A Roman emperor, a sultan, fascists and communists: all gave their specific contribution to the construction of this ancient city over the centuries. As such, the castle of Elbasan and the subsequent new city below, combine distinct and perhaps incompatible styles and influences, which gives Elbasan a status of uniqueness.
A proud city full of friendly people, Elbasan hosts the biggest celebrations in the 'fingers and veres' in the country, a day in which its culinary specialty - the sweet 'ballokume' - is consumed by everyone. Elbasan becomes particularly festive and wild when national football matches bring fans from all over the country to the new Elbasan Arena. Around this city, there are hundreds of beautiful lakes where locals go to fish, picnic and relax. Belsh, for example, with its newly built city center and its beautiful lake, has recently become a very popular destination.
The Castle Elbasan
Foreign travelers in the 80 years noted that cities like Elbasan no longer existed in Europe. Skampis - as this fortress town was once called - was founded in 1466 by two extraordinarily different leaders: the Roman emperor Justinian and Sultan Mehmet II. After the walls of the castle were almost entirely destroyed in the wars of the fourth and fifth centuries AD, they were erected once again by Giustiniano to be used as a military refuge in order to monitor the via Egnatia, the main road that extended between the main city of the Roman empire. Later, during the Ottoman Empire, Mehmet II used the castle as a military base against Giorgio Castriota Scanderbeg, the national hero who fought to obtain the independence of Albania from the Ottoman Empire.
The castle of Elbasan had its most glorious period during the seventeenth century, enclosing within its walls over two thousand houses and boasting a manufacturing industry of more than 900 leather goods shops, including silk, and precious metals such as silver, which were mostly exported abroad. Only a hundred years after the Ottoman invasion, the city saw its life begin to extend beyond the walls of the castle. Each of the monuments within the fortress, such as the Catholic church, the Orthodox church of Santa Maria Assunta, the old school of the castle, the king's mosque and the women's Hamam, contains significant pieces of the fascinating history of this city. On the eastern side of the castle gates, stands the majestic clock tower, which still works flawlessly. Built at the end of the 800, it was declared a cultural monument in the 1963.
Elbasan Castle also honors prominent figures in the progress of Albanian language and culture such as Kostantin Kristoforidhi, who gave the Albanians the first textbook of elementary school in Albanian and the first Albanian translation of the Old Testament. A walk through the castle reveals an incredible variety of beautiful architecture: Ottoman-style houses, typical of central Albania, 19th and 20th-century Italian-style apartments, communist and post-communist buildings.
The waterfalls of Sotira
The waters flowing from Mount Tomorr on rugged limestone rocks create the Sotira waterfalls, one of nature's spectacles that attracts a growing number of tourists year after year. Its waters fall from various heights (from 20 to 100 meters), hitting the cliffs below at different speeds and creating an unforgettable hypnotic scene.
The surrounding nature is intact, immersed in amazing vegetation and the freshness created by the numerous springs scattered along the path. In the end, the waterfall appears in all its splendor. Thanks to a beautiful lawn nearby, you can enjoy the spectacular views and the surrounding landscape.
The Sotira river, created by the waterfall, flows through the surrounding forest, giving the already impressive panorama the perfect frame. With the right pair of shoes, you might even be able to get to the waterfall. A path has been created over the years to maximize the entire experience.
The canyon of Holta
The Holta canyon is a beautiful place. Few people have heard of it and even less have dared to visit this seemingly mythological place, even though it is less than two hours from the capital Tirana. Due to the lack of infrastructure in the surrounding area, until recently, it was almost impossible to get there.
The Holta canyon was created by the erosion of the Holta River. It stretches for three kilometers from the village of Bardhaj to Kabash, with crystal clear waters about three meters deep. Here there are karst caves created by limestone rocks, stalactites and stalagmites of rare beauty. Silence and echoes, lush vegetation hanging from the slopes above you and beautiful blue waters that caress your feet and create small waterfalls along the way. A little further away, there are also thermal waters to relax.
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