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Gjirokastra Coat of Arms
Gjirokastra (Albania)
Paris plan pointer b jms.svg

Coordinates: 40 ° 5 '  N , 20 ° 8'  E

Basic data
Qark : Gjirokastra
Municipality : Gjirokastra
Height : 340  m above sea level A.
Residents : 19,836 (2011)
Telephone code : (+355) 84
Postal code : 6001-6003
Politics and administration (as of 2019 )
Mayor : Flamur Golemi ( PS )
Website :
Culture and history
City foundation : 14th Century
City Festival : December 4th
View over part of the old town (2016)

View over part of the old town (2016)

Gjirokastra [ ɟiɾoˈkastɾa ] ( Albanian  also  Gjirokastër [ ɟiɾoˈkastəɾ ]; Greek Αργυρόκαστρο Argyrókastro ("silver castle "); Italian Argirocastro ; Turkish Ergir or Ergiri ) is a city in the south of Albania and the capital of the Qark of the same name . The city has 19,836 inhabitants (2011).

Gjirokastra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005 . It is one of the oldest cities in the country and an important cultural center of southern Albania. The city is the birthplace of the former dictator Enver Hoxha and the most famous Albanian writer Ismail Kadare .


View over the stone roofs of the old town over to the mountains of Mali i Gjerë

Gjirokastra is located in the south of Albania in the Drino river valley , which widens here to the Dropull plain. The older quarters of the city are on the steep slope of Mali i Gjerë at up to 480  m above sea level. A. built. Newer districts stretch downwards to the small industrial areas on the river bank at 190  m above sea level. A. Several smaller streams flow through the city from the southwest to the northeast, which flow into the Drino below Gjirokastra. When there is heavy rainfall, they swell sharply and occasionally overflow their banks. Forests are rare in the surrounding area. In the river plain, agriculture and livestock are partly practiced.

Gjirokastra is adjacent to the northwest of Tepelena , the southeast of Libohova and the south of Lazarat . The border crossing to Greece in Kakavija is only 36 kilometers away. The road over the Muzina Pass to Saranda leads only a few kilometers southeast of the city.

In Gjirokastra and in the whole valley there is a Mediterranean-continental climate. The winters are cold and rich in precipitation, the summers are warm and low in precipitation. The valley winds from the north are characteristic.


The castle rock (alb. Kalaja ) has been inhabited since ancient times


The castle rock, which dominates the whole valley, was probably built as early as the 3rd century BC. Settled. The complex was first fortified with walls in the 6th century, when other places in the Drino Valley such as Antigoneia slowly lost their importance.

middle age

The first written mention of Argyrokastro comes from 1336 as part of the Byzantine Empire . In the meantime, a settlement had slowly formed around the castle . In 1417 Gjirokastra was conquered by the army of the Ottoman Empire . The ruling family remained the Zenevisi , who converted to Islam soon after the Turkish conquest . At the end of the 16th century, Christians were still in the majority. In a Defter from 1583, almost 80 Muslim and over 230 Christian households were counted. This relationship was reversed in the course of the 17th century. In 1419 the Ottomans declared Gjirokastra the capital of the sanjak of Albania . In 1466 the city lost this function to Berat . In 1432 there was an anti-Ottoman revolt among the population, which was put down by Turahan Bey the following year .


According to the tax registers of 1431/32, Argiri , as the city was now called in Turkish , had a total of 163 houses. In 1583 434 houses were counted. The rapid growth was mainly due to the rural exodus and the function as an administrative center. Although the city lost its status as the capital of the sanjak to Berat in 1466, it remained the seat of the court ( kadi ). In 1670 the Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi counted over 2000 houses. In his travel book, the Seyahatnâme , he described the city in detail.

In 1811 Tepedelenli Ali Pasha was able to incorporate the city into his dominion until Sultan Mahmud II recaptured Gjirokastra in 1822 after Ali Pasha was assassinated. During the reign of the Pasha , the castle was greatly expanded and a ten-kilometer aqueduct was built. It ensured the water supply to the castle, but was destroyed in 1932.

Aspirations for independence

Representatives of the Greek minority from Northern Epirus declare their autonomy in Gjirokastra in 1914.

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire , the city, like all of northern Epirus, was violently disputed between Albania and Greece. In 1914, the Greek minority of southern Albania proclaimed the independence of the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus in Gjirokastra , but this was short-lived. In 1925 Greece withdrew all territorial claims on Albania.

