Shkodra is known as a gateway to the Albanian Alps
Shkodra, it is one of the oldest cities in the country. It was founded in the 4th century B.C., as the center of the Labeat tribe of Illyrians. Also it is known with the name Scodra.
Because its strategic position, Shkodra has been occupied several times throughout history. First it was occupied by the Romans (168 B.C.), then the Serbians (1040), the Venetians (1396), and finally by the Ottomans (1479).
The city returned to Albanian control as the feudal principality of the Balshaj during the 14th century. Later served as the municipal center of the Bushatllinj Pashallëk from 1757 to 1831.
Many tourists find Shkodra as a great base for relaxing before hiking the Albanian Alps (for the route Theth to Valbona). However, the city itself has much more to offer.
Shkodra is very rich in cultural heritage. Its people bear pride in the large number of artists, musicians, painters, photographers, poets, and writers born here.
Rozafa Castle and The Legend
Shkodra’s main tourist attraction is Rozafa Castle. Rising majestically upon a rocky hill west of the city, the outcroppings and battlements paint a blazing picture against the setting sun.
It is surrounded by the waters of three rivers; the Drini, Buna, and Kiri. Much like the town it protected, the castle has Illyrian origins. According to the historian Tit Livi, “it was the strongest area of the Labeats.”
Like all ancient works, the castle comes with a popular local legend. Rozafa was the name of the bride of the youngest of three brothers who originally built the castle. The three men worked tirelessly by day laying mortar and stone but the walls always crumbled overnight. Consulting a wise man, they learned that to expel the evil attacking at their daily work and protect their friends and family, one of their wives needed to be entombed within the walls. The brothers made a heart-wrenching pact. None of them had to alert their wives to this danger, and whoever brought her husband his noon meal the following day would be sacrificed. The elder brothers broke their word however, and it was Rozafa alone who came with food.
When she heard the proclamation, she wept for her newborn son and husband. However, she allowed herself to become a living part of the walls so that the castle could be built. According to both legend and local folklore, the calcareous water flowing at the entrance of the castle is the milk flowing from one of her breasts, which she requested be left exposed so that she could feed her baby. She also pleaded for one foot and one arm to be left free, in order to rock her son’s cradle at night and sooth him during the day.
Rozafa Castle in History
Historians tell us a less enchanting and more scientific background of the castle’s characteristics. It reflects the dominion of the Balshaj family but passed through enough other ruling periods that each left their own signs and markings on the grounds, including a distinct Venetian flare, some Ottoman architecture from the 16th and 17th centuries, and even a few modifications from the Bushatllinj family during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Shkodra is one of the most important cities of Albania and is also known to be the center of Albanian Catholicism, culture and harmony between different religions.
Before moving on to the mountains, the coast or the capital, be sure to check out the interesting museums.
You can visit the renewed Marubi National Museum of Photography. It isfamous for its big and rare collection of photos over Albanian history.
You can also take a tour at Pedonalja, so called Kole Idromeno street, the old center of Shkodra. There are streets, with very mediterranean taste passing through mosques and churches. Wandering around the city, is one of the nicest things to do in Shkoder and the best way to get to know the city.
The Theatre Migjeni represent also a chance to see and admire concerts or performances depending by the season .
Art House of well known contemporary artist Adrian Paci is house for all the events, conferences and exhibitions related to the contemporary art world.
The lake of Shkodra is also suggested to visit, to bath, or to eat some of the best dishes. And by the way, when it comes to food, Shkodra sure knows how to offer a wide range dishes. Why don’t you try some delicios tastes from the Albanian cuisine like ‘Krap ne tave’? A typical fish of the region. Aside from the traditional dishes, you can taste excellent pizzas. Even though you are not in Italy, in Shkoder they are really good at it.