If there is a heaven of cherries than it must be in Albania. In June you find cherries in all the shops and in the markets everywhere. They come from the different regions of Albania, such as Dibra, Peshkopia, Kukes, Elbasan, Shkoder etc. They have different tastes and colours, so delicate and full of flavours! A heaven of cherries!
Happy June everyone! Gezuar qershorin muajin e qershijave!
It was a lovely Saturday in February and we finally visited the well known restaurant in Albania, Mrizi i Zanave. I was curios to visit this place. I had heard a lot about it. The name of the restaurant is after a book of poems called ‘Mrizi i Zanave’ (the ‘Shade of the Fairies’) written by the famous writer, patriot and Catholic priest Gjergj Fishta, universally known as the national poet of Albania until the communists took power in 1944, who was from the same village, Fishte, the region of Zadrima, North West Albania.
We arrived in the evening. The atmosphere inside the restaurant was warm and nice. The fireplace, the pictures on the wall and the light music coming from the piano in the hall made us feel welcome. It was new to us, beautiful.
Beautiful smile of the waitresses saying nothing but showing you the way to the table awaits for you at the doorway. Fairies leading and enchanting you to a new experience which you can’t but let yourself fall under the spell. The dishes will follow one by one in harmony, superb presentation for the eyes, a true festival of flavours and colors.
Dishes made of local products.
Our children could not wait to go outside, play and see the farm – part of the restaurant. We left the food for a little and went after them. As we looked at the farm, heard the sounds of the livestock and children and smelled the manure … such a reminiscence of childhood captured us. What a nostalgic feeling invaded us making us remember the beautiful days when we visited our uncles at the farm. My daughter could find right away all the animal characters of her favourite book the Charlotte’s Web. She was excited and happy to see the pigs, she would identify the runt piglet whom the little girl of the book treated as a pet, there were also animals in the barn, the lamb, the talkative goose and the intelligent ‘old sheep’. What a happy moment for children to see all these farm animals in one place.
The restaurant was more than a place where to eat. It was the poetry blending together with all the flavors of fields of Zadrima, a melody. A melody of one’s love for his village, fields and the early sunrise. At those deliciuous moments, we thought of the brothers Prenga, the owners of the restaurant, who made that miracle for the people of a poor village, giving them jobs and living. They made our day a beautiful experience to be remembered for ever.
Mirëdita! Hello as they say in English! So you arrived in Tirana safe and sound and wondering what one must visit here in the city. Probably you are very curious to know what this city has to offer!
This selection of things to do and see in Tirana rounds up some of most diverse and inspiring places of the city providing insights into how this city is different and exceptional from the other European capitals. The capital city of Albania, the Rock Garden of Southeastern Europe as the country was once called by one of his prominent intellectual of the beginning of the last century, invites us to this journey through the city.
How does the Scanderbeg Square with its small mosque look like? Or how a bunker was turned into a museum of art to remind us the totalitarian regime? Take a walk by the pyramid and continue all the way to the boulevard. We went to these places accross Tirana and found inspirations that will enchant you.
The locations could hardly be more diverse nor could be the views. They show how the city lived in the past and how vibrant is today aspiring to be a western capital through its many restaurants and coffee places with an unique architectural mix of different styles. This selection exhibits the effects of an aesthetic evolution. It also shows the pace of modernity the city and its inhabitants are trying to catch.
If you arevisiting the city, here are the things that you should not miss in Tirana:
Visit the Skanderbeg Square
The Skenderbeg Square is the main Square in Tirana, surrounded by a mix of Fascist Italian-style buildings, Soviet buildings, Ottoman mosques. The National Museum , the Opera building, the Ottoman time clock tower and the Et’hem beu Mosque are the main buildings on the square. The square is called after Gjergj Kastrioti, Skanderbeg, the national hero of Albanians. The Albanian nationalism is inspired by his existence. You can take a tour and visit each of them.
The National Historical Museum features a building of Soviet Aesthetic Architecture with in front a monumental mosaic inspired by socialist realism. The work is supposed to reflect and promote the ideals of the socialist Albanian society representing their aspirations to Independence and Identity.
Visit the Bunkart
In a walking distance from the Skenderbeu Square is Bunkart (a literary device in which the words “bunker” and “art” are joined together). During the Communism it served as a Nuclear Shelter for the Minister of Interior. Today the bunker serves as a museum of memories with an inscription of Primo Levi, the Jewish holocaust survivor, written at the entrance of the excellent artistic installation : “All those that forget their past are condemned to relive it”. The Bunkart alerts us to the warning signs with its many objects, relicts of remembrance, photos of people that were prosecuted and documentaries evidencing the horrors of Communist era. The Passage 2 (the Shelter had 4 corridors) confronts you with the bitterness, sadness, fear, strange emotions when reading the texts and watching the pictures relating to the activities of the communist secret police “Sigurimi” with its “36 ways of torture” used during the investigative stages against the “enemies of the people”. It teaches us that we are the ones who “create the monsters, applaud them, follow them, put them on a piedestal and afterwards the monsters feel so powerful that they don’t want to leave us anymore”. It is interesting to note that the museum was full of foreign tourists and, at the time of my two-hours visit, no Albanian visitors could be seen. Are the Albanians still afraid of the spectres of the past!? Are they not ready to confront the remembrance of the time?. These inner questions arose during my visit.
A must see: entrance fee around 3.70 Euro per person.
Castle of Tirana
The Castle of Tirana is an old castle since the Byzantine times. It is located not far from the Skenderbeg’s square. Inside the walls of the castle are few modern restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. It is a convenient place to go for a walk and enjoy a cup of coffee, ice cream, or the delicious dishes in the restaurants there. It is a very popular place for locals to hang out there too. In case you would like to buy a souvenir, something Authentic Albanian, in the Castle of Tirana you will find the best gift.
Take a walk by the Pyramid
The Pyramid of Tirana planted in the centre of Tirana is an emblematic building-museum, a city landmark, that the communist dictator erected to his glory. After the fall of the regime, it closed to later house a base of the NATO, a nightclub and TV studios, reflecting somehow the cultural changes of a society in permanent search for itself, for money, for aesthetics. Although not very beatiful to many tastes, it is a top attraction for tourists who, together with city teenagers and lovers killing their time there, experience the climbing. It failed to be demolished by previous city authorities but saved by the inhabitants. It will experience a renaissance by becoming an information technology center in the Albanian capital that changes all the time.
To be visited before it gets architecturally transformed by a Dutch Architecture Company.