In 2014 the Albanian capital Tirana celebrated the 400th anniversary of its foundation, although in reality its history goes back much further than this and people are known to have lived here at least 10,000 years ago. Surrounded by hills and lying on the banks of the river of the same name, Tirana, like all of Albania, has seen difficult times.
One way to learn about its history is to pick up a book by Ismail Kadare, an Albanian writer for whom Western Europe has expressed its admiration with many literary prizes. After 1991, however, times changed and things began to improve for Tirana's good-natured inhabitants, proud of their Illyrian origins.
The vibrant pulse of modern Tirana can be sensed in Skenderbeg Square, named after the Albanian national hero who halted the advancing Turks in the fifteenth century. He has also lent his name to the famous Skënderbeu brandy, available in many shops. Tirana, which also has a lively nightlife, bears the stamp of Italian architecture from the 1930s, while its mosques and other buildings bear witness to the centuries of Ottoman presence.
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