Situated between the white peaks of the Alps where the ancient songs of the Titans were born, the amazing Shkodra Lake, the flourishing fields of the crystal rivers, up to the coastal line of the azure Adriatic, in spite of offering rare natural beauties, tourist and archeological sites of a special importance to its visitors, Shkodra is characterized by a very interesting traditional ethno culture. The environmental and historic factors have conditioned throughout the millenniums the way of living and the social organization in society and household. The people of Shkodra are closely related to the land and their grounds and preserve with fanaticism their ancestors ‘cult. The sense of bravery and resistance is very developed among them, and throughout the centuries they have elaborated moral norms and rules for the ethical evaluation of the good and the beauty. The spoken language is characterized by the northern dialect of gheg, which is displayed with variation, especially of phonetic nature.
Albanian Language is an independent branch of the Indo European family of languages, spoken by over seven million people. Its origin was recognized by the German philologist Franz Bopp in 1854. The language is divided into two major dialects: Gheg (northern Albanian) & Tosk (southern Albanian). “Formula e Pagezimit” (1462), a baptismal formula, is the first written document in Albania retrieved. The oldest published book in the country “Meshari” was written in Gehg dialect by Gjon Buzuku, a Catholic cleric in 1555. The scattering of books produced in the 16th and 17th centuries originated largely in the Gheg area, reflecting the Roman Catholic missionary activities. The official language, written in a standard roman-style orthography adopted in 1909, was based on the south Gheg dialect. After the World War II, the communist regime imposed a Tosk-based unified standard in all of Albania.
Special care has been paid to women’s and men’s clothes. They are characterized by the amazing combinations of colors, fabrics, ornaments and cultic motifs. They express the inhabitants ‘creative and executing skills, imagination, love for life and try to show the human beauty at its best. A typical clothing item for the women, worn by the mountains women of Alps is xhubleta (woolen gong), a bell-shaped skirt with a wavy hem, especially at the back. It is sown together from various pieces and strips of thick woolen felt, lined with braided cord, and held by two thick suspenders. The xhubleta is part of a folk costume, which includes a traditionally embroidered shirt and sleeveless vest, woolen apron, foot socks and slippers. The costume of Muslim women is characterized by cloak trousers and a white silken blouse, a camisole and a long gown, embroidered with golden lines and braids. This garment is completed by slippers ornamented with embroideries and colors. The haircloth consists of a sort of cap ornamented with golden and silver lines and coins. The most beautiful part of this garment is the embroidered camisole and crosses. The costume of Catholic women has cloak trousers as well, but their color is black. The garment consist of a light silken fabric blouse, weaved in a home loom, camisole and dark cherry, blue or staring red gown which is worn in ceremonial occasions. This garment in head is accompanied by a sallman, a sort of headband, ornamented with various patterns. It contains similarities with that Muslim women, but especially the models are different
Marriage is considered as a heritage cult and is viewed as the realization of human dreams for happiness. The ritual of the wedding expresses the joy and the responsibility of creating a new family through some very significant ancient rites. The celebration of this event is known in the whole country for the merry atmosphere that dominates and for the rich repertoire of folk songs, which correspond to each wedding rite After the wedding ceremony, the child’s birth is a very special event. Ancient beliefs and rites exist for this desirable event, which aim at safeguarding the just born creature like people would protect their eyes. The region is rich in lullabies, songs that mother sing to her child to make him asleep, in which she express all her dreams and hopes for the child’s future. Death’s ritual is also very characteristic and expresses the rich spiritual world of people, their love for life and grief for its loss. Apart from the verbal lamentation, in some areas, especially in the mountains one, what is very special is the lamentation of the highlanders, accompanied with words and gestures that express a deep grief. This kind of lamentation is authentic in the entire country
Shkodra has a long tradition in the development of the music. In 1876 started the creation of the wind orchestra, which has been officially established in 1878, being the first of its kind in Albania. The renaissance composer Paloke Kurti, who was the director of the first band, created a lot of songs, which are included in the best fund of urban songs of Shkodra. In the 1930s the first public concerts took place. There were 9 musical and wind formations, raised by the cultural institutions.
Cesk Zadeja, from Shkodra, was the composer of the first Albanian symphony (1956) as well as the composer of the music of the first Albanian film “Tana” (1958). In the theatre “Migjeni” in Shkodra, in 1958 was performed the first opera premiere “Mrika” composed by Prenk Jakova.
