Albania: Day 2 (Tirana)

Walking the revived capital of Tirana which suffered at the hands of WWII and the 45 year communist period that followed under the suffocating dictator and wantabe Demi-God Enver Hoxha when the country was declared an atheist state and no public or private expression of religion was allowed and the Albanians weren’t allowed to even drive without special permission. There was no outside TV, no travel and their daily grind commenced with a clocking in at factories day in and day out.
You can see the efforts of Mayor Rama to reinvigorate the capital with the reclaimed green spaces, fountains, parks and recreation, casinos, nightlife, the reconstruction of churches, mosques and Skanderberg Square and the palette of bright colors that now distinguish the city’s once gray, dull and grim Communist style buildings. At night, it feels as though you are looking through a kaleidoscope enhancing your nighttime stroll. This cheerful display of color is now the hallmark of this capital city – its calling card if you will. This is reflected not only in the buildings’ facades, but the park benches, the signs and even the waste receptacles.
The Orthodox Autocephalous Church is a unique, modern and beautiful building in the center near Skanderberg Square and worth a look as is the National History Museum, the Opera House and the 18th century Ethem Bey Mosque all of which are within a few blocks of each other.
My favorites are the derelict Enver Hoxha Pyramid and the Peace Bell and are must sees when you visit the capital. The pyramid was originally erected to commemorate Hoxha and his oppressive regime intended to stomp out all of the spirit of the Albanian people not just their entrepreneurial spirit.  The regime didn’t fall until 1991 but the city is most certainly making a comeback most especially in recent years as democracy and capitalism is taking a foothold in this diverse country.  There is a ton of controversy about what to do with the pyramid particularly given the pain and heartache the site causes to the people of Albania. The Peace Bell was installed in front of the pyramid and was created by the children of Shkodra as a memorial to peace. It is made from cartridges of thousands of bullets fired during the lawlessness of the 1990s. The steps behind the Peace Bell are graffitied, appropriately so, with the words “Teach Peace”.
That’s all for now. From Tirana Albania with love.

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