Since the Second World War

After the Italian invasion of Albania in April 1939, Italian troops took up quarters in Gjirokastra. The Italians set out to invade Greece. After the start of the Second World War , they started the Greco-Italian War in October 1940 , which, however, became a disaster for them. After initial success, the Greeks went on a counter-offensive and took Gjirokastra in early December 1940. In April 1941 the tide turned after the Wehrmacht occupied Greece in the Balkan campaign . Gjirokastra remained in Italian hands until 1943 and was occupied by the German Wehrmacht after the surrender of Italy in September 1943 . During World War II, the city was also attacked from the air, and many people lost their lives as a result of the bombs. After the communists came to power , the Gjirokastra-born leader Enver Hoxha (1908–1985) proclaimed the Socialist People's Republic of Albania at the end of the war .

During the city's socialist history, industrialization began and Gjirokastra became a supraregional trading center. In 1961 the communist government declared it a “museum city”. As a result, the cityscape escaped radical change.

Since the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s, the city has suffered from heavy emigration . Especially people of Greek origin , but also many ethnic Albanians, have left the country. The unrest against the government in 1997 was particularly violent in Gjirokastra. In 2005 UNESCO declared the historical center of Gjirokastra a World Heritage Site .

local community

Until 2015, the municipality ( Bashkia ) Gjirokastra only included the city. Since then, all municipalities  in the north of the former Gjirokastra County have belonged to the municipality, including large mountain areas on both sides of the Drino Valley. The new municipality has 28,673 inhabitants (as of 2011).

Parishes incorporated into Bashkia Gjirokastra
Surname Population (2011) Community type
Gjirokastra 000000000019836.000000000019,836 Bashkia
Antigone 000000000000998.0000000000998 Komuna
Cepo 000000000001727.00000000001,727 Komuna
Lazarat 000000000002801.00000000002,801 Komuna
Lunxhëri 000000000001941.00000000001.941 Komuna
Odria 000000000000433.0000000000433 Komuna
Picar 000000000000937.0000000000937 Komuna

Gjirokastra has had a town partnership with the town of Klina in Kosovo since 2010 .


Senior women in the old town

Gjirokastra is shaped by the two monotheistic religions Islam and Christianity . Sunnis , Bektashi and Orthodox Christians have lived side by side and with one another for centuries. As a result of the long communist era, the population has a high number of atheists .

Ethnically, the inhabitants are made up of Albanians and Greeks , with the latter forming a minority. The Albanians in Gjirokastra speak a Tuscan dialect.

Due to the strong emigration of young people in particular in recent years, a large part of the population is over 60 years old. The young job-seeking population has emigrated either to the capital Tirana or to Greece and Italy. Even today, around 60 percent of boys want to leave Gjirokastra after their training, as a survey in 2012 showed.

Economy and Transport

High unemployment, potential tourism

Due to the high level of unemployment and lack of prospects, emigration is quite high, although it fell again in the 2000s. During the communist era there were some industrial establishments, including a shoe factory and companies for metal production. But with the fall of the dictatorship, the few factories were closed and people were forced to look elsewhere. Today, many are also involved in agriculture, livestock, trade and services. Tourism is seen as a possible economic sector, which could become more and more important for the city in the future. The number of visitors increases continuously every year. In 2004 not even 1000 visitors were counted at the castle; In 2011 there were already 25,000.


The national road SH4 runs below the city in the newer quarters . It connects the economic center of Albania, the Tirana - Durrës metropolitan area , with the Greek border crossing at Kakavija . At Jergucat, south of Gjirokastra, the SH4 branches off the SH72 national road , which leads over the Qafa e Muzinës pass to Delvina and on to Saranda on the Ionian Sea .

In the late 1920s, Italian troops set up an airfield on the Dropull Plain below the city, but it was very sparsely used and served exclusively military purposes. Rehabilitation has been sought for several years. Every year an air show with participants from all over the world takes place above the city.


View from the castle to the north: you can see the old town and the new town on the plain, to the left of it the mountains of Mali i Gjerë rise up, on the other side of the Drino valley are the Lunxhëria mountain

Old town

Historical centers of Berat and Gjirokastra
UNESCO world heritage UNESCO World Heritage Emblem
Contracting State (s): AlbaniaAlbania Albania
Type: Culture
Criteria : iii, iv
Reference No .: 569
UNESCO region : Europe and North America
History of enrollment
Enrollment: 2005  (session 29)
Extension: 2008
View of the typical stone buildings in Gjirokastra
View from the castle on Gjirokastra
The steep location of the city is characteristic

Gjirokastra owes the nickname "City of Stones" to its unique cityscape. Striking houses resembling small fortresses have shaped the quarters around the castle, today's old town, for centuries. Covered with stone slabs from the nearby mountains, the roofs used to be used to regulate the internal temperature of the houses. This was very beneficial for life in this climatically continental landscape. In this way, the houses remained quite cool in summer, while great cold could be prevented in winter. Another reason for using stone material for the roofs was that other materials like brick were much more expensive and stone was abundant in the area. White exterior facades, high wooden windows and many small inner courtyards with huge wooden courtyard gates also characterize the old town. Narrow, artistically paved alleys run along the steep slopes, connecting the various quarters with one another and dating back to the 18th century.

