Albania’s greatest national hero is aristocratic military leader Gjergj Kastrioti – universally known as Skanderbeg, or Skënderbej in Albanian. He lived between 1405 and 1468 and managed to create a strong, independent country for 25 years before it was torn apart again by the might of invading Ottoman forces. Throughout the Ottoman occupation of Albania, Skanderbeg became a symbol of national pride and still today he is regarded as the father of the nation. Such is his place in Tirana life that the city’s gently chaotic central square is named after him and dominated by his mighty equestrian statue, which was erected in 1968 on the 500th centenary of his death. In stark contrast to the socialist-realist architecture that surrounds the square, Skanderbeg’s statue is remarkably Byzantine in style. The masterpiece of Albanian sculptor Odhise Paskali, it sits on a stone plinth and is 36 feet (11 meters) high, depicting the much-venerated military leader in full armor and on horseback; the Albanian flag flies alongside.
Sheshi Skënderbej (Skanderbeg Square). Open to all, no admission charges. Best accessed on foot.