Albania is a beautiful country. I’ve been there three times and read countless books on it.
However, its beauty – best seen in the dramatic mountains and hardy people – is rugged, unkept and wild, rather than asthetic or conventional.
In great contrast to this beauty, however, was the urban architecture. From my first visit, in 1999, it was clear that towns and cities like the capital, Tirana, were in a horrendous state.
Although there were some fine buildings – including some grand Art Deco in the government quarter – the ubiquitous ugly communist tower blocks, delapidated open spaces, and a general drearyness to the city almost (but thankfully not quite) disguised Tirana’s quirky, captivating and edgy side, which I instantly came to love.
However, the past few years have seen change, and I was delighted on my subsequent trips (2001 and 2003) to see various changes for the better. One of the most obvious ones was the bold, almost garish, splashes of colour put across the brutal concrete buildings.
I was reminded of this in an article on the Al Jazeera English website about the mayor of Tirana who has been behind many of the improvements. It also brought to mind a similar article on BBC News I remember reading a few years ago.
The Al Jazeera article was brought to my attention in a recent entry on Stepping Stones, written by an Albanian-based blogger who contacted me some weeks ago about a certain place called Mullet in Albania. But that’s another story.
It made me recall my trips to Albania with fondness. I have plenty stories from that part of the world, and really must blog them one day. I have photos somewhere too, but sadly they’re all pre-digital, and I have none to hand; and no scanner anyway.
Ah well, I’ll just have to take plenty photos on my next visit, which will probably be at the end of the mullet mission, to visit that village with the amusing name…