Albania has managed to burnish its image thanks to media-savvy politicians but the reality is far more problematic.
Albania - I wish I could write a positive article about Albania. A feel-good story about a post-communist Balkan nation emerging from the darkness of Stalinist communism into the colourful eccentricity of its post-communist rulers.
And that would be an easy article to write, one which many journalists visiting Albania end up doing. The glowing reviews of its brightly coloured buildings, the artwork, the bicycle lanes, or the awards its media-savvy local mayor and artist turned prime ministers receive, sometimes advised by UK New Labour spin doctors, obscures what lies beneath the surface and it often works.
Albania is sadly mired in complex social, political and economic crises.
The failure to untangle the Gordian knot is a failure of not just one government but the compounded result of consecutive governments that span the left and the right of Albania, going back thirty years.
A political class that has, according to a senior civil servant speaking to me in confidence and with more than two decades of experience in politics, consistently divided the resources of the state between them.
Albania today has a demographic crisis as people have fewer children and 52 percent of the population mull leaving the country. More than 1.4 million Albanians have left since the end of communism and the population today stands at 2.8 million and declining.
There is also an institutional crisis. In February of this year, Albania's opposition burnt their mandates, which effectively means they resigned from parliament – hoping to force an early election due to what they say is endemic corruption and alleged vote rigging in the 2017 parliamentary elections.
Since then they have been marching on the streets, hoping that the socialist government of Prime Minister Edi Rama will give in. If you speak to many Albanians, it's not clear if the protesting Democratic Party would fare much better in early elections.
Across the political spectrum in Albania, if you watch and listen carefully, you will see a land bereft of political ideas. Parties don't stand for much and politicians fall for even less.
As part of these crises, Albania finds itself in the most extraordinary position when it comes to its judiciary.
Currently, the judicial system is convulsed in what are called "reforms", the vetting of Albania's judges and prosecutors. This has led to a country with no constitutional court, and as judges wait to be vetted, Albania's notoriously ineffective justice system has ground to a halt - a new low if that were possible.
Albania today is also the only country in the world which has a constitutionally enshrined body led by the US State Department, US Justice Department and EU Commission, which vets Albania's judiciary.
The International Monitoring Operation is enshrined under section 179 of Albania's constitution. Foreign powers as per the constitution "have immediate access to all information, people and documents necessary to monitor the re-evaluation at all levels and in all stages".
In any other country, this would be a direct violation of sovereignty but the creation of such a body already surrendered Albania's sovereignty. The issue is rarely spoken about by local Albanians, there is also an ambivalence towards who controls a broken justice system. IF foreigners have the power to vet judges in Albania, that doesn't seem to bother too many people here.
But more than anything, what I notice in Albania, is that a great many people have been robbed of their hope to imagine a better country.
Post-communist leaders, in a bid to hold and cultivate political power, have auctioned jobs, education, development and the dignity of the people.
In one of Tirana's coffee shops, I spoke with a student friend about his time in university to which he replied: "We are pretending to study, and the teachers are pretending to teach."
Abnormality has been normalised, maybe Albania's artist prime minister can paint that...