Onto Part III of my ‘Balkan Adventure’ and in which following what became a cultural discovery of Tirana’s socialistic history in Part II, and the beauty of the scenery of the Grand Park of Tirana and it’s artificial lake, it was time to take a stroll back northwards to see what life and the atmosphere is like in this emerging and upcoming capital, that was once closed behind the curtain of socialism and their leader, Enver Hoxha.
As the darkness of night drew in during my walk back up to the familiarity of the city centre along the ‘Bulevardi Deshmoret e Kombit’, I came to notice a strange sculpture outside of the ‘National Arts Gallery’, that to me looked like some kind of cloud made from meccano. This art structure is named ‘Reja – The Cloud’ (see picture below) and was designed by the Hokkaido-born Japanese architect, Sou Fujimoto. The idea behind the art sculpture is that it is of “British concept, Japanese art, Swiss initiative and Albanian engagement.” (reja.al) You can enter into the cloud and relax there if you so wish to.
Eventually I decided that I would go the ‘Blloku’ district for my night of drinking which is just south west of the central point of Skanderbeg Square. On my way there I would pass a modern cathedral that was lit so beautifully, but in a contemporary fashion with its blue and red flashes of light. This is known as the ‘Resurrection Cathedral’. An Albanian Orthodox church that was built as recent as 2012, and became the third largest cathedral of this religion inside of Europe.
Just further south of this point along the road ‘Rruga Ibrahim Rugova’ which is named after the now deceased prominent Kosovo-Albanian political leader, you will come to the park (of which the ‘I <3 Tirana’ sign is) named ‘Parku Rinia’, literally meaning ‘Youth Park’. Here you will most definitely notice the large white-terraced building (which houses the Regency Casino, and a selection of bars/restaurants) and then in front of it a wonderful looking fountain, and again lit in fairy light colours which gave off a nice effect.
One thing to point out here is the restaurant named ‘Taivani’ that is situated inside of the white-terraced building, which serves up some very good Mediterranean themed cuisine! Definitely worth a visit if you come here.
Then it was into the ‘Blloku’ district, which is the upmarket trendy area of Tirana, full of bars, clubs and boutique stores (although they were closed by this time). This area really showed how far Tirana and in fact Albania have come since the dark days of oppression and socialism. From seeing the Pyramid of Tirana to this sector of cosmopolitan life in Blloku, certainly revealed their progress as a nation.
In Blloku I ended up in a bar named ‘Whisky Bar Tirana’. This seemed the busier of the bars I had seen and had music playing, funnily enough all British 80s music, Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls etc. and an outside terrace section on the corner of the street. So here I had myself some Albanian beer, such as Birra Tirana, which was a pilsner pale ale, or to my tastebuds it was, and then a night of people watching and contemplating life ensued…..
When I woke the following morning, the weather had drastically changed and rain was pouring, and the wind had really got up. Hopefully not a form of pathetic fallacy of what would come on the day of my travel to the next nation.
Before I was to alight my bus to my next destination, I went for a walk to a cafe I had read about for one of their outstanding coffees. This cafe was situated once again on the ‘Rruga Ibrahim Rugova’ and was called ‘Mulliri Vjetër’. (mullirivjeter.al) Here I had a very strong and delicious coffee, very similar to what I had previously had in Istanbul.
So it was now off back through Skanderbeg Square, which was looking beautiful with the reflective ground from the stormy rain that had recently passed, and to say goodbye to Tirana and Albania, which I had thoroughly enjoyed my short visit here, to see the difference of a nation that is no longer construed under the weight of a socialistic dictatorship, and is now a nation that has more freedom and is quickly rising as one of Europe’s newest holiday destinations.