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May 16 2014

Bunkers Galore in Albania

Before I arrived in Albania, I had read about the ‘bunkers. so I expected to see a few dotted around.  As I didn’t see any when I first arrived, I forgot about the whole bunker thing.  That was until I read about it while staying at a guesthouse in Shkoder.  I mentioned, to a member of the family I was staying with, that I wanted to see a bunker and he told me that his father had built approximately 200 bunkers and some were located close to the house.  The following day, I went bunker hunting and found one near the guesthouse.   I was happy to have seen one, at least.  As it turned out, that was only the first of many sightings.  Because of their uniqueness to Albania, I thought this would be a good Foto Friday.  So, enough waffle, here is a photograph of one of the bunkers I spotted.

Bunker in Saranda

This one happens to be in a fabulous location, high above Saranda in the grounds of Likursi Castle, overlooking the Ionian Sea.  I think it looks a bit like a concrete mushroom.  What do you think?

The thing is, when people tell you there are a lot of bunkers, they aren’t lying.  Apparently, there are approximately 700,000.  That’s a lot of bunkers and you don’t need to go far before you come across one or two.  During a bus ride from Tirana to Saranda via Gjirokaster, we drove past loads.  Some were in clusters, but most were on their own.  It wasn’t until then that I realised the full extent of it.  You don’t have to be out in the mountains or in the middle of nowhere to see them either.  I saw a couple in a park in Tirana, the capital of Albania.

So, what was the purpose of these bunkers?  Well, they were built when Enver Hoxha was in power  because of his concern over the risk of foreign invasion.  With all the time, effort, and cost of constructing these things, in the end, most of these bunkers weren’t used for their intended purpose although a few were used as temporary shelter during the war in Kosovo.

In the main, these concrete and iron structures blot the landscape, unused.  I was told that the bunkers have become known as the place where young people lose their virginity.  I suppose that’s one use for them.  A few of the bigger bunkers have been turned into commercial premises.  I’ve heard that, in Durres, one is now a beachside restaurant and another in Gjirokaster is a cafe.  I didn’t get to either place, so I can neither confirm nor deny this.  However, I’d be interested in checking them out when I’m next in Albania.

Have your say

Do you know of any other uses for the bunkers?  Have you been to any that are now restaurants, cafes etc.?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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