How the young are driving the capital of Albania forward

Sometimes you can sense when a city is going through a transition, when it is trying to forge a national identity for itself. Whether this is zeitgeist or a new sense of liberty and freedom, it is always refreshing to see it with your own eyes, as I have just done in Tirana, the capital of Albania.

Last night I was at Folie, probably the most exclusive and prestigious club in all of Albania (the fact they’ve got over 35,000 likes on Facebook should give you an indication of how popular they are).

When everyone said “go to Folie”, I didn’t think it’d be as opulent as it was. It was only when I got to the front of the queue and paid an entrance fee of 1,000 lek (that’s about €7 which is quite a lot of money for Albanians), that I realised this was going to be a night to remember.

Folie is probably the most exclusive and prestigious club in all of Albania

Once inside, what immediately struck me was that every single girl was absolutely stunning. Honestly, I have never been in a room full of more beautiful people in all my life, and at times it felt like I was at one of the exclusive parties in Monaco I’ve heard so much about.

Dotted around the room, small groups of guys shared bottles of Grey Goose vodka, all dressed as smartly as the girls.

After an hour or so, Duffye, one of the country’s most popular female singers came on stage, and as everyone bounced to the music I couldn’t help but think this was the lifeblood of Tirana, that these young people were the pulsating heart driving the capital of Albania forward.

It is the young people driving the capital of Albania forward

The next morning I tried to make some sense of it, and over a number of strong black coffees I questioned the local girls living and working in Tirana at the hostel I was staying at.

Now, there are a few things you have to understand about Tirana. It is an incredibly new city and it has undergone major renovation since the fall of communism and since the end of the civil war. Since then, people have been given a sense of freedom, both political and economic, to really start expressing themselves. As the young grow up and out from the shadow of oppression, this sense of freedom has finally seemed to manifest itself in today’s society.

The Pyramid, a building that hasn't been used since the fall of communism in 1989

Everywhere you look people are driving Mercedes Benz cars, new shops selling the latest designer clothes are springing up, and in clubs like Folie, people are willing to spend the money to enjoy themselves.

However, this is the crux, the conundrum, that is very hard to understand; they don’t have any money, or at least they have very little of it.

The girls were saying that people in Tirana, in all of Albania, prefer to spend the little money they have on nice things, almost to show that they have no money (I told you it was confusing).

For them, it is all about enjoying the present as much as possible regardless of the costs as opposed to thinking about the future. This is such an old concept it has almost died out in the rest of Eastern Europe and the Balkans where Western capitalism has already taken root.

Seeing the lifeblood of Tirana around you makes the capital of one of the must see cities of the Balkans

This has led to critics to argue that there is no clear vision on Tirana’s future, but like the young leading this city forward, they are tentatively getting things done. Like a child who first learns to walk, they are taking unsteady step after unsteady step, learning as they go on, but always moving in the first direction, always moving forward.

For me, seeing this first hand, seeing the lifeblood of Tirana around you makes the capital of one of the must see cities of the Balkans, and as you walk the streets you can almost feel its pulse beating through your feet.

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Sounds like an awesome place.