After wandering around the city center and seeing some of the Ottoman and modern sights in Tiranë, it was time to head south of the Lanë River and check out Enver Hoxha’s old haunts and the once-forbidden Blloku area.
The first thing that popped up in front of my eyes was the Piramida, literally, Pyramid. It opened in 1988 as the Enver Hoxha Museum. After 1991 it became a conference and shopping center. Now it sits rotting in central Tiranë, full of graffiti and surrounded by broken glass. It seems to be a popular place for young people to gather. While many think it’s an eyesore, I think it happens to be very photogenic.
On the grounds of the Piramida is the symbolic Bell of Peace. In 1997, Albanian children melted down bullet shells to create the bell.
Walking south from the Piramida along Bulevardi Dëshmorët e Kombit (Martyrs of the Nation Boulevard) takes you past some government buildings. One of them is the Kuvendi, which is the administrative building of parliament and was the headquarters for the Labor Party during communist times. Another is the Këshilli i Ministrave (Council of Ministers), which includes the office of the prime minister.
The road ends at Sheshi Nënë Tereza (Mother Teresa Square) for some not-so-communist things. Here, you can find the Polytechnic University of Tiranë, the Archaeology Museum, Qemal Stafa Stadium, and a creepy statue of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, although born in Skopje, was of Albanian descent.
Back towards the Piramida on the left side I found the Postblloku Memorial. It stands near the entrance to Blloku, the isolated district closed off to the public during Enver Hoxha’s rule. It was a residential district used by Hoxha and senior members of the Communist regime. The monument contains a slab of the Berlin Wall, a bunker that used to guard the entrance of the Blloku area, and concrete supports from the mine of Spaç, a notorious forced labor camp used from 1968 to 1990.
Inside the infamous Blloku area I was expecting to find lavish residences and lots of gaudy remnants of communism. Instead, I found a lively area full of trendy shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs on tree-lined streets. Smartly-dressed young Albanians, some driving very expensive cars, were roaming the area. It is THE place to be and be seen in Tiranë. Compared to the rest of city, it was night and day.
The only remnant of communism was Enver Hoxha’s home. Enver Hoxha was Albania’s enigmatic dictator for several years. He ruled with an iron fist, closing off Albania from the world and plunging the country into poverty. Again expecting a large palace, it was a modest home that wouldn’t be out of place in some parts of suburban USA.
Although lacking much of interest, Blloku was the most pleasant area in the city to spend my time.