When you go to Tirana, you do not seek stunning architecture or rich history. You go for the curiosity factor. Albania and its capital are shrouded in the atmosphere of a little-known, little-visited, isolated and poor country haunted by the memories of Europe's last dictatorship.
"I cannot understand how these people continue with their lives surrounded by all these memories," says a British lady we meet at the Markale central market in Sarajevo.
Only exceptional buildings are worthy of becoming legend. One such building is in the village of Mogilitsa in the Rhodope. Between 1825 and 1842, the local Muslim lord Aguş Aga built a sumptuous konak, or residence, for himself and his three sons. High whitewashed walls protected the aga's greatest treasures: his peace, his money and his family.
The builders' inscription is explicit. The 100-metre-long five-arched stone bridge over the Struma River is the work of Ishak Pasha, Grand Vizier of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror. Ishak Pasha built the bridge in 1469-1470 to facilitate travel from Constantinople to Skopje and the western Balkans. Despite this, the stories that locals have told about the construction of the bridge over the ages have no reference to the name of the man who did this good deed.
The quality of highways and other large-scale infrastructure projects built in modern Bulgaria with EU funding is a matter for public debate. Interestingly, one town in this country has been using the same bridge over the Maritsa River for the past five centuries. Until recently, it was still used even by trucks.