Onto Part II of my Balkan Adventure and it is Day 2 in Tirana. In this post I will delve deeper into the history of the communist-era of Albania, and as well as that, my visits to some of the major sights of Tirana such as the Pyramid of Tirana, the Grand Park, the Resurrection Cathedral and then also the brilliant coffee shops and bars that I spent some of my time in. As they would say in Albanian….Shkojme! (Let’s go!)
So for breakfast I made my way to the nearby Toptani Mall, which was a shopping mall which wouldn’t look amiss anywhere in Western Europe. If you enjoy shopping, then this is the place to go! But I wasn’t on this adventure for that reason, so I had a quick breakfast and a coffee and then made my way to Bulevardi Deshmoret e Kombit, which runs from Skanderbeg Square, cutting straight through the centre of Tirana to the South of the City.
Following on from there, further down Bulevardi Deshmoret e Kombit you will approach a structure that perfectly fits the look of a communist nation, of which Albania once was. This huge grey concrete pyramid stands there, like a section of Giza that has gone industrial.
This is the ‘Pyramid of Tirana’, also known as the ‘Enver Hoxha Museum’ named after the long-time leader of socialist-era Albania. An era in which Albania was governed by strong Marxism-Leninism principles and then became more aligned to the governance of Mao’s China, and really pushed towards a kind-of ‘nation behind closed doors’ situation.
As you move past the ‘Peace Bell’ which is actually made from the melted down metal of gun rounds, you will realise that the pyramid has really become an abandoned and unloved building (albeit, partly used by a broadcasting company). From my understanding, the fact that it is still standing has been of an opinion divided. Some seek to have it completely destroyed and replaced with something new, whereas others see it as a great monument to a past, of which they have now overcome.
Personally, I do actually like the idea of having monuments like this, that actually existed back in the time of which is being remembered, whether for good or bad reasons. This could be similarly argued with other monuments of travesty such as Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
On closer inspection of the pyramid you will notice a large smattering of colourful graffiti and broken panels, but further up the slant of the pyramid was some graffitied text of “Kosovo is North Albania”. Showing how at least some Albanians feel about the status of Kosovo, or maybe more to the point of how they feel about Serbia’s view on Kosovo. But I would certainly say that someone’s graffiti does not show the view of a nation.
After this it was onto a more light-hearted place of visit, the Grand Park of Tirana. To get there, I needed to continue down along the Bulevardi Deshmoret e Kombit, all the way down to the end, where one of the top Universities in the Balkans is situated, the University of Tirana.
When entering the Grand Park, there is a steep hill to walk up first. This was a nice bit of exercise to begin with, and then it was down towards the artificial lake of the park, which is huge! When walking through the park, it carried a nice and peaceful atmosphere and had so many paths you could take, which almost all went downhill towards the lake.
As I wandered around the periphery of the lake (which actually aids in counteracting Tirana’s issue of CO2 emissions) I saw many people jogging, walking dogs or just sat chilling and reading. Just like any other park really, apart from when I got to a certain area that was made up like some kind of workout zone, and then it seemed I had become surrounded by some Balkan Wrestling Team?! I did feel very small all of a sudden….
Whenever you visit Tirana, I would make sure you stop by at the Grand Park, and take a stroll alongside the lake. Also it’s a nice way to take a break from the busy city life….if you need it.
After my visit to ‘the Grand Park’ it was back off up to the centre of Tirana and to see what life is like at night….