Travel Notes

Tirana, a strip between past and future

There are names of unknown places that occupy the last pages of a traveler’s Bucket List but that for bizarre crossroads of life find themselves unexpectedly printed on a plane ticket. Tirana is one of these.  Albania for an Apulian means many things. There are several historical and social references that make us think of our neighbors and of their land. Regardless of what the sound of the name Albania recalls, you can understand the soul of a place only when you visit it.

The articles I read before my trip described Tirana in such contrasting ways that made me think that the truth was somewhere in between. So what is Tirana? For me Tirana is a loose cannon, it’s an agglomeration in constant motion, a city that never sleeps. Tirana connects a past which is so vivid and the dream of a bright future that can lead to a personal and national redemption. Tirana is lodged in an endless Beat sentence made of images, feelings, visions, revelations, and atonal sounds. Tirana is its city center, the loud and vibrant Block full of clubs, bars and restaurants, Tirana is its suburbs, the artificial lake, Tirana is Skandeberg square with the statue of the national hero, the mosque and the tower blocks that should not be there, Tirana is the rotating bar of the Sky Tower Hotel which shows all the colors of the capital; Tirana is its people: the girls in miniskirts, the old women with black handkerchiefs on top of their heads, the metics who have never left their country and the returning migrants; Tirana is the clash between the Balkans and all that you can label as Western, Tirana is a microcosm ready to welcome a non-native universe made of qualities and flaws. 

To find the soul of Tirana you need to plunge in its well-known corners and in the most anonymous quarters, you need to get lost in its streets and then find the way back following a map or the kindness of a stranger. To find the soul of Tirana you must speak to the locals and get carried away by their monologues in which the fragments of a painful past become sentences full of hope that describe the future they are building.