Tirana, the capital city of Albania is clean, calm, composed and adorned with beautiful colours. It really should begin with the letter C.
Even if you don’t read the words, scroll down and enjoy the pictures.
Just Another Eastern European City?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived. Some Eastern European cities feel dark, dismal and depressed – still weighed down by their oppressive pasts and economic struggles. I would put Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia in that category. Belgrade is slowly reinventing and reinvesting itself following the repeated devastation of war. Sofia’s centre is redeemed by its magnificent historic buildings, but beyond their shadow, it feels gloomy and rather disheveled (sorry George).
On the other hand, cities like Budapest, Prague and Dubrovnik have spruced themselves up and drawn in millions of tourists, helped by some beautiful and iconic landmarks and scenery. Dubrovnic (Croatia) – walls, pavements, cafes and seaview – is stunning. Budapest (Hungary) has many attractions around the river. Prague (Czechia) also by the river is in good shape. We only passed through Bratislava, but the castle fort on the hill is beautiful.
Berlin (which was once at least partly in East Germany) draws attention for its terrible and divided history, east and west, Jew and non-Jew. There are remnants of the Wall and many shocking museums and monuments. It should be visited lest we forget. Likewise Krakow (Poland) whose beauty betrays the fact that it is the closest town to Auschwitz.
Tallinn (Estonia) old town is simply beautiful with its narrow winding streets up on a hill – the rest of the city looked drab and functional. We loved Vilnius (Lithuania) and Riga (Latvia) – two self confident, attractive and positive Baltic cities, energised by liberation and EU funding.
St Petersburg (Russia) is unique – with its amazing architecture, the famous and fabulous Hermitage art gallery and a definite Mediterranean feel. But the ordinary Russian on the streets looked resigned and miserable. Maybe that was the Vodka. Maybe it’s just another city which puts on the makeup for the tourist.
Tirana – clean, calm, composed
If you were answering the picture question at the pub quiz, none of the famous landmarks would be in Tirana. It has its own rich history, but it seems to keep it understated and in perspective. It is more in the mold of Riga – modest and self assured.
It is clean. Either people respect their city and put unwanted items in bins, or the early morning cleaning operation really works. Pavements are in good repair and graffiti under control, which is more than can be said for many cities.
Tirana is calm. Pedestrians and traffic respect each other and move at a sensible pace. It feels like a city at ease with itself with good energy. I loved wandering around in the cool evening and then again in the warm sunny morning.
And it is composed, by which I mean designed rather than haphazard. Thought has gone into the layout of the open spaces, parks, provision of benches and particularly the (literally) brilliant pedestrian lights. Not only do they count down the seconds to a colour change, the whole post lights up in alternating red or green (see picture below). I haven’t seen that anywhere else. It also has proper dedicated cycle lanes and even a designated running track by the lake. Those two features alone put it into my top division.
So here we go, my former Eastern European city league table for the ones I have visited :-
All the colours of Tirana
My lasting impression of Tirana will be its colours. So I will leave you with the pictures below, which will paint a thousand words.