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Tidying up Tirana

sunny 28 °C

When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1987 communist satellite countries like Albania were left to fend for themselves. Without Moscow's support and subsidised industry Albania began slipping back into the third world and many people fled the country. The communist government's biggest fear was that it would be invaded and the military built thousands of concrete bunkers throughout the countryside...
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Albania is a country of concrete. Concrete is everywhere. Virtually all buildings are austere concrete blocks. However, since the fall of communism, the democratic government has been aggressively tarting up the cities - nowhere more than in the capital, Tirana. It's amazing what a lick of paint can do...

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You can put lipstick on a pig - but it's still a pig, and no amount of paint can pretty up the backstreets of Tirana...

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However, it's the thought that counts and Tirana is certainly making an effort to modernise. A new cable car system took us high into the mountain above Tirana from where the distant city looks green and clean...

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On the streets there are signs of new growth. However, another thing that sprouts on Tirana's streets are the illegal wire taps that are plugged into street lights so that residents can avoid paying for electricity. The owner of this shop built his balcony around the street light and became irate when he thought we were photographing all the illegal wires he was streaming from the lamp post...

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Ninety percent of all vehicles on Albania's roads are old Mercedes - many of them stolen in European countries. The roads in Albania are generally very bad and, it is claimed, only Mercedes have suspensions capable of withstanding the rough ride. It is also a fact that with so many stolen Mercs in the scrap yards it is always possible to get cheap replacement parts...

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It is said that the Albanian mafia make the Sicilian's look like tiddlywink players - and that may be true.

Posted by Hawkson 15:34 Archived in Albania

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