The song “Lule Bore” (Snow flowers) -the emblematic song of Shkodra music Simon Gjoni, composed the piece in 1946 when he was a teacher and fell in love with one of his students during a rare snow day in the city. That day he asked poet Zef Pali for a short text for a song to represent the girl as a snow flower in the text itself, and Pali prepared it in the same day. Since when the song was first played, its melody has been one of the most popular themes in the Albanian music and has been considered by critiques as an ….
Shkodra the city of songs
Shkodra has a rich local songwriting tradition. Over the centuries, here has been developed a special kind of music, sophisticated with lyrical and romantic texts, quite different from any other place in Albania. “Ahengu shkodran” translated in a first meaning as “the music of Shkodra”, is one of the seven masterpieces of spiritual heritage of the country. It is a musical macro- structure involving an entire range of some of the most significant musical elements, which contributed to the formation and consolidation of an urban musical tradition in northern Albania, specifically in the city of Shkodra. “Aheng” is believed to be an ancient tradition. The
birth, formation and consolidation of aheng have been always linked with the economic, social political and cultural life in Shkodra, starting from 15th century onwards. One of the reason why urban aheng found its highest expression in Shkodra, is undoubtedly linked with Shkodra’s attributes as the most developed medieval Albanian city. It includes repertoires of traditional urban song and instrumental pieces. The musical formations of urban aheng in Shkodra were of a mixed character, combining the tambour, the violin, the seven-hole kaval, the tambourine, finger cymbals and musicians spoons. Ahengu shkodran was held mainly on the night of the weeding; on the day of the marriage and on the first weeding night until the next morning. It comprises more than 300 selected songs greatly influenced by the multicultural mentality and combined with the beauty of the houses, gardens plenty of flowers, which has been used as symbols or metaphors to address the different aspects of love and passion for the women. Of a great interest are the so-called “jare shkodrane”, the cultivated lyrical songs, which are considered “the heart” of the repertoire. They epitomize in the most significant way general musical features of ahengu shkodran like the long melodic phases, the extensive tonal range, the rich melodic ornamentations and the free rhythmic performance practice.
The city with a great sense of humor
A distinctive feature for the region, localized especially in the city of Shkodra, is the presence of a highly developed sense of humor, which appears in common conversations, but it has been elevated into art in the famous bejte (verses), humorous songs, created instantly about concerns of everyday life. Such sympathetic creations full of humor adorn even the greatest feast organized by Shkodra citizens in their households and society. For them, it is an essential part of life and survival, just like air and water on their everyday food: “A day without laugher is a wasted day” goes the adage in Shkodra.
The biking capital of Albania
What you will notice immediately when you arrive in Shkodra, is the number of people riding bicycles. Cycling is a mainstream travel mode within the city. People on bikes, going about their daily business are a common sight everywhere. The first bike was seen in Shkodra in the beginning of the 20th century (1907). It was the Consul of Sweden who introduced this trend into the old city. From that time on, the number of bicycles grew gradually. Neither did the introduction of private cars in large numbers in the early 1990’s put an end to this tradition. There is an explanation for this strong relationship between the locals and bicycle. The city is 8 km long and 4 km wide, with all of it lying on an entirely flat area. Shkodra is the 5th most bike-friendly cities of west Europe. Shkodrans takes traffic very personally! They believe in (traffic) tolerance. In general the drivers in Shkodra are respectful and understandable due to high cycling share and culture.
The architecture of traditional urban dwelling in Shkodra
The traditional Shkodra dwellings, a small number of which have survived to this day, date back from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, but there are sources which date them even earlier. The dominating of dwelling in Shkodra is the house with çardak (open floor serving as a summer verandah). Çardak dwellings are part of a wider group of open buildings, which evolved from an earlier type known as houses with hayats (porches). All types of çardak dwellings generally consist of two stores. The ground floor is not habitable. Çardak main function is to serve as a living area and to provide access to the other rooms. Connection between the floors is realized by means of external stairs made by stone. Traditional houses were part of a walled compound with an enclosed courtyard and additional auxiliary outhouses including the so called “ground-floor house”, consisting of one or two rooms. They were used as laundry and kitchens and guest room for second hand guests.
Shkodra, having been a trading city and a cultural capital, is also well known for its artisan heritage and still today there are artisans that try to maintain these traditions. Few artisans have shops in the city, and the tourists, in addition being able to buy high quality products, can also visit their workshops. Open markets and fairs are organized in the city centre pedestrian zone to further promote the products of the region. One of the most notable artisan products from Shkodra would be that of the Silver Filigree. Also, standing out are the following: artistic woodwork, basket weaving, traditional and modern embroideries, handmade table cloths, scarves and bags made of cotton, as well as kilims made of locally sourced wool.