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Thursday, October 6, 2016

9/28: Tirana's National Historical Museum

This had been a pretty full day already with our touring the capital's sights in the morning before schlepping out in the early afternoon to see Bunk'art, a huge underground nuclear bunker built in the 1970s for Albania's political and military elite. We still had time and the energy to see the National Historical Museum before calling it a day.

Once we were back in the city from the far suburbs where Bunk'art was located, we walked to the Museum passing a sign for the Baha'i House of Worship. As we did, I thought of you, Marti. Unfortunately, we just didn't have the time to see it too.
I was surprised that the admission cost to the country's largest museum, which opened in 1981, was only $1.60 each - what an incredible bargain.
The Museum's collection included some fabulous rock paintings from the 4th to the 3rd millenium BC and some superb Greek statues in the Pavilion of Antiquity.
It was so sad reading about this Grave Stele that was decorated in the 1st century AD. The relief and the ten rows of Latin script communicated a painful event as it described a father building it for his 11 year old son.
By now, you have seen many references in previous posts to Albania's national hero, Skanderbeg. He was honored during his lifetime due to his huge contributions to Albanian and European history. I learned that evidence of the deep respect that other nations have for Skanderbeg are the hundreds of thousands of books, artistic and musical works dedicated to him. Squares and streets in Rome, Paris and Geneva are named after him and there are monuments and busts of him in still other cities. (In the interests of full disclosure, more info on Skanderbeg will be included in tomorrow's post but, I promise you, that will be the last time!)

I know the following photo is blurry but a guard was lurking nearby and this was the best I could do.
A replica of his massive sword. How did he ever manage to ride his horse, hold the sword and fight his enemies all at the same time?
There were pavilions or rooms dedicated to the medieval era, the country's independence and extensive displays and information on the World War Two period but I had had more than enough of Albanian history and the rise to power by Enver Hoxha at that point! 

What drew my eye particularly was the exhibit about the country's post-Communist period. This piece was called rather chillingly, 'Blindness on the Red Path.' Note the absence of any heads.
Sadly, the new gallery devoted to the Albanians who suffered persecution under Hoxha's dictatorship had no English translations of its displays. They say pictures tell a thousand words and these did.
Albanians refer to their country as 'Shqiperi.' The country's flag colors are red and black so I understood this to mean 'No (more) Communism in Albania.'

The highlight of the Museum was the excellent exhibition of icons by Onufri, a famous 16th century Albanian artist.

The display of his and other artists' icons in this richly painted room was breathtaking.

Steven sure looked happy as we sat down to dinner that night eating some Albanian sausages, didn't he? My chicken and bacon kebab was mouth watering and cost all of 120 lek, $1, I kid you not!
What an incredibly varied day we had just had: discovering some nooks and crannies on our own walking tour of Tirana; learning about the dark days of the country's recent past in a bunker and finally gaining an appreciation about Albania's ancient past and religious art.

Posted from Saranda, Albania on October 6th, 2016.

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