Shkodra
Shkodra is a city in northern Albania, which is located by the lake with the same name and near the border with Montenegro. Shkodra is the fifth largest city in Albania and the cultural, economic and political centre of its north. Shkodra lies in a plain that runs along the coast of the Adriatic Sea and Shkodra lake, between the mountain range of Tarabosh and the Albanian Alps. Three rivers flow through the area around Shkodra: Buna, Drin and Kir.

Shkodra has an over 2400-year history and is one of the oldest inhabited cities of Albania. Many places, sights, monuments, memorials, statues and ruins bear witness of this eventful history.
In the 4th Century BC Shkodra was residence of the Illyrian tribe of the Ardiaei who ruled over the territory of the present states of Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. After the Ardiaei, the Illyrian tribe of the Labeates took over the place and was far more powerful than their predecessors.
From I Century Shkodra was part of the Roman province of Dalmatia, in the second half of the 6th Century the ancient city of Shkodra was conquered by Slavs, in 1040 Shkodra was captured by the Principality of Zeta and from 1360 ruled the noble family of Balsha. In 1396 the Venetian Republic took the power over Shkodra and the town flourished into a rich trading city: the historic city centre with its typical Venetian buildings and streets testifies this time.
In 1479 Shkodra was captured by the Ottomans, after a long siege of the Rozafa castle. However, it took a long time, until the city was able to recover from the devastation and depopulation as a result of the Turkish conquest. It became a major trading center that could benefit from the exchange between the Ottoman Empire and the rest of Europe.
In 1860 a Jesuit seminary was founded in Shkodra and in 1870 a theological school of the Franciscan Order was established with the help of Austria-Hungary. The Austrians aimed to increase their influence in the Catholic northern Albania. They knew that Albania could play an important role in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The Muslim inhabitants of Shkodra, and generally the Albanians, were more than suspicious in concern of the Dual Monarchy. To minimize the Austrian influence in Shkodra as much as possible, Italian schools were opened in the city too.
Shkodra was an important place of Rilindja, the Albanian national movement.
In the 19th Century, more than 40,000 people lived in Shkodra. The Catholic residents had strong relationships to Italy and Austria, which were very important for the development of the city. Catholic monks opened several schools. In 1879 a newspaper was published here, for the first time in Albania, and in 1901 important meetings of the Albanian national movement were held. During the First World War from 1916 to 1918 the city was under Austrian occupation. After the war, followed the French, which in 1920 gave Shkodra to the young state of Albania.
Shkodra was the last city of Albania being liberated in November 1944.
In 1990, the city was a center of the rebellion against the communist dictatorship.

On a steep hill between the rivers Buna and Drin lay the ruins of the Rozafa castle. Its origins date back to pre-Roman times of the Illyrians and the castle has determined the destiny of the city until modern times. With the exception of the fortified walls of the castle, most buildings are destroyed. Until the defeat of Turkish forces in 1913, it was still used by the military. At the northern foot of the castle hill, on a narrow strip of shore, lies for centuries, the bazaar district of Shkodra.

The Lead Mosque, the most important building in the now very rural area was unused after the First World War. The importance of the bazaar district after the Second World War also decreases.

The city today is still characterized by bleak apartment buildings from the communist era, wide streets, but also narrow lanes with high courtyard walls. In the center several new skyscrapers and religious buildings have recently emerged. A central road with historical, urban buildings has been restored and turned into a pedestrian zone. At the site of the old bazaar area, a new shopping passage has been created. The land between the Castle and today's city has been gradually built over with new services and trading activities since the late 1990s. A few kilometers north-east there is the Ottoman bridge of the 18th Century "Ura e Mesit".

Shkodra is the centre of the Albanian Catholics who live primarily in the north. The city is the seat of a diocese and houses a theological seminary of the Jesuits. There are also some traditional Orthodox and many Muslim religious buildings as the Orthodox Cathedral, the Ebu Bekr Mosque and the Parruca Mosque that were rebuilt after the fall of the communism.