All across the former communist states of eastern Europe, drab, boxy buildings dominate the landscape. Some cities like Prague at least have the massive, apartment complexes contained in the suburbs, but Tirana was not quite so lucky. At least not until Edi Rama became the mayor, and gave Albania's capital city a vibrant makeover.
Before he was mayor, Rama was an international success in painting. Although always political, Rama had held more exhibitions than political offices by the time he became mayor in 2000, and he approached his new found job with a keen artistic sensibility.
After just a few weeks in office, Rama jumped headlong into a cosmetic attack on his city. He removed illegal buildings, built new parks and most importantly began a painting campaign. Flashing his brush across many of Tirana's old apartment buildings and communist-style high rises, Rama added color and design across the city.
Some of the buildings are striped in reds, blues and greens while others feature designs that sprawl across their entire facades. Despite criticism that Rama failed to address the more pressing problems of Tirana, the city is certainly eye-catching and uniquely modern.