Abstract in Tirana Albania

The small European country of Albania has had an unfortunate recent history after being ruled for over 40 years by the despotic Enver Hoxha, but it is slowly shaking away the shackles of his particularly brutal form of communism.

The country’s capital is the city of Tirana, which sits by the Tirane River that runs into the nearby Adriatic Sea.

You would think that Tirana would be one of those dour, grey miserable cities that represented the pinnacle of stern soviet architecture, but fortunately Tirana has a mayor, Edi Rama, who was not only a politician but also an artist. After being elected in the year 2000 he decided to make Tirana a far more interesting place than it was, so he ordered a painting spree on many of the buildings.

Many of the buildings, including the very tall ones, were painted in very strong colours to help brighten up an otherwise colourless city. More than 130 of Tirana’s buildings have been painted in striking patterns, and the best way to view them is to visit them by foot, which is easy as you just follow the abstract art.

Albania is nominally a Muslim country, yet its airport is named after a very famous Roman Catholic, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Although most of her charitable work was performed in India, she was born Agnes Gonca Boyaci in Skopje, Macedonia to an Albanian family, and she is honoured in many parts of the city. Tirana’s airport is, I believe, the only airport in the world to be named after a nun.

In the centre of the city is Skanderberg Square, which is named after a national hero, and which is being converted into a pedestrian square. There are some significant buildings surrounding the square including an important mosque and the town hall to which is attached an enormous clock tower. Here you can also visit the Piramida, which is easy to spot as it is shaped like a pyramid. It was originally designed by Enver Hoxha’s daughter, who possibly didn’t know the Egyptians had beat her to it, as a museum for her father, but now it is used as a convention centre.

Apart from flying into Tirana, in can be quite difficult to reach overland as there are no international rail connections, although there is a domestic network, and there is no central bus station. There are ferries from several Italian ports, but even so you still need to make a trip overland to Tirana either by train or by bus.

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