Site Logo  Albania
Before Albania and other countries opened their borders, its residents were had believe that they enjoyed the highest standard of living in Europe. The lay western European would scoff at this, not from a particularly informed perspective, but the very idea would not meet much sympathy from people hailing from more prosperous shores.

Even for those who’ve learned always to expect the unexpected, and thus find little particularly surprising, modern day urban Albania seems to be awash with astonishments, it moving in the right direction, and with a very impressive capital boasting a modern infrastructure and more than a bit of style into the bargain. Tirana, the main city, is approached via wide streets lined not only with trees but with fancy shopping centres and office buildings, and the approach to its city centre is as plush as any approach in the wider region.

Reminiscent to a degree of Roma, another city with a significant Albanian population, the Tiranan streets have an unknown quality, not so much grandeur but in some ways a magnificence that betrays the humility of the smaller towns and the rural settlements, not so adorned with elegance. The capital felt like as much a well-to-do, thriving and orderly European city as do many others on the same continent, not only in the emerging east but also further westwards too.

Passing observation of those who live in Albania highlights the contrast between slower and more traditional village life and the upwardly mobile lifestyles many are choosing to live, be this by seemingly rewarding employment in the modern high rise office blocks, or comfortable dining in fashionable cafes. Nobody should be under the illusion that it is an especially rich country, but some of what they are earning is being invested wisely enough, and it makes it a decent and informative day trip from across the border of Montenegro.