The style of the houses can also be found as so-called "Balkan architecture" in a similarly closed form in other cities in the southern Balkans, such as in Berat (Central Albania), Ohrid (southwest Macedonia), Veliko Tarnowo (northern Bulgaria) and Metsovo (northwest Greece ). The communists declared the compact and spacious old town to be a “museum town” in 1961, as did Berat, which placed it under special protection. Many houses today are poorly maintained and are gradually falling into disrepair. The damage from the lottery riot in 1997 was repaired in the 2000s. As early as 1988, application was made for the museum city of Gjirokastra to be included in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage , but it was rejected because of some modern buildings that spoiled the character of the old town. The entry as a rare example of a well-preserved city from the time of the Ottomans took place in 2005. Girokastra offers an exceptional testimony to the society shaped by the Islamic culture. In 2008 the world heritage site was expanded to include the old town of Berat.

Street in the bazaar district (2017)

According to a report by the International Council on Monuments and Sites in April 2013, the World Heritage Site of Gjirokastra, along with that of Berat, is in danger. The biggest problem is the many illegal buildings near the historic city centers, especially in Gjirokastra. Another shortcoming is the staff, who have insufficient monitoring of developments on site. There are also some important legislative changes that need to be made. If the local authorities do not fix the problem by the end of 2014, both will be put on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger .

The traditional quarters of the city around the castle are called Cfaka, Dunavat, Palorto, Varosh, Meçite, Hazmurat and Pazari i Vjetër.

Historical buildings

Gjirokastra is home to many Ottoman mosques and Christian Orthodox churches. The bazaar mosque is well preserved ; Another cultural monument is the Tekke Mosque . The Ethnographic Museum is a replica of a typical town house, other town houses have still been preserved in their original form and some can be visited, such as the Zekate House . Important for the Bektaschi in Albania is the old Tekke von Zall on the southern outskirts, one of several Tekken in the city.

Clock tower on the fortress

In addition to the National Museum of Arms, the castle also houses a clock tower and several other characteristic houses. A typical Ottoman stone bridge, the Ura e Kordhocës , is also well preserved southeast of the city over the Drino.

Museums, theaters and folklore

The US Lockheed T-33 , forced to land in 1957 , on display at the castle

Gjirokastra is the cultural center of Albania. Every five years the important national folklore festival takes place in the castle fortress , with music groups from all areas inhabited by Albanians performing.

The Ethnographic Museum was founded in 1966 and was used as an anti-fascist museum until 1991 . It is a replica of a typical Gjirokastra house built in 1966, which is located on the site of the burned down house where Enver Hoxha was born.

In the castle fortress is the National Arms Museum , which has a collection from the period between 1912 and the Second World War. The majority focuses on the partisan movement between 1939 and 1944. The museum opened in 1971. Outside the museum area, an American Lockheed T-33 jet aircraft , which was forced to land in central Albania in December 1957 and was later transferred to Gjirokastra, is also on display at the castle . The training aircraft is said to have had technical problems and was further damaged on landing by the poor runway. The pilot was released a few weeks later.

Several large town houses in Gjirokastra can be visited by tourists, although they are still privately owned. In addition to the Zekate House mentioned above, this also includes the Skënduli House . Under the castle is a large bunker that can now be visited as a museum called the Cold War Tunnels at certain times.

Gjirokastra has other cultural institutions with the Zihni Sako theater, a puppet theater and a library. There was a cinema before the Second World War, but it has been empty since the 1990s.

Representation in art

With his novel Chronicle in Stone has Ismail Kadare Gjirokastra a "literary monument" ( Elena Panagiotidis ) set. The author describes the steep city of his birth as follows:

“It was really a very strange city. You could walk on a street and, if you wanted, stretch your arm a little to put your cap over the top of a minaret. Much was hard to believe and a lot was like a dream. "

- Ismail Kadare : Chronicle in stone

Chronicle in Stein is considered to be Ismail Kadare's most successful novel. The autobiographical work has been translated into over 40 languages ​​and helped the author to international fame.

