i'm back. from tirana. the city that is caught in a perpetual dreamy state. the night may show its charming façade as common faces are transformed into the young and beautiful, sipping cocktails in clubs that could be in milan, paris or london, but during the day its broken heart is mercilessly displayed before the eye of the wandering observer, while the albanian marie antoinettes circle in dark, shiny vehicles.
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the veins of the city, the electricity cables, still hang over the heads of its inhabitants. in no apparent order, they run parallel to streets and buildings into apartments, restaurants and shops. if the mayor will at some point care to untangle and hide them from daily abuse, he will be hailed as the heroic sisyphus of our times. there is no sense of above and below in tirana. there are coffee shops dug deep into the earth and bars on high buildings that are reached via external stairs. sometimes the city presents itself like a museum of the bizarre, at other times like a meridian between the past and the future of europe.
young people smoke near 'no smoking' signs in the innumerable cafés of the central districts. they laugh to my face when i ask to see a certain bar i used to know. nobody (meaning those that value their reputation) goes there anymore. every month new places open in crisis-striken tirana and the cool groups dislocate to the next great thing, completely abandoning the 'old'. it is an unusual way to measure progress, but rules are rules.
naturally, the population in the growing metropolis has become a conglomerate of tirana natives and newcomers from every albanian region. the former try hard to protect their fortress, 'their' city, by moving in closed circles and avoiding the latter, who actually adapt faster to changes. there are some 'romeo and juliet' stories going on, but soon people will accept that mixing is normal, especially in albania, where the capital is often thought to be the only modern part of the country.
this time i sensed a slightly darker atmosphere than in the last years. the new government has inherited huge debts and chaos from the former colleagues and, although they seem to steer the ship to a more positive direction, the holes are many and the sailors exhausted. tirana's otherwise pulsating energy and dynamics were on saving mode and people appeared afraid to foster hope for a jump out of the economic abyss. the superstitious among us were more optimistic, because 2014 is an even year. do not ask me why it matters. in the end, a few people will always have a good time.