From independence to interdependence
As global funds and brands swoop in, regional differences are smoothed out.
We visited the Albanian city of Vlora (or Vlorë) in May and had a lovely time. The people are friendly and welcoming, the food is fresh and delicious. The air and water are clean, the vistas are beautiful.
As with Tirana, the city has changed in the last 30 years and it continues to change.
111 years ago Albania declared independence in Vlora.
Like other Balkan nations a volatile century followed.Colonialism, war, independence, dictatorship, freedom, mass emigration, lawlessness and now, at last, a stable democracy.
As stability arrives, global investment funds swoop in.
Building identikit blocks to house the same ‘aspirational’ lifestyle available in countless cities worldwide.
They replace working ports with leisurely marinas. Magnets for influencers.
They tidy up the waterfront with a 5km promenade. Home to well dressed strollers, white table-clothed restaurants, languid cyclists and relaxed drivers.
International brands spend millions to tempt the populace to conform to the global norm.
New monuments don’t celebrate achievers, they sell “Real Magic.”
There are still places one street backwhich hint at the recent past.
They will soon be gone.
Development marches on. Blurring regional differences. So travellers like me can order in English, eat food I’m familiar with and buy brands I know back home.
I will return. The soul of the city and the people will call me back. But I know it will look and behave differently to how it is today.
Vlora is half way down the Albanian Riviera. It has been colonised by Romans, Normans, Ottomans and Italians. When communism fell in 1991, chaos ensued and thousands came to Vlora to commandeer ships to sail across the Adriatic in the hope of finding a haven in Italy. In 1997 riots over failed pyramid schemes began a chain of events which almost led to civil war and subsequent control by armed gangs. The arm gangs have long gone and it’s now a safe place to visit.
Vlora Marina will offer “a limited number of Premium and Branded apartments, with exclusive sea views. World-class marina – the first in Albania with 438 berths for an all-year-long mooring for yachts and mega yachts.”