A Big Block Box Communist City
Albania is titled the last unspoilt country on the Adriatic. With its history of communism – the country remained closed to tourists until much later then its bordering countries, thus bringing development much later. I was excited to explore a country described as beachy, beautiful, and a place to party. If I wanted that idea to develop into reality, I should not of had Tirana as my introduction to the country. Tirana is a big block box communist city.
It was my first day of my Balkan tour, we had zipped through Montenegro and I spent my brief time there conquering the city of Kotor, we then continued on route and stopped for the night in Tirana. We had the evening to ourselves, and only in the next morning would we have a guided tour through the city. So we headed out for dinner in the entertainment district.
The area was bright lights, grid-pattern city. Bars flashed lightbulbs and black lights while music drifted from the basement bars. The nightlife seemed vibrant, locals pounded the sidewalk in search of their favourite watering-hole and we searched for a decent restaurant. Our tour guide ended up leading us to one of his favourite restaurants and ordered on our behalf: Albanian cuisine.
When I mentioned I don’t eat red meat he told me I should just leave – Albanian food was not for me. I confront this gawking stare every time I mention my pescetarianism in each new country I enter. I was ordered melted cheese on vegetables – it was fantastic. Albania DOES provide food for us non-meat eaters! Rejoice.
But the bright lights of the evenings masked greatly the grey, dull, lifeless look to the city by day. As our tour began in the main strip of Tirana, we were informed the city is built in a giant cross and the 6 lane road drives straight into a turnaround at a building.
Each building that lines this road is boxy, grey, and flat to look at. I felt like I was looking at card board boxes. Even their buildings that are “art” are still on the inartistic side. But that is what happens. It is communism that made the city this way – they’ll need their time to rebuild and reclaim the countries beauty into their cities.
But the city does have two redeeming architectural features. First it has a very beautiful mural in the main square depicting Albanian’s through the centuries – wearing traditional clothing to each era. Second are the bunkers in the city which are graffittied and a great colourful way to brighten up objects associated with war and danger. These are sights for oh so very very sore eyes.
Sorry Tirana – You’re just a Big Block Box Communist City