To my shame I have to admit to knowing very little about Albania, and what I did know didn’t paint a glowing picture. So as I was just next door in Greece I thought I would pay a visit.
What did I know? I knew that Enva Hoxha had kept the country very tightly closed until his death in the mid 80’s, there are a lot of Mafia type problems both in the country and amongst their diaspora and the country had a strange affinity to long since past British comedian.
Having visited many ex communist countries I was expecting many high rise buildings, grim facades and a general downbeat feeling.
The casino opposite our AirBnB flat and the best fish restaurant in Tirana reinforced what I’d seen on leaving the less than austere airport, Tirana wasn’t as poor as I had been led to believe. A fixed tarif of €18 from airport to the centre of the city, with yet another taxi driver who thought he’d been reincarnated as Ayrton Senna, he raced us through fields and fields of wheat and corn before suddenly, the first building appeared on the right, a Porsche garage. As soon as the buildings arrived, so did the traffic, the scourge of all modern cities.
A strange thing, now used by the Albanian TV company but originally used as a museum and in the war in Kosovo in 1999 it was used by NATO forces as a base, there has been talk of it being knocked down and the land used for something else but it just doesn’t seem right.
What I did see in Tirana changed my opinion of the place, a young, thriving, fairly cosmopolitan place with a huge interest in having a much more open, freer market and trading system, leaving the communist shackles well behind them.
What I didn’t see was a single memorial to Norman Wisdom. More investigation required.