One thing you can’t escape when you are in Albania is the bunkers.
The small mushrooms that pop up here and there and practically everywhere.
It gets to the stage that you are so used to see them that if you don’t see them it starts to feel a bit lonely.
But they are great if you spend some time on the road as we did, driving a lot require something to do not to get bored and what is better than to do some Bunker spotting?
One bunker equals one point and if you are lucky you manage to get a cluster of bunkers together and then get an awesome lead in points.
Besides the national two-headed eagle on the flag, I dare to say that it is a landmark for Albania. Anyone who have visited Albania can tell you about seeing the bunkers in the most weirdest or remote locations.
You can even buy small miniature bunkers in the souvenir shops as penholder or ashtrays.
Now why are there so many bunkers?
Lets pull some history.
Enver Hoxha, the communist leader of Albania who led the country for 40 years straight, had more than 700.000 bunkers constructed and installed all over the country.
From mountain passes to city streets with an average of 24 bunkers for every square kilometre of the country – one for every four inhabitants.
Hoxha was pulling a hardline Stalinism with some inputs of Maoism and he broke the political contacts and connections with Soviet Union, withdrew Albania from the Warsaw pact in -68, broke with China in -72 after Richard Nixons visit.
More than that he was also hostile towards Yugoslavia which was led by Tito, accusing Yugoslavia to be to “soft” communism and was certain that Yugoslavia would try to incorporate Albania as Yugoslavia’s seventh republic.
Greece was another country that he was hostile towards since the Second World War as he believed that they were gonna try to take the southern part of Albania due to the amount of Greeks living in the region.
Areas like Gjirokaster for example which paradoxical enough is where Enver was born himself.
This dispute was not settled with Greece until 1987, two years after Enver Hoxha had died.
Hoxha envisaged Albania fighting a two-front war against an attack mounted by Yugoslavia, NATO or the Warsaw Pact. What better way to protect yourself then to bunker yourself in?
This vision by Hoxha led to Albania being almost completely cut off from the surrounding world.
The construction of the bunkers, or bunkerisation as its also called, started in 1976 and continued for a 20 year period until 1986.
Cost of constructing them was a drain on Albania’s resources, diverting them away from more pressing needs such as dealing with the country’s housing shortage and poor roads.
Its said that every bunker is equal to a two room flat in materials and resources.
They also are considered to have had little, or even any, military value and were never used for their intended purpose. Few of them were briefly used during the Balkan conflicts (Fall of Yugoslavia) in the 1990s.
The bunkers were abandoned when the Communism in Albania collapsed in 1990 and nowadays most are now derelict, though some have been reused for a variety of purposes including residential accommodation, cafés, storehouses and shelters for animals or the homeless.
Their solidity has made it difficult to get rid of them, not to mention the cost. Some have been removed, particularly in cities, but in the countryside most bunkers have simply been abandoned.
When we were taking pictures of a couple of bunkers and Tereza wanted to have one with a view, we walked towards on and suddenly two dogs came slowly out of the bunker staring at us and we turned around and walked away, just to be sure.
Their most common use these days, is said to be as a convenient place for young Albanians to lose their virginity – At least it is safe sex.
We never tried that. Some pictures that we took of these constructions all over the country