This important northern city lies near Lake Scutari in a relatively flat valley about 55 mi/88 km northwest of Tirana and surrounded by majestic mountains. Shkoder has always been the country's most independent and free-thinking city—it was instrumental in bringing down the last Communist leader, even though it was his hometown. The city is also an important center of Albanian Catholicism. Its cathedral, which was turned into a volleyball court during the antireligion campaigns of the 1960s, has been converted back into a cathedral. Shkoder's most impressive site, the Rozafat Fortress (just a short drive to the south of the city), has a spectacular setting on a sheer cliff that is both impregnable and impressive. Near the fortress is the 18th-century Leaden Mosque.

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