Avlon (Greek: Αυλών, later Αυλώνα) was found as an ancient Greek colony, likewise some other cities on the coast of ancient Illyria. It took place probably c. 4th c. BC. Αυλών is the Greek name for valley, defile, ravine. The same name was given to a village in Messenia, a village in the region of Taranto and a valley on the Euratos River.
Under the rule of the Romans it was an important port city. Vlore gained also another version of its name - Valona. Later it was a part of the Byzantine Empire. For a short period of time it was also governed by the Bulgarians. In 11th c. it passed first into Normans’ hands and later into the House of Anjou’s. In 11th c. it was conquered by Stephen Dusan - the king of Serbia - who conquered Berat in the same year and Kruje two years earlier. Till the end of the year the territory of contemporary Albania became a part of the Great Serbia. But after Stephen Dusan’s death in 1355 the powerful empire built by him fell into small duchies. Local landowners seized power in Albania. Small quarreled duchies were not able to defy a powerful enemy from the East. Soon Vlora changed its owner and name again. It became a part of the Ottoman Empire - under the name of Avlonya.
The city became a theatre of important events again on 28 November 1912, when Ismail Qemal proclaimed the Independent Republic of Albania with Vlora as a capital city. But for short time. The declaration was for growth, because Vlora was the only city controlled by the authors of the manifesto. It did not last long. Two years later Vlora was occupied again, it was the result of Italian invasion. In November 1920, because of the outbreak of the uprising, Italians withdrew from the city. But not for long.
On 7 April 1939, as Fascist Italy, they occupied Durres and till 10 April almost the whole territory of Albania. Since September 1943 it was governed by Germans. But for short time, because since the beginning of 1944 the Yugoslav partisans started to liberate the country. During WW2 Vlore put up stiff resistance to invaders, which resulted in the honorary title of Hero City.
After the war, at the entrance to the bay by Sazan Island, the Russians – new allies of the communist Albania – extended their naval base. It was later handed to the Albanians as an effect of the conflict between Enver Hoxha and Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev. Diplomatic relations between those allied (until then) countries were severed. The soviets stopped their economic support for Albania, which resulted in the Albanian government’s demand to withdraw several dozens of USSR’s army from the naval base within few hours. Albania took over modern infrastructure, equipment, ammunition and also few soviet submarines!
In 1997 Vlore was the centre of disturbances after bankruptcy of pyramid schemes, which resulted in the fall of Sali Berisha’s government and led to anarchy in Albania.
We arrived to Vlore by van, but you can get there also by bus, train, ferry (after all, Vlore is the second largest port of Albania - after Durres) or by car of course. There are just under 150 km from Tirana to Vlore. Then you can head for Sarande through the Llogara pass. If you do not possess a car, you can cover the distance by van, but preferably the best solution is travelling by bus. Vans travel fast and there is no time to feast your eyes on beautiful views, and believe me, you should admire them. But I will tell something more in next article...
Because Vlore is a tourist resort, there are plenty of hotels and new ones are springing up like mushrooms. Right by the port, there is recommendable Bologna Hotel. Richer tourists can find more impressive but also more expensive hotel right next to it. We paid 30€ for a room in Bolognia Hotel. I think that it was a reasonable price bearing in mind that the room was spacious with a big double bed, two smaller ones, bathroom, air-conditioning, TV set and what is the most important - a big window with a view to the sea! We checked also another room, next to ours, with a big terrace maybe for playing football matches on it. The same price!
Nearby the clock tower, in the centre of Vlore, there are the Independence Monument, the Museum of History and the Museum of Ethnography. Another one, the Museum of National Independence- the first museum in Albania, is nearby the port. Walking down the main avenue of the city, heading from the port to the Independence Square, on the left we can find the Murad mosque built between 1542 and 1557.
Every summer Vlore experiences an onslaught of tourists. There are plenty of restaurants, hotels, funfairs, shops, cash dispensers and beautiful sunny weather. Fifteen minutes walk from Hotel Bologna we can take the air on a sandy beach with the gentle access to the sea. Allegedly, the water is clear but I could notice a very suspicious inflow in one place. If you want to sunbathe, it would be better to seek for a place outside the city - clearer, quieter and probably cheaper. I travelled much further south, that’s why I cannot recommend anything. Those, who can, I encourage to put in your two pennyworth here.
By the way, I would like to make a small digression about Albania, which is often perceived as the third world. For some people the country is so faraway that they do not realize that it is in Europe! Look at these photos. Do the people differ from us? Young people wear similar clothes to our teens, there are cars on the streets and you can buy everything in modern supermarkets. In bigger cities you can use cash dispensers, which accept Visa cards without any problems.
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