My boys decided they wanted to focus on the lesser known countries, so the likes of Australia or Argentina were ruled out. Eventually we put the names of about six countries starting with A (like Azerbaijan and Antigua & Barbuda) in a box and we drew out Albania!
I must say, I am now a big fan of Albania. And I really do hope to travel there one day! The food is a amazing and the landscape – beaches and mountains – look gorgeous. And as its one of the poorest countries in Europe, it’s super affordable!
Here is the info sheet for Albania (click on the link for a five-page – with lots of pictures -PDF): Albania.
And when they are done, you/your kids can test what they learned by doing this quick crossword puzzle (PDF is in link as well). AlbaniaCW
My boys also make it a point to draw the flag of each country (per the flag above). Note the prominent two headed bird, which, apparently, the tradition is that native Albanians descended from such an animal.
And some of my kids favorite facts include:
- Albania shares its highest peak with Macedonia
- The first president called himself King Zog (hee, hee!)
- Albanian is a unique language – in its own language group separate from all other Indo-European languages.
- The rise of communism in the country made it one of the poorest nations in Europe (and made Atheism the national religion)
This week I discovered how tasty Albanian food is! Its a mixture of Greek/Turkish/Eastern European culture. And it is delicious! And thankfully being of very European, most all of the ingredients can be found in at a regular grocery store.
Here’s what our meals looked like and the recipes we used to make everything. This was definitely Isaac’s favorite part about Albania week!
- Albania’s national dish Tave Kosi (This is very clear recipe to follow. We did end up cooking it for about 20 minutes longer and it turned out great! Though, you might want to add another 1/4 cup rice. Also we used veal instead of lamb (due to my aversion to it), and it worked well with the precooking of the meat cut back to 30 minutes.)
- Byrek me Spinaq (Kind of like spanakopita and quite easy to make! We did use only one-third of spinach called for and a lot more feta)
- Kulac Albanian Soda Bread (Another simple, kid-friendly recipe to make! We did bake it a lot less than the recipe says, so keep your eyes on the bread!)
- Greek/Albanian Salad. No recipe here basically combination of chunks of cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, and feta cheese, and onion slivers and a little oregano, olive oil and salt. Prepare it with more or less of whatever ingredient depending on what you like best!
- Yogurt and honey. (What we have for breakfast many mornings, so that was easy!)
- Shendetlie (This recipe is all in metric measurements but it pretty easy to convert knowing that 200g of sugar/flour about 1 cup.) Its technically a dessert but we decided it could pass a breakfast
- Left over Kulac front the night before and jam.
Culture and Craft
After doing some research online, it seems that Albanians are quite proud of their musical heritage (more so than, say, art or dance), specifically, all the instruments that are specific to the Albanian area. So we decided to listen to some music on the two-stringed Albanian Cefteli – Cefteli Music Cefteli Music – and then make some and play for ourselves. Andrew loved this best.
All you need is:
- Piece of cardboard
- Brown paper bag
- Cardboard tube (I find half of a wrapping paper roll works best as its firmer. But a paper towel roll will do!
- Packing tape (preferably brown)
- Two extra long rubber bands (we actually used longer ones than pictures here)
- Four small nails with larger heads
CARDBOARD CEFTELI (By Isaac)
- Cut out a raindrop shape (with its point not there) out of the cardboard box that is about 10 to 11 inches tall. Then cut a small hole in the center of the raindrop.
- Take a brown paper grocery bag, turn it inside – out (so you don’t se the labels),then mold it into the shape of the raindrop.
- Tape the paper bag to the edge of the raindrop with brown packing tape.
- Put a cardboard tube that is about a foot long and stick it at the top of the raindrop where the point of the raindrop would be, between the bag and the raindrop. Then tape it the the raindrop and bag.
- Tape the back of the paper bag starting and ending on the edge of the raindrop in a straight line. Do this until the tape has covered all of the paper bag. Push down on the hole so it is clear.
- Color the raindrop. You can use the Albania flag or other cool and crazy designs.
- Put two tiny nails in, a little bit lower than the hole. Put two other nails, towards the top.
- Then attach a rubber band to two of the nails on opposite sides. Connect to the other nails.
- You play this cefteli like a guitar. Adjust the bottom nails to how high or low you want the strings sound to be.
Here’s the boys in action. Actually sounds pretty neat!: Cardboard Cefteli Playing
Thanks for joining us on our playroom tour of Albania! Next week: B is for Burundi.