Albania – Fact Check

The man who left his mark

The grim Soviet-style apartment blocks of Tirana were given a colorful make-over under mayor Edi Rama, now Albania's Prime Minister. It had a dramatic effect on the city, although the structural problems and shoddy interiors of many buildings remain a long term problem.

Photo by Alvaro Leiva / Alamy

Albania – Fact Check

The man who left his mark

Former basketball star Edi Rama was voted prime minister of Albania in 2013 after ten years as mayor of Tirana. His first act as mayor was to sweep away the city’s numerous hawkers and tackle a long-standing problem of trash, clearing the streets, parks and squares for its residents to enjoy.

Jochem Wijnands
Minty Clinch Travel Writer

As a well-known muralist, perhaps his most radical change to the capital's image was painting its houses in bright colors, quite a shock after the drab years of Communism.

With a leader in his late 40s, the younger generation dares to hope for dramatic change at a national level, and a genuine attempt to curb corruption. Although Albania established a fragile democracy following the death in 1985 of Enver Hoxha, Europe’s last Stalinist dictator, his brutal legacy of authoritarian politics and contempt for the rule of law has haunted successive governments.

Europe’s last Stalinist dictator

“This is the first government that’s not linked to the Communists,” says my young guide Kela Qendro. “Their program appeals to a younger electorate. Of course we need improvements in health and education, but there’s a strong environmental element as well. The new coastal authority will establish the infrastructure to protect our heritage against uncontrolled development. Very good news in my business.

“Many of my friends have interesting jobs, but working with foreigners as a tour guide means I earn more than they do,” she says.

Would you like to subscribe to TRVL’s free Newsletter? Please send an email to hello@trvl.com and we’ll set you up.