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Albania, the last secret of Europe

Travelers of a certain age remember that, for many decades, their passport indicated: "valid for all countries except Albania, North Korea and external Mongolia".
  For the more restless, this has awakened an uncontrollable desire to find out what these forbidden countries were hiding. Of these banned countries, Albania was the closest, but until recently it has remained far from the tourist map. Now Albanians want to show themselves to the world and teach their cultural and natural beauties. And it should be done before mass tourism finds out.

Tirana, in the center of the Balkan, seems little like any other European capital and escapes any category or definition. It houses museums that preserve splendid testimonies of the Illyrian past (whose origins date back to the Iron Age) and medieval, art galleries and a square overlooking historic buildings, from the Ethem Bey Mosque, one of the most beautiful in Albania, to the banks of the fascist era (1930s) or to the secret tunnels of the cold war. All this is Tirana, a city where life flows incessantly, both in the dense traffic of the center and in the bazaars or in the mosques during the afternoon prayers.

But more than things to see, Tirana has things to live. Crossing the Lana River, Blloku emerges, the old neighborhood where the Communist nomenklatura resided, now converted into an area of ​​leisure and unbridled gait, especially on weekends. The city seems determined to make up for lost time during the long communist winter. Here it combines the aroma of the Middle East with the desire to be European.

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• Capital: Tirana
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