Education and sport

In Gjirokastra there are 14 kindergartens, four primary schools and four universities (2004). The Eqerem-Çabej University with the two faculties of natural sciences and education and social sciences was founded in 1968.

The largest stadium in the city is the Gjirokastra Stadium in the New Town. The local football club KS Luftëtari Gjirokastra plays in the Superiore , the first division.


Former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha was born in Gjirokastra in 1908. The ethnographic museum is now housed in the house where he was rebuilt . In other parts of the country it has often been said that he preferred his hometown as a particular favorite.

Ismail Kadare (* 1936), the most famous Albanian writer, also comes from Gjirokastra. In his book Chronicle in Stein , he describes the events in the city during the Second World War .

Other personalities born here:


  • Ferit Duka: Profili i një qyteti shqiptar të kohës osmane: Gjirokastra gjatë shek. XV-XVI . Studime Historike, 2002, p. 7-28 .
  • Ismail Kadare: Chronicle in Stone . S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-596-19178-9 (Albanian: Kronikë në gur . Translated by Joachim Röhm).
  • Matthias Bickert: World Heritage Cities of Southeast Europe in the field of tension between cultural governance and local civil society. Investigated using the example of Gjirokastra (Albania) (= Institute for Geography at the University of Bamberg [Hrsg.]: Bamberger Geographische Schriften . Volume 27 ). University of Bamberg Press, Bamberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-86309-300-6 .

Web links

Commons : Gjirokastër  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Ines Nurja: Censusi i popullsisë dhe banesave / Population and Housing Census - Gjirokastër 2011 . Results Kryesore / Main Results. Ed .: INSTAT . Pjesa / Part 1. Adel Print, Tirana 2013 ( instat.gov.al [PDF; accessed April 14, 2019]).
  2. Miranda Vickers: Shqiptarët - Një histori modern . Bota Shqiptare, 2008, ISBN 978-99956-11-68-2 , Mbërritja e osmanëve, p. 19 (English: The Albanians - A Modern History . Translated by Xhevdet Shehu).
  3. ^ History of Gjirokastra. In: Gjirokastra.org. Retrieved September 2, 2012 .
  4. 1670 Evliya Chelebi: Seyahatname - a Journey to Gjirokastra. In: Robert Elsie. Retrieved April 11, 2018 .
  5. Miranda Vickers: Shqiptarët - Një histori modern . Bota Shqiptare, 2008, ISBN 978-99956-11-68-2 , 1.3 Pashallëqet e Mëdha të Shkodrës dhe Janinës , p. 43 (English: The Albanians - A Modern History . Translated by Xhevdet Shehu).
  6. ^ Albania - The Land of the Illyrians. In: Albania.shqiperia.com. Retrieved September 2, 2012 .
  7. Është më tepër se gëzim kur takohen vëllezërit e një gjaku, gjuhe dhe flamuri. (No longer available online.) In: Komuna Klina. November 2, 2010, formerly in the original ; Retrieved September 3, 2012 (Albanian).  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / kk.rks-gov.net  
  8. a b c Elena Panagiotidis: Slow resurrection of the stone city. Gjirokaster in southern Albania relies on tourism after the turmoil of the nineties. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . May 14, 2012, accessed September 2, 2012 .
  9. ^ Aeroporti i Gjirokastrës, plane për ta dhënë me koncesion. In: Shqip . January 9, 2011, archived from the original on January 30, 2012 ; Retrieved September 2, 2012 (Albanian).
  10. Icomos: Trashëgimia në rrezik (Icomos: Heritage in Danger). Top Channel , April 17, 2013, accessed April 19, 2013 (Albanian).
  11. ^ Albanian National Military Museum Gjirokastra. In: Foundation Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe. Retrieved September 8, 2012 .
  12. a b Felicity Booth, Elenita Roshi (ed.): Gjirokastra - the essential guide . Gjirokastra Conservation and Development Organization, Tirana / Norwich 2009, ISBN 978-99956-747-0-0 .
  13. Tourist attractions in Gjirokastra. In: Gjirokastra.org. Retrieved September 1, 2012 (Albanian).
  14. ^ Owen Pearson: Albania as Dictatorship and Democracy - From Isolation to the Kosovo War 1946-1998 . In: The Center for Albanian Studies (Ed.): Albania in the Twentieth Century: A History . Volume 3. IB Tauris, London 2006, ISBN 1-84511-105-2 .
  15. Ismail Kadare: Chronicle in Stone . S. Fischer Verlag , Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-596-19178-9 , pp. 6 (Albanian: Kronikë në gur . Translated by Joachim Röhm).