A bright red flag with a black double headed eagle is the symbol of Albania. Its seen everywhere, far more than in most European countries, the red is for bravery and the eagle represents the sovereign state of Albania. Its capital, Tirana, is right in the centre of the country.
I have seen bad tourist reviews of the capital, Tirana, but I enjoyed it. You couldn’t forget where you were and its certainly not the same as so many capital cities. Not everywhere has old soviet style statues wrapped up and hidden behind the museum. The bloc housing built by the communists have been painted bright colours which is very effective. The pyramid was designed by Enver Hoxha’s daughter as a museum in his honour but now it is used by a broadcasting company.
Skanderberg square was completely renovated last year but when we were there it was still very old fashioned. Its main feature is a statue of the national hero, Skanderberg, who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. Also on the square is the National Museum . It has a mosaic of Albanian life on its frontage.
The Postbloku Monument
And now for something you really don’t see in other capital cities- The Postblloku Memorial or Memorial to Communist Isolation.This sombre monument consists of a piece of the Berlin wall, a concrete cast of a support from a forced labour mine, and a bunker. 700,000 bunkers were built by Enver Hoxha to protect Albanians from the outside world but they were never needed. Many have been destroyed especially along the coast but they are still a regular sight as you travel round the country.
A Country Without Religion
In 1967 religion was banned throughout Albania making it the only atheist state in the world. Churches and mosques were destroyed. Since 1990 when it was allowed again many places of worship have been rebuilt. Now only 5% of Albanians claim to have no religion. We visited the headquarters of the Bektashi, a Sufi Dervish sect. They welcome visitors so they can explain their beliefs. These include being allowed to drink alcohol and enjoying poetry. Not too difficult then.