Time was when Albania had a king, King Zog I. He was a self proclaimed monarch and reigned as King from 1928-1939, you can read more on his history at the following link Zog_I_of_Albania.
Today I took a ride to Shiroke to find his Villa. I heard about it since I have been here but never made the effort to find it. Well, find it I did, and let me just say it was both astonishingly beautiful and depressingly sad. Beautiful because I could envision it at its height, in its grandiose state in the 1920’s-1930’s, with the King and his family strolling the grounds, having tea on the balconies. Sad because of the state it has fallen into. Sad that the country has not restored it to its original state and make a park out of it, a tourist attraction for the world to see, something to preserve the history of her king and the magnificence of his residence. Even if one is not a monarchist this is still part of Albania’s history and should be restored, preserved and exposed to the world.
The grounds are reminiscent of Villa Borghese in Rome, although not as large or grandiose, but on a smaller scale. One could envision a time when the multi level tiers in the gardens were manicured to perfection and the fountains pouring out their water gently, all the while the birds chirping in the trees. You can feel the nostalgia, the walls calling out to be resurrected once again, the windows to be dressed in flowing chiffon undulating in the wind. The breeze throughout the house is refreshing and welcoming. The balconies begging to serve as a resting spot after an afternoon stroll. Walking among the debris that is left inside one can’t help but wonder where is the humanity? Where is the pride? Where is the Cultural Monument Society? Why has this not been a priority on their projects’ list?
I supposed part of my nostalgia in walking the grounds, maybe, was because I had a short lived connection to Queen Geraldine of Albania. I had the pleasure to see the Queen in New York City in c.1975 at an event held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for the anniversary of Albania’s Independence. My mother, Maria Teresa Gjomarkaj, was seated next to the Queen at the head table. It was a very exciting day and we felt very proud to have been in her presence as well as her son’s, King Leka.
It is a very sad thing to see. All this glamour and beauty just sitting there, rotting away for the vagrants to use and abuse. For the chickens to run around in and mess it up. For Albanians in the North not to have a monument as a reminder of a grander, gentler time; a memento of their King they can be proud of. The opportunities in restoring it are many. It could be a great tourist attraction, one that would certainly drive the tourism up in Shiroke and Shkoder. It would be a wonderful addition to an area which is trying to expand into the international tourist market, it would provide jobs and establish a great resource of income for the area. Albania…think about it!!!