As isolation becomes an increasingly important part of our lives, it’s easy to forget the negative connotations that come with it and the impact it can have.
One upside to the current global crisis and its associated isolation is that it will be relatively short, at least in comparison to some who have experienced isolation as a way of life. One country that battled isolation on a global scale for decades during the Cold War, was Albania. Under the rule of dictator Enver Hoxha, Albania was one of, if not the most isolated country in the world. Cut off from the eastern bloc, the western powers and its immediate neighbours, the country’s leaders paranoia led to being cut off entirely from the outside world, even to the extent that leaving the country was criminal offence. Whilst overthrown in the early 1990s, there are reminders everywhere of its heavy-handed, communist past.
The exterior of the Pyramid of Tirana
You may think that modern day Albania would be heavily influenced by such a totalitarian rule, and you would be correct. Religious institutions, which were banned under Hoxha, are still in the process of being rebuilt and driving, which was not allowed by the general population until 1991, is erratic and (for visitors from the west countries, at least) terrifying. But what those dark times left behind in terms of architecture is bizarre, inconsistent and absolutely fascinating.
Perhaps the best example can be seen in the capital, Tirana. When thinking of pyramids, you may think of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, or Chichen Itza in Mexico, but the Pyramid of Tirana is not often on any ‘top 10’ lists. In general, Europe doesn’t stake its claim to these man made wonders to quite the same extent as the Latin America and Middle Eastern countries., Whilst Visoko in Bosnia-Herzegovina is staking a claim to having Europe’s only pyramid, there can be no doubt that Tirana does indeed have one. All-be-it, a bizarre concrete construction that appears as surely one of the most communist looking buildings in the world.
Constructed in the 1980s as a museum to Enver Hoxha prior to the fall of communism, it later became a NATO headquarters during the Kosovo War before falling into significant disrepair.
The Pyramid of Tirana from the side
Today, this concrete dome now sits as an abandoned ruin waiting for political decisions on what happens next. Sadly, it has long been earmarked for demolition and its potential as a tourist destination, or possibly a museum, seems to be unlikely and it now remains nothing more than a fenced off visual. Nonetheless, the Pyramid of Tirana is a striking sight and a stark reminder of Albania’s unique and isolated past. A surreal sight in one of Europe’s most unusual cities.
Read about Tirana:
- Tirana’s Dajti Mountain Cable Car: A Short Trip from Albania’s Urban Chaos to Mountain Serenity
- Europe’s forgotten Mediterranean paradise: Albania at Christmas
- BunkArt: A Historical Tour of Albania’s Communist Past Under the Streets of Tirana
Where abouts is the Pyramid of Tirana?
If you are interested in learning more about Tirana and Albania, our friends at Inspire Me World Travel provide more information on their website, as well as flexible and customisable day or package tours, transfers and everything else you might need for a simple and fascinating stay in one of Europe’s hidden gems.
Article and images by Tom McBeth & Natasha Bryan
To see the full, high-quality, watermark-free images from Albania, click here to visit our Shutterstock gallery.