Walking the City 4th Episode
Itenerary: The periurban area Kombinat-Yzberish-Mezes-Yrshek,
Commune of Kashar, Tirana
On 14 October 2011, at 10.00 o’clock, we all meet at the main square of “Kombinat” neighborhood of Tirana, a former industrial satellite town created during communist times in Albania by early 50s. Here was developed a textile industry know as “Kombinati Stalin” because of financing from Soviet Union. The neighborhood attracted a number of new inhabitants mainly from the southern areas of Albania. The purpose was to increase the number of the so called “working class” which were supposed to be the support for the new communist government of post-war Albania, while the country was dominated by 80% rural population. After 50s such migration influx was interrupted and Kombinat remained a small industrial satellite town....
Over time in addition to the new industry of textile, of glass and brick production, of power production and industrial railway station, etc, many new buildings of housing purpose were also build up mainly via voluntary works and design of “Russian” style. You can easily distinguish even today typologies of 2 floor red-brick apartment buildings like soviet style, up to 4-5 floor white silica brick apartment buildings of 70-s, as well as poor quality apartment buildings made thanks to low quality voluntary work during 80s. This was time when Albania entered a phase of total economic and political breakdown, because of self isolation and lack of communist aid. Nowadays Kombinat is part of Tirana and the former green area between neighborhood and Tirana is filled in with formal informal developments of post communist era mainly during 90-s. Actually Tirana is one of the 11 subdivision units called “Mini-Municipalities” and has a local authority coordinated by the Mayor/Municipality of Tirana
The main square of Kombinat area it was called before 90s “the Stalin square” to memorize the dictator and his support for the regime of time in Albania. A statue of him was also placed there for several decades and was removed by people during the days of changes by early 1991. However the base of monument is still there as to remind people for such strong and strange reference... Municipality of Tirana transformed and improved the square by the end of last decade, renovating facades of the buildings of former factory administration and redesigning/repaving it with a more contemporary style. The square serves as a hub to connect the end station of public transport of Tirana, with interurban bus lines connecting Tirana with other regions of the country.
The Kombinat square is the point we meet and depart for our walk. This time we are a good team of people: students and staff of polis, Albanian and foreigners (Italian, Dutch, Austrian friends, etc), and friends and even family members… There is clear enthusiasm in place although weather forecast announces rain… We walk towards northern destination via a newly asphalted road among informally developed houses and ex industrial buildings. In certain moments the asphalt disappears together with residential areas and we area in an almost green valley behind the hills of Yzberish neighborhood, and former agricultural farm that now is transformed informally in a residential area. The road continues ahead north often between water and mud ponds, but people are well prepared and experienced now for such conditions. Often we face local people running after their own cows. In the left of road we could notice a complex of animal farming. Well organized even that totally abandoned. For a while discussion was if those buildings/farm was devoted to cows, pigs or chicken… but none was able to draw a conclusion from distance.
Than after some times we deviated on the right-north direction towards the Mezes area, a former agricultural area known also for its coal mines. Just half way we hear a sound coming from loud speaker and a voice that gave us impression of a Muslim type preaching. Instead we were totally wrong as by approaching we could notice the driver of a water-tank car announcing publicly and louder that “water arrived in the neighborhood” (erdhi uji…)! This made many of us smile but it was a bitter one as everyone understood that the area missed for one reason or another potable water. Pity… such rich and beautiful area, and few kilometers far from the capital center.
To certain point the road became very bad and heavily muddy… we were almost stucked, but with some pervious experience we could all manage, ending finally back in a recently asphalted road bringing us among Mezes village. There local kids and youngsters helped us to find a short way towards the lakes of the area. A young guy riding a motorcycle made for some times a show of tough almost circus type riding… Indeed he was quite capable, and everybody kept shooting pictures on him, while for some times he could speak German and English with foreigners. Funny…
Thanks to the local kids we deviated left and high to hills but the road became almost impossible to continue further. We managed to see one of the lakes, and went back same road. The first rain of autumn season last days made impossible for us to continue a highly interesting landscape walk among hills. However we got back to the main street Mezes-Yrshek which is asphalted, exploring an area which transforming every day in an area of services and houses. Urbanization is a matter of time here. In 5-10 years this part of Greater Tirana is going to bee totally different for sure. On the way we could see very interesting building/urban typologies. The most interesting one was for sure a huge plot surrounded by heavily/high fence walls. Sculptures and ancient Greek type columns and capitols decorated the turbo-type of development. I couldn’t resist the temptation to see behind the heavy high steel door what was that? What was behind the walls and door? I went first and that after me everyone followed to a surprise to see a huge long way parcel with many palm trees planted aside to a little road corridor, which ended with a concrete steel structure of an unfinished building/palace framework. Looked like a failed frightening monument of the non-realist dream of someone that once had a fortune, but at present time is somehow lost. Foreigners asked me what how could you explain such typology. So I guessed: either someone simply lost his money, or got arrested for criminal activity, or got killed/hidden for some reason like blood feud cases… This was shocking. But maybe the owner will get back and finish his dream who knows. However we all agreed this is nonsense irrational case as with all that money of walls, sculptures and palm trees he could have already finishes already a good house/palace. We walked further passing along interesting urban structures of past and today, and in a typical area under process of urbanization. During the way we could see several public transport buses connecting Tirana center with Yrshek and Tirana-Durres highway. Here we ended up passing the highway via a metallic structure path which allowed us to make many interesting pictures from the top.
Than everybody almost run towards Polis University campus, our last station. It was almost 10-12 kilometer walk, but very interesting and in an area so far and so near to the city center, but meanwhile totally unknown and forgotten. However not for everyone… as local people, informal newcomers, and entrepreneurs already are there building their own future dreams. Hope does not end up like the one we saw above.
From Polis square some went directly to its bar canteen “Motown”, some others deviated to the QTU mall center, while me and few people got busses or taxi to go back home. I had to get a taxi to go quickly to get back to pick up my parked car in the same morning. It was almost 3.00 or 4.00 pm. But I felt good although bit tired… It was a special day, and another valid experience… So what’s next walk…?