Tirana is where new and old Albania met, an enjoyable and very walkable place to explore for day or two. Starting with the recently pedestrianised Skanderbeg Square, home to the National Historic Museum with it’s memorable facade, and monument to Skanderbeg, a national hero for his resistance against the Ottomans.
The square is also home to Et’hem Bey Mosque, one of the oldest buildings on the city, dating from 1821. It doesn’t look like much now as it’s under restoration, but it has unusual mosque decorations in the images of towns that the Italian architects passed through on their way to Tirana. Next to it is a clock tower also built in the 1820s, and this colourful red building, my favourite in Tirana.
Nearby, tucked away behind the National Art Gallery, are reminders of more recent and horrific communist history, in the form of statues of Stalin, Lenin, and Enver Hoxha, the atheist dictator of Albania. His former home and Piramida, a museum about him built in the 1980s, survive but are basically abandoned, waiting to be dealt with as the still raw wounds held.
During communist rule literally hundreds of thousands of bunkers were built across the country. BUNK ART 2 is accessed through a new entrance (the damage is from protesters at it’s opening) to a bunker complex under central Tirana, now home to a powerful and deliberately claustrophobic museum.
The religious harmony of Albania is demonstrated by the close proximity of three major religious building, the stylish Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral, the plainer St Paul’s Cathedral, and the huge new Great Mosque of Tirana under construction by parliament, modelled on Istanbul mosques and paid for and built by Turkey.
The Lana river that runs through the city centre is more like a stream but nice on a sunny day, and I liked these mushroom bollards over a bridge.
The reservoir, 2km south from Skanderbeg Square was more scenic, particularly as the sun set and the city came to life on a Friday night.
Finally as in many places I’ve visited electricity substation boxes make good spots for street art. South Park appears to be popular. The last piece of art is on the side of a building near my hotel.