Albania Beauty











Gjirokastra

Gjirokastra


     Central intersection in the Old Town                                  View from the Castle


     Traditional Gjirokastër houses                       View over the rooftops of the Old Town

Gjirokastër or Gjirokastra (Greek:  Argyrokastro, Aromanian: Ljurocastru, Turkish: Ergiri), is a city in southern Albania with a population of around 34,000. Lying in the historical region of Epirus, it is also the capital of both the Gjirokastër District and the larger Gjirokastër County. Its old town is inscribed on the World Heritage List as a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate.Gjirokastër is situated in a valley between the Gjerë mountains and the Drino River, at 300 meters above sea level. The city is overlooked by a large castle, the Kalaja e Gjirokastres.Gjirokastër is home to a small ethnic Greek community of about 4000, as well as communities of Vlachs and Roma. Gjirokastër is considered the center of the Greek community in Albania


History
The city was probably founded during Byzantine rule, some time in the 12th century AD around a fortress on the hillside. It developed into a major commercial centre known as Argyropolis ("Silver City", ) or Argyrokastron ("Silver Castle", ).The city was part of the Byzantine Despotate of Epirus in the 14th century before passing to the Ottoman Empire in 1417. It was captured in 1811 by the Albanian-born Ali Pasha, who carved out his own semi-autonomous fiefdom in the southwestern Balkans. In the late 19th century, when the city was the capital of the sandjak of Ergiri in the Yanya vilayet, it became a centre of resistance to Turkish rule.

Historically, Gjirokastër has been known to produce some of the leading revolutionary figures in Albanian history. The region is also been known to have sheltered Markos Botsaris, a Souliot guerilla fighter who joined the Greek independence movement against the Ottoman Empire in the early 1800s.
During the First Balkan War of 1912–1913, the city was claimed and occupied by Greece, after the retreat of the Ottomans in the region. However, it was awarded to Albania under the terms of the Treaty of London of 1913 and the Protocol of Florence of 17 December 1913 In March 1914 the autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus was declared in Gjirokastër by the local Greek population and was confirmed by the Great Powers during the Protocol of Corfu. The Republic, however, soon became worthless because of the political issues that ensued from the outbreak of First World War and the Greek military returned in October-November 1914, and again captured Gjirokastër and the southern Albanian city of Korçë. In April 1916 the territory was annexed to Greece. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 restored the pre-war status quo, essentially upholding the border line decided in the 1913 Protocol of Florence, and the city was again returned to Albanian control.

In April 1939, Gjirokastër was occupied by Italy and was annexed to that country along with much of the rest of Albania. During the Second World War, the Greek Army entered the city in 1940 and stayed for a brief six months period, before capitulating to the Germans and returning the city to Italian command. After Italy's capitulation Germany invaded and took control in September 1943, but the city returned to Albanian control in 1944.The postwar Communist regime developed the city as an industrial and commercial centre. It was elevated to the status of a "museum town", birthplace of the dictator Enver Hoxha, who had been born there in 1908. His house was converted into a museum which became a focal point of Hoxha's cult of personality.

Gjirokastër suffered severe economic problems following the end of communist rule in 1991. It was particularly badly affected by the 1997 collapse of a massive pyramid scheme which destabilised the entire Albanian economy. The city became the focus of a rebellion against the government of Sali Berisha and violent anti-government protests took place which eventually forced Berisha's resignation. On December 16, 1997, Hoxha's house was blown up by unknown (but presumably anti-communist) attackers.

Economy
Gjirokastër is principally a commercial centre with some industries, notably the production of foodstuffs, leather, and textiles.Culture and places of interest.The city is remarkable for its great natural beauty, as well as his harmonious intercultural mix of Albanian, Byzantine and Ottoman heritage and tradition, which is obvious from the many historical buildings and sites. Many houses in Gjirokastër have a distinctive local style that has earned the city the nickname "City of Stone", because most of the old houses have roofs covered with stones. Due to Gjirokastër's importance to the Communist regime, its city centre was spared at least some of the thoughtless redevelopment that afflicted other cities in Albania, but its designation as a "museum town" unfortunately did not translate into maintaining the old town. Consequently, many of its historic buildings have become dilapidated, a problem that is only slowly being resolved.


United States Air Force Lockheed T-33 reconnaissance plane forced down in December, 1957, on display in Gjirokastër, Albania.The Citadel (Gjirokastër Castle) dominates the town and overlooks the strategically important route along the river valley. It is open to visitors and contains a military museum featuring captured artillery and memorabilia of the Communist resistance against German occupation, as well as a captured United States Air Force plane to commemorate the Communist regime's struggle against the imperialist powers. The citadel dates back to the 18th century and its construction was ordered by Gjin Bue Shpata, a local tribal leader. Additions were built during the 19th and 20th centuries by Ali Pasha Tepelene and the Government of King Zog. Today it possesses five towers and houses a clock tower, a church, water fountains, horse stables, and many more amenities. The northern part of the castle was eventually turned into a prison by Zog's government and housed political prisoners during the communist regime.

Gjirokastër also features an old bazaar which was originally built in the 17th century, but which had to be rebuilt in the 19th century after it burned down. There are more than 200 homes preserved as "cultural monuments" in Gjirokastër today, and it is also the site of the National Albanian Folk Festival now held every five years (most recently in 2009).When the town was first proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List in 1988, ICOMOS experts were nonplussed by a number of modern constructions which detracted from the old town's appearance. The historic core of Gjirokastër was finally inscribed in 2005, 15 years after its original nomination.The novel Chronicle in Stone of the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare tells the history of this city during the Italian and Greek ocupation in WWII.


Education
The first school -a Greek language school- was erected in the city at 1663, sponsored by local merchants, functioned under the supervision of the local bishop The first Albanian school of Gjirokastër was Drita School opened in 1908. Eqerem Çabej University of Gjirokastra is the highest education school. In 2006, the establishement of a Greek-language university in Gjirokastër was agreed upon after discussions between the Albanian and Greek governments

 
          
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