Is Tirana a dangerous city

Gray becomes colorful - a visit to Tirana, the capital of Albania

You will (still) search in vain for Tirana in the top lists of attractive European cities. No wonder, because the decades of the communist regime had turned the capital of Albania into a gray, gloomy place in which the inhabitants had to eke out a poor life. The collapse of communism in 1992 and the transition to democratic government initially made the situation worse.

Things got better from the year 2000 when Edi Rama Mayor of Tirana became and on a large scale Measures to improve living conditions carried out: Illegally erected buildings were demolished and plans for sensible urban development were drawn up. A targeted greening was started, the previously gray facades were painted in bright colors and people began to take care of the waste disposal. For his project"Clean and Green" Edi Rama was even awarded by the United Nations.

Here you will find general tips and travel information about Albania, plus my experiences in eastern Albania and the south of the country. I was with the organizerTravel in Albania en route and very satisfied with the tour.

Today Tirana is an exciting urban landscape that is on the upswing!

Nearly 1 million inhabitants live in the city - after all, a third of the entire Albanian population. It is still chaotic: busy pedestrians, slow-moving traffic, large dusty construction sites and an indefinable mix of houses, from modern to half-dilapidated.

The spirit of optimism can be felt everywhere. Not everything is working yet, but something is happening. Nice? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. In any case not to be compared with our well-ordered life - and that's why it's worth a visit!

Tirana Albania - 10 reasons I liked the city

Albanian hospitality

I have already written it in my travel tips for Albania and I never tire of stressing it: The Albanian hospitality and open-mindedness do it to me. The Albanians are curious about strangers without being intrusive. They are interested in the visitors of their country and try to make it as pleasant as possible for every foreigner.

How often have I received presents “just like that”: flowers, fruit, pastries - just to please myself. While it has often happened to me in other countries that people did not want to be photographed, in Albania it is exactly the opposite. Sometimes I was even asked to take pictures.

Where else can you see a pyramid - except in Egypt?

Right, in Tirana. The Piramida is a crumbling, graffiti-sprayed relic from the communist era. It was built in 1987 by Pranvera Hoxha, the daughter of Enver Hoxha. Originally intended as a museum for the dictator, the strange building was used as a cultural center after the end of the communist regime. The pyramid deteriorated more and more and was eventually to be demolished. However, this plan was never implemented and it has now been decided to completely renovate the building. The renovation has not yet started and the pyramid is currently a mixture of ruin and improvised art and exhibition space.

The Blloku district was the exclusive residential area of ​​the communists.

Enver Hoxha and his followers lived here. The former house of the dictator is a rather inconspicuous, garden-lined villa. It is empty and you can walk past it on the street - which was impossible in communist times because normal Albanians were not allowed to enter the area. Today the district is nice for strolling: The streets are lined with thick trees, there are many restaurants and cafes from which you can quietly watch the people.

Time out from the big city inParku i Madh (Big park)

The large, tree-linedGreen area is an oasis for the residents and can get quite crowded, especially on weekends or during the holidays. Then the lawns are populated with families having a picnic and strollers frolic on the paths. In the area there is also an artificial lake where you can relax and there are several cafes that are well attended when the weather is nice.

Skenderbeg square

Anyone who is out and about in Tirana does not need to struggle with local transport routes. All you need to do is put on comfortable shoes and explore the city on foot. The Sheshi Skenderbeg (Skenderbeg Square) is a central point from which you can just let yourself drift. This is the best way to soak up the atmosphere of Tirana. Armed with a map of the city you can find your way around and those who are not sure of the direction will find plenty of helpful Albanians who can provide information.

Old & new close together.
This tomb Tyrbe e Kaplan Pasha, which consists of eight columns, is almost overlooked - after the new building has been completed, the tomb should still be properly staged.

In Tirana you can be very relaxed on the road.

I have been traveling alone in Tirana as well as with several people. Even on my own, I never had the impression that it was dangerous. Of course you should take the usual precautionary measures when traveling in Albania and not be careless.

Otherwise there is more danger from the sometimes impassable roads. When walking, always keep an eye on the ground so that broken curbs or holes in the ground do not become tripping hazards. You are also safe from unpleasant "pick-ups". It is true that you are spoken to from time to time, but that is rather harmless. I have only found a few Roma to be very persistent, begging on the streets or trying to sell something.

Sightseeing in Tirana

There are a handful of museums, monuments and historical buildings in Tirana that are very easy to explore on your tours. With a travel guide you can pick out the places that you are interested in. (I had the Albania guide from Trescher Verlag * with me, the current edition of which was published in March 2015.)

I consider the beautifully decorated one to be absolutely recommendable Ethem Bey Mosquefrom the late eighteenth century, which is right on Skenderbeg Square. Not even Enver Hoxha, who otherwise had every church converted into a chicken coop, had dared to destroy the building. You can visit the mosque outside of prayer times, but you should be sure to dress appropriately. For women there are towels at the entrance that you can put around your head.

Rich decorations inside the Ethem Bey Mosque

Albanian coffee culture

Sitting down in a cafe and watching the world go by is always a good idea. Also in Albania, where the Coffee culture belongs to social life. Not only are contacts maintained, but decisions are made, business is done and discussions are held. As soon as one is out and about in rural areas, it seems to be more of a privilege for men to sit together over coffee during the day.

In Tirana, on the other hand, I saw many women sitting together chatting. A good opportunity not only to have an espresso, but also the common one Kafe turke (Turkish coffee) To taste. For this, finely ground coffee powder is boiled with water and sugar. There is Coffee turke with different amounts of sugar from slightly sweet to medium sweet to very sweet.

A little digression on the bunkers for which Albania is notorious. Here you can see at a memorial how the terrible reinforced concrete mushrooms are built. It should have been around 200,000. In the meantime, however, the population has found out how to destroy the monsters in order to sell the old steel for a profit. Result: Welcome extra income for the families and cleaning up the landscape!

Excursion to the surrounding area

If you want to get an overview of Tirana, drive into the Dajti National Park, which is about 30 km east of Tirana. What I haven't tried myself, but should be very nice: To take the cable car to the Dajti Mountains, to hike there until just before the summit (at the top is a restricted military area) and then to the Panorama Hotel (approx. 5 km from the cable car station) to drink a beer and enjoy the beautiful view of Tirana.

The Albanian national hero Skanderbeg

You meet him at every turn: that National hero Skanderbeg, who is honored with a large equestrian monument on the square of the same name in Tirana. In the middle of the 15th century he had managed to unite the Albanian tribes and successfully defend himself against the Ottoman occupation, which made him famous throughout Europe while he was still alive. Even today it is considered a national symbol of bravery and the unity of the Albanian people.

It is also attributed to his legacy that the Albanians are not fanatical followers of one faith, but one of themselves religious tolerance that can still be clearly felt in society today. It is estimated that around 50 percent of Albanians are Muslims and around 35 percent are Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox. So even though the majority of Albanians profess Islam, the visitor does not have the feeling of being in a Muslim country. The women are not veiled, alcohol is not forbidden and, overall, dealing with religions seems more pragmatic and relaxed.

More reading tips about the country in the southern Balkans:

These blogs also wrote about Albania:Globetrotter mag - In the land of bunkers andFamily4Travel - Something different: Holidays in Albania ?! There is also at Travel dispatches some Albania reports.

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