The capital of a South-European country nobody really knows anything about. No wonder, because it detached itself from the world for half a century. But now it is waiting for you to be discovered and surprised.
Albania has always been torn between the powers of their times and developed quite an interesting and also peculiar national identity. The greatest influence by far was from the Ottoman empire. During their historical height in 1614 the city of Tirana was founded as one of the most western point of Islam culture.
This is still significant today, because Albania and Bosnia remain to be the most western traces of the turkish influence of the past centuries. But the other significant political movement in Albania was comunism. Ever since from the liberation of the Nazis in 1944 Albania was a comunist dictatorship. This lasted pretty long until 1991. And during all that time this country barely had contact to anyone else. None left and seldom people were let in. So here developed an isolated people withdrawn from the world.
Now many traces in the architecture and the way the people act is still connected to those 50 years. Most visible on the Skanderberg square. The central ground and with a huge empty space in the middle, which where made for military gatherings and parades. Quite a few of the 600000 inhabitants of the city cross this square everyday, hence it connects you with bus to every party of the town. Also the long distance-buses are not far away. Behind the museum of fine arts you will find some statues of Stalin and The theaters and political institutions are very monumental. Welcome to Eastern Europe. During our stay in Tirana we slept at Freddy´s Hostel. Freddy is a guy, who has family in Germany and now is starting in the backpackers business, which is growing literally with him. I think he had the right idea at the right time. He is renting various apartments close to the main square for really cheap fares. And he picks you up with his polo at the airport, too ;) Albania is a poor country, but modern fashion and technical gadgets are on the rise. And many of the young citizens have the same appearance as they would have in the west. But still food is very cheap and you can have a fantastic meal (turkish/ balkan-stile) for a reasonable price. Internet-Cafes are not coming in huge amounts, but they are traceable. Altogether it is quite an interesting mix of Muslim culture with it´s mosques and traditional costumes of the believers and also the very sober look of state owned buildings and apparatchiks. But you should definitely bring your electronic light with you, because at night, many side streets are as dark as can be.