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Gjirokastër, in the southern part of Albania, is an ancient city with traces of human habitation dating back to the first century BC. It is located on the slopes of the Gjere mountains, overlooking the Drinos river and its lush valley. This Unesco world heritage city is often referred to as the City of Stairs, as stairs are used in many of the small streets that wind their way up the hills in the direction of the Gjirokastër fortress. The city has several claims to fame; besides being the birthplace of two of the most important Albanians, communist dictator Enver Hoxha and world-renowned writer Ismail Kadare, the city also brings together different elements of the country’s mixed history, representing its Byzantine, Ottoman and communist pasts.

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