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    Known for its natural beauty, Norway is home to isolated villages, fjords, and mountains that create a culture and landscape without compare. Begin Your Journey!

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    Vatican City
    The smallest country in the world offers the heart of Catholicism and among the world's finest art collections, including the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms (ceiling pictured). Go to Vatican City!

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    Belvedere Palace (pictured) is just one of many palaces found in Vienna. The capital is a good start to Austria, which also features the Alps, the Lakes District, and incredible history & food. Go Now!

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AlbaniaAlbania is the English name of the country, which the locals call Shqipëria. The name Albania comes from the Greek and likely refers to the Illyrian tribe of people called the "Albani" or is named after the town of Albanon and/or Arbanon. The local name of Shqipëria is often translated to mean "land of the eagles" or "children of the eagles." However, the root of this word has a completely different meaning; the root, shqip, means "understanding each other."



Albania is somewhat of an anomaly in Europe as the people have no true relatives in terms of ethnicity or language. However, the Albanians are descendants of some of Europe's most historic people, making them among the longest current residents on the continent. Despite these ancient roots, the people have changed many times throughout history and today their culture and lifestyle reflects of that of Europe in many ways, but there are unmistakable Ottoman Turkish influences as well.

Albanian history is similar to that of much of the region as the lands fell under Byzantine rule and were closely tied to this empire for much of history. The people converted to Christianity and adhered to the Eastern Orthodox traditions as did much of the region. However, being far from the political center of the empire, the people lived simple lives based on the lands as little wealth made its way to the region. Plus the mountains made movement difficult so few changes took place.

This lack of political influence changed in the 1400s when the Ottoman Turks arrived and took over the region. Despite resistance efforts, the people were taken over and slowly adopted many cultural aspects found in Turkey. The greatest of these influences came in the form of religion as the Albanians widely adopted Islam and converted in large numbers. This conversion also put the Albanians at odds with most of their neighbors, who maintained their Christian faiths.

The withdrawal of the Turks from the peninsula led to a stronger Albanian identity and a legitimate argument for independence from neighboring countries. The Albanian people had formed a distinct culture in many ways, from language and foods to religion and architecture. This gave Albania independence, but many ethnic Albanians fell outside their modern borders, including in Kosovo, which has led to strained relations with many of their neighbors.

Today Albania continues on its own path with its own political agenda, its own culture, and its own lifestyle based on the mountains, but greatly affected by modern technology. These differences have led to a unique culture and lifestyle, but also economic and political struggles as the country seems stagnant at many times. None-the-less, the country is finding ways to move forward and tourists are only beginning to find their beautiful coasts and all they have to offer.

Information for Albania was last updated: March, 2014 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks