City of Contrasts

by hopesfrenzy

If Albania is a complex country, the capital city of Tirana sums it up. A confluence of cultures and histories, the storied past of Albania played out here like no other place. You can feel it even in the main square, where many older buildings were demolished by the country’s longtime dictator Enver Hoxha. More on him later.

While Tirana has some older buildings, much of the city is modern. I loved the contrast of the city, with old set against new. Some of the architecture was just stunning, especially of the largest mosque and some of the skyscrapers. We wandered through the castle (now more like a mall) and did a self-guided walking tour that took us all over.

Many of the sights that we went to see were related to the communist era. Hoxha built a giant concrete pyramid in the middle of the city, which sits mostly abandoned today even though it is a very interesting structure. We visited the House of Leaves, which was the center of the regime’s surveillance organization and carried out a reign of terror on its citizens. And finally, we visited the larger bunker on the outskirts of the city where Hoxha himself had a private bunker (that was never used). He was incredibly paranoid which led him to do a lot of crazy things.

Sightseeing with Stéphane
Location: Tirana, Albania

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