italy continued to attract the attention of powers from east and west and in succession it fell to Lombards, Saracens, and Normans and was fought over by the kings of Sicily and the Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice.
By the end of the 12th century the state of Byzantium was in a bad way due to internal and external conflicts. In 1204, the Fourth Crusade which took Constantinople and overthrew the Byzantine Empire, had passed through the island and had awarded territories including Corfu to the Venetians because of the level of support that they had shown to the Crusade. The Venetians were keen to have these territories as they recognised the commercial value that they provided. For ten years this happy compromise continued but the Despotate of Epirus had set his sights on first, Dyrrachium and then Corfu which he took in 1214. Thus Corfu became part of the Despotate of Epirus which was one of the three independent Greek States. It is believed that the Despot Michael did a great deal of building on the island, but all that remains is the castle of Angelokastro above Paleokastritsa in the north-west. Much of the ecclesiastical power of the island at this time was given over to the Metropolitan Basil Pediadites who was a champion of Orthodoxy and so the first significant hold of that branch of the church was established. The Church broke away from the control of the Pope and came under the Patriarch of Constantinople.
The island passed by force to King Manfred of Sicily in 1258 and then in 1267 was taken by the Angevins. Their rule lasted until 1386 when once again, the Venetians returned when Admiral Miani took Corfu after a long battle. Venetian rule continued until 1797 and constituted probably the most significant period of foreign rule in the island's history. You only need to walk around the elegant town to see the influence of these great traders and builders and Corfu remains, architecturally at least, a Venetian City.
The Venetian Republic was dismantled after defeat by Napoleon in 1797 and the French ruled Corfu for two periods between 1797 and 1814, separated by a brief incursion by a Russian-Turkish force. The French were responsible for building the Liston in Corfu Town and had great plans for the development of the city. However, after the emperor Napoleon's defeat in 1815 it became a British protectorate and so began 50 years of British rule which saw significant development of the city and the island's infrastructure, including the prison, roads and the mains water and sewage system in Corfu Town.. During this period some of the island's most magnificent buildings were erected including the Palace of St Michael and St George and the Mon Repos estate. In 1864 Corfu was ceded, with the other Ionian Islands, to Greece. To this day the islands celebrate their Day of Unification on 21st May.
Corfu was invaded by Italy during WWII, as part of Mussolini's grand plan to resurrect the mighty Roman Empire. When Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, the Germans massacred the thousands of occupying Italians and sent some 5000 of Corfu's Jewish population to Auschwitz.
During the difficult years that followed the end of the war, Corfu shared the fortune of the rest of Greece. Poverty, crisis and emigration continued until the late 1960's, when tourist development gave a new impetus to the economic and social life of Greece. From the early years of the century up until the Second World War, Corfu had rivalled Capri and Mallorca as the favourite Mediterranean destination of the European elite. During the last 40 years, the explosion of mass tourism, coupled with the island's natural beauty and historic past, has made Corfu one of the most popular holiday destinations for millions of people.