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Image for Tirana: tiny tour of a confused city (11 images)

Tirana: tiny tour of a confused city (11 images)

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Grab your sunglasses and free your mind of all preconceptions - there's no place for those in the capital of Albania. The practically tourist-free Tirana is probably one of Europe's best kept secrets, though there are signs of its past and present problems lurking around every corner, advises Bosnian photographer Sladjana Perkovic.

This image gallery is part of’s 2010-2011 feature focus on the Balkans - read more about the project Orient Express Reporter and read articles from the mission here

Skanderbeg Square

Welcome to the heart of Tirana. Skanderbeg Square is the obligatory first stop on any visit, named after a former fifteenth century hero famous for fighting the Ottomans off. It's where the Tirana International Hotel stands, the second highest building in the city with 161 rooms and 15 floors; climb its stairs to enjoy a privileged panoramic view of the square (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)

Ex-communist pyramid

Without a doubt, this is one of the city centre’s most picturesque buildings. Situated south of the river Lana, in 1991 it became a club of sorts and now houses a cafe and cultural centre. It’s not hard to see children and young people climbing to the top of this pyramid where the remains of former Stalinist leader Enver Hoxha (from the end of world war two until his death in 1985) once lay. Nowadays, if you look through its tall glass doors you’ll see another skeleton that of a species of giant marine monster. Quite the paradox (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)

Buildings to suit every public

If architecture is your thing, Tirana is your city. OK, maybe it doesn’t have any monuments you’ve seen in history books, but it does have a mix of styles and forms that won’t leave you indifferent, between skyscrapers, ex-communist buildings and the colourful façades that mayor Edi Rama has encouraged. The socialist politician has been mayor since 2008 (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)

Mind the cars

U- turns on one of the most central streets in the city, teeming with cars or cab drivers who think they’re in the 24 hours of Le Mans. It’s the law of the jungle (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)


Whether its books, tobacco, food or even antiques, an improvised bazaar awaits you on every corner (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)

Critical eye

If you’re drawn to strong emotions then you’ll enjoy Tirana, but don’t lose your sense of perspective. Keep your eyes open and be critical, for there are still many problems left to be solved: child poverty if one. The Albanian parliament approved the 'law on the protection of the rights of the child' in 2010, though one in three homes across the country live in poverty. In the photo, two small travelling street vendors who agreed to pose for us (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)

Industrial spiderwebs

Telephone cables become entangled like vines in some of the city’s streets (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)

Communist past

The country’s recent history is everywhere. Just behind one of the museums in the centre, you’ll find two tall, imposing statues of Lenin from the communist era, not suitable for the skittish (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)

Backs to elections

Finish off your visit with a little local politics. There’s instability in this city still looking for its lost revolution. In the photo, a group of citizens protest against the vote counting centre after the controversial local elections on 8 May, whose results have been disputed (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)

Under construction

After its transition to democracy in the early nineties, the city still needs time to reinvent itself. It’s not unusual to see buildings half in ruins or half erected. Rather than a disadvantage, there are those who see this as an opportunity. Tirana is like a blank canvas; it remains to be seen what the painting will look like (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)

Last stop: Radio Bar

Like any good traveller, you’ll be tired from walking the streets all day. Sit down and relax at Radio Bar, the meeting place for the city’s most alternative youths. Its pleasant terrace in like an oasis in the ever-hectic Block, a fashionable district of the city that used to be the residential area of the communist elite (Image: © Sladjana Perkovic)

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Translated from ¡Tirana rocks! Visita guiada a una ciudad confusa