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Date of travel

March, 2017

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Tirana became the capital of Albania in 1920. Before this it was a small and unimportant town founded in the C17th. Very little of Ottoman Tirana survives as buildings were demolished during Communist times.

King Zog had established good relations with Italy and Italian colonists were settling in the area and Italian companies building roads and improving harbours. Tirana gradually assumed the appearance of a capital city under the influence of Italian planners who created a huge new square named after the national hero Skanderbeg and were responsible for the design of the municipal buildings along Boulevard Deshmoret e Kombit.

There was a massive growth of the city in Communist times when many older buildings were destroyed being replaced by rather characterless communist block apartments. Many are now beginning to show their age and are in need of a bit of tender loving care. There has been a recent initiative to brighten up the city by painting these in bright colours. If the residents agree to to repaint the outside of their block, the government pays 50% of the cost. The area known as the Bllok is the best place to see this where blocks of houses are painted in different colours. When newly painted, the colours are very bright and in your face but soon fade to a more acceptable hue in the bright sunshine

During the 1990s, there was rapid uncontrolled development in the city with huge high rise buildings. Many of these buildings have been pulled down leaving large squares and open areas planted with flowers and trees. Checkpoint is a small open area developed as a memorial to Communist Isolation. It contains the concrete bunker that guarded the main entrance to Enver Hoxha’s house, the concrete supports from Spac which was a forced labour camp for political prisoners and a fragment of the Berlin Wall, complete with graffiti. The Lane river runs through the centre of Tirana through a concrete water course with banks planted with trees, including brightly coloured Judas trees.

Enver Hoxha was very much a cult figure and his home is one of the few buildings to survive. This is now empty and owned by the Ministry of Culture who don’t seem to know what to do with it. After his death, the Pyramid of Tirana was built as a mausoleum for his body. This became a museum about him in the 1980s with a huge statue of him outside. At the fall of Communism in 1992, the statue was pulled down and the contents of the museum thrown away. The building was used for a book fair. There were plans to demolish the pyramid and use the area for a new parliament building, but it was saved after large public protests. It is now looking decidedly unloved.

During the week, Tirana is grid locked with slow moving traffic. The centre of Tirana around Skanderbeg Square was being pedestrianised when we visited in March 2017 in an attempt to remove traffic from the city centre. Like all capital cities, it has a wide choice of museums and art galleries to visit. For those interested in the history of Albania, the “National Historical Museum”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/174972-review-national-historical-museum is a must. The”World Headquarters of the Bektashi Liberal Sect of Islam “:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/albania/day_seven/seven_two/index.html is a lot more interesting than its rather dry title suggests. I didn’t explore the shopping area.


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