• Adam

Albania: Tirana

Tirana is Albania's capital and largest city. It's got bad traffic, historical sights and a trendy central district with bars and restaurants. Albania was mostly rural through most of its history and Tirana was only founded about 100 years ago, so there aren't the ancient attractions that you'd expect in other European capitals.

Like any good communist capital, Tirana has a large central square for the people to gather. Called Skanderbeg Square, it's named after the 15th century independence hero (fun fact: Albania's national flag is Skanderbeg's combat banner).

Skanderbeg Square

Large communist mural in Skanderbeg Square

Then there's the Pyramid. The dictator died in 1985 and by the late 1980's his daughter had designed a memorial to his life. They built this building - the most expensive in the whole country - and then a few years later, communism fell. Albanians were naturally not so keen about having a building honoring the guy who made their lives a living hell for 45 years, but they couldn't agree about what to do with the building. So, it fell into disrepair and sits empty to this day.

But Albania, not being as litigious as the USA, doesn't put up barriers to stop people from climbing up and down the sides of the Pyramid, so that's exactly what I did! If you notice from the picture, the sides have varying degrees of steepness, and since I didn't really want to get hurt, I opted to go up/down the least steep sides, which can be found at each end.

The Pyramid has seen better days. But it's become a (very expensive) playground for adults!

Standing atop the Pyramid after I climbed up the side, looking towards the Prime Minister's office (left) and towards downtown (right). In the downtown picture you can see a new mosque being built on the right. That's being paid for by Turkey, who hopes to buy influence in Albania with the help of this gift.

The trendy neighborhood of Blloku ("the Block") was once the exclusive zone for the Communist Party elite. While today it is open to everyone and is the trendiest neighborhood in the city, the dictator Hoxha's residence is still intact. You can't go inside, but perhaps it'll become a museum some day.

Enver Hoxha's residence (left), some communist-era statues relegated to the back yard of an art museum (right)

I thought these trees looked cool, but they're just regular trees with the side branches cut off (left) "The Cloud" art installation you can walk through (right)

The Taiwan Center lit up at night. This restaurant and entertainment complex got its name because it's surrounded by water and supposedly resembles an island. I just liked the colors.

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