Graffiti Artist Changes Face of Albania’s Capital

Graffiti wall art was barely known in Albania before Franko Dine came along – but this groundbreaking artist is now blazing a trail for others.  Franko Dine, a 24-year-old from Albania’s southern city of Vlora, never believed that his graffiti would one day cover key buildings in the capital, Tirana, where millions could admire it. The street artist has worked hard to succeed in a country where wall graffiti is barely understood as an art, and almost no tradition of it exists. He is now the very first street artist employed by Tirana municipality and officially permitted to paint the city’s walls, opening up a path for the well-known world practice of urban art to flourish in Albania as well. Franko found his way by instinct. Always good at drawing, he left paper behind and started to paint the walls of his family home when he was 16, and saw some graffiti on the internet for the first time. “I was not sure what I was doing but painting walls become an obsession. My parents were surprised, but they not only let me draw on the walls but opened up a whole room where I could freely express myself,” he told BIRN. After he found a name for his passion, he decided to attend the Art Academy in Tirana where could learn more about wall graffiti art. “But I soon understood that this was impossible… wall graffiti was not even a subject at the academy, so I decided to study design,” he recalled. In the meantime, he started to ask friends living abroad to buy him books to help him improve his technique and also send him professional markers, sprays paints, safety and protection tools that could not be found in Tirana. “It was hard because I was practising using construction materials instead of the professional paints used all over the world for graffiti. Those are very dangerous for one’s health since they contain many chemicals,” Franko recalls. Today, while he believes that his studies at the academy did not help him much in terms of his true passion, moving to Tirana was completely worthwhile. He got to know the city when most of its inhabitants were fast asleep   “During the first year, I would leave my student’s room at 1am to roam the city for hours in order to get to know it,” he said. “I explored the city’s darkest corners, the shabbiest of facades and pointed out those walls that I could paint,” he added. In Tirana, he also found his special niche, which was working with vulnerable children – the orphans, the poor, the disabled and the left-out. “I would see many of them begging in the streets of Tirana and I felt that I could use my art to protest on their behalf,” he said.
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The continuous decline of bookings for Turkey and North Africa is surely in Croatia's favour - Novasol

According to the preliminary information from the latest fair for leisure and travel, the German market has recorded a significant increase in bookings for Croatia this year. The travel fair which is being held in Munich from the 22nd to the 26th of February, has gathered more than 1,200 exhibitors from 60 countries, whilst 30 Croatian representatives, including the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ) are promoting Croatia. The Croatian Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli have met with representatives of the leading German tour operators - Thomas Cook, DER Touristik Koln, FTI, Schauinsland, ID Riva, Reisewelt, Misir Sonnenreisen and Novasol who have pointed out that Croatia is a destination which has been recording a continuous growth in the past few years. The representatives of Novasol, the leading specialized agency for private accommodation, have emphasized that the image of Croatia has been growing primarily thanks to the quality marketing. This year Croatia's market has already recorded 35 percent increase in bookings due to a bigger offer of new apartments and houses in private accommodation. ''However, the continuous decline of bookings for Turkey and North Africa is surely in Croatia's favour'', commented a representative of Novasol. On the other hand, the representatives of TUI have commented that this year Croatia is a very popular destination not only on the German market but in Russia and the UK as well. However, all tour operators have agreed on one thing; that the geopolitical situation in the world is surely in Croatia's favour because the country is still perceived as a safe destination among tourists. As it is known, the German market is one of the most important emissive markets which achieved 2,3 million arrivals and 17 million overnight stays in 2016. Around 35 percent of the total number of German tourists travelled in an organized arrangement, whilst 65 percent of them travelled individually. In addition, in terms of tourist traffic numbers, Istria is the leading region among German tourists, followed by Kvarner, Split and Zadar. The most commonly used types of accommodation by German guests were household objects (33%), camps (30%) and hotels (28%).   Credit:
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Danish Novasol to buy Rocket Internet-backed Wimdu just weeks after 9Flats merger

Danish apartment manager Novasol has agreed to take over the former Rocket Internet start-up Wimdu for an undisclosed amount. Novasol is one of the largest European vacation property managers with 44,000 units and is part of the publicly-traded US travel company Wyndham Worldwide, which also owns the brands Ramada and Tryp. That means that than two months after Wimdu’s merger with 9Flats, the two vacation rental platforms maybe again go their separate ways, according to Manager Magazin, the German publication that broke this story. The two Airbnb clones who were failing to compete with the original announced their merger in early October. Between them, they offer 500,000 vacation rental listings, just one sixth of the market leader’s inventory. Airbnb has raised $3 billion in venture capital and a $1 billion loan. The two German challengers have raised only a combined €100 million. The Wimdu is said to have accumulated a loss of €60 million to date, and Rocket Internet had made dramatic cutbacks last summer. The merger with 9Flats was to save Wimdu from shutting down. According to 9Flats boss Romanbach, the two companies together would generate turnover of €100 million. Immediately after the merger, investors familiar with the situation had indicated that a sale of both portals would be announced, Manager Magazin reported. The now simpler ownership structure made it possible to sell Wimdu faster and more easily, they said. Wimdu belonged exclusively to 9Flats Singapore, which is owned by just two partners: Stephan Uhrbacher (Quipe, Flio) and Roman Bach. Although 9Flats GmbH is also grouped under the umbrella of 9Flats Singapore, it still has other shareholders, such as Redpoint Ventures and eVentures. With its sale Wimdu, the previous owners Kinnevik and Rocket Internet are to come out with an amount far less than what they originally invested in Wimdu.   Credit:
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