Albania is cheap. Morning breakfast of coffee, a freshly squeezed orange juice, and a marmalade filled croissant totalled 500 LEK. That’s £3.35. A 20 minute bus ride to the Dajti Express Cable Car was 0.40 LEK . That’s 27 UK pence. Later in the day 2 gin and tonics and a bottle of mineral water in a revolving bar at the top of a hotel watching the sunset was £4.75. (Sky Bar - if you’re ever in Tirana it’s the place to watch the sun go down)
I think it’s the little boy in me but I find the fact that Alabanian “for sale” is “Shitet” mildly amusing.
I read somewhere that the second to top ranked tourist attraction in Tirana is the Dajti Express Cable Car so regardless of the weather it was a box to be ticked. Oops.
Exiting the cable car station at the top the first thing you come across is a sullen looking vendor offering you the chance to shoot all manner of armaments. As one would expect. Or not. Here, again the little boy took over and I slapped some hard earned LEK into his palm before you could say “how much?”. My thought bubble above my head clearly reads “ where the f**k is the target”
Post cable ride and a 2 hour delay at the top whilst waiting for the winds to abate so they could run the cable car again I then visited the top ranked tourist attraction in Tirana which is the original Bunk’Art. This is a massive underground bunker complex built in the 1980’s to shield the communist leaders from all manner of attack should it happen including even a thermonuclear bomb. The idea being that the leaders would run the country from within this bunker whilst their civilians would perish . Sounds like a great advert for Socialism. The complex is massive and if nothing else astonishing in its size and concept. This photo below is the entrance to the bunker complex.
In a bid to be recognised as culturally aware the Albanian government is currently hosting “The Cloud” . A Japanese sculptors modern piece of art this construction was previously resident in London. Like a cloud, it will move. Next onto another city once it’s 2 year tenure expires in Tirana.
Tirana’s “Pryamid”. Inaugurated in 1988 as a mausoleum for the dictator Enver Hoxa it lasted 3 years in that form before his body was removed and it was renamed the Pjeter Arbnori International Cutural Centre. Today it’s empty, closed , covered in graffiti and it’s best purpose is a mound for locals to climb to watch the sun set. In the foreground in the shadows is a bell. Known as “The Peace Bell”. It’s story is more interesting than the Pyramid.
Following the collapse of communism many Albanians unwittingly got entangled in investing in Pyramid (Ponzi) Schemes as they saw it a quick way to get rich. When the whole thing unravelled in late 1996 it transpired that Albanians had poured more than 1.2 billion USD into these schemes which represented 43% of the country’s GDP. Clearly there were more than a few irate locals who saw the government of the day as benefiting somehow from the schemes. Civil unrest broke out, a civil war ensued, the government lost power, as did the military and police, and for a while there Albania was lawless. Over 2,000 people died during the upheaval and the bullet casings used by the military and police were collected by a catholic charity, smelted, and made into a bell that today is the “Peace Bell”. Today many Albanians consider 1997 as year zero in modern history.
In a small park opposite the Peace Bell there are 3 monuments that stand testament to the days of communism. A concrete bunker, a slab of the Berlin Wall gifted to the people of Albania and a series of supporting struts that were taken from one of the mines that made up part of the largest internment camps in Albania.
The view from the revolving bar known as the Sky Bar sometime just prior to sunset. Looking back towards Skanderberg Square.
The same view an hour later after the author had done 360 degrees and consumed 2 gin and tonics .