The concrete mushrooms of Albania
Back in the day when Enver Hoxha ruled, he banned traveling in foreign countries and the following of religion. He created the campaign that the only religion of Albania is Albanianism. But his happiness didn’t last. Because when the great powers were joining forces in creating the NATO he became dreadful of what would happen to him. The country had enough concrete and iron. He ordered the Albanian army to build these mushroom lookalike bunkers. The sole purpose of the Bunkers was to protect the country from a potential war during the cold war era. The bunkers planted a sense of paranoia to the Albanian people. They waited for a war that never came. The regime was over in 1985, the day he died and freed the country from isolation and fear.
Making use of the past: What happened to the Bunkers?
Long after his cold regime, these Bunkers exist as a memoir of the past. The grey, tall and wide Bunkers, built for each to fit a limited number of people in them. These small buildings became homes to homeless people and stray dogs. But that is not all, as each story where we make use of the remains of the past, the Albanians started making use of these Bunkers.
After the fall of the communist regime, the people destroyed around half of them as to erase the not so pleasant history, of how the economy drops after the money is spent in building things that one doesn’t need. But the other half remains still. People, however, have learned how to make something greater with them. Some have built hotels and restaurants. Others have made tattoo shops in them. The state itself has even turned some into museums to show the unforgotten history.
When people visit Albania, they expect to see a country full of scars and bruises from the past. Moreover, they expect to see people that are sad about what they had endured during communism but the truth stands out. The truth is, Albanians do not mind the bunkers anymore. They have moved forward.
Overall the bunkers deserve a visit as they serve as a reminder of a war that never happened and that is something that makes Albania stand out. The fact that they have something historic that doesn’t date more than 40 years ago. If you travel to Albania, don’t forget to see the Bunkers.
The Bunk’art 1&2
Tirana’s Bunker museums
These two Bunkers should be on your travel bucket list of what to see in the capital of Albania. Inside them, you can see what happened during the years of communism in Albania, how people lived, how they worked and what communism was like. The museums represent so well the life conditions that many other countries endured during the dictatorship years (many countries still suffer).
Albania has some of the most beautiful beaches around Balkans. But what you can see on those beaches is the fact that there are many bunkers with no whatsoever use. (Fun fact: some use them as toilets.) Some people though found importance in them by renovating them and converting them to local amenities such as fast foods. And who wouldn’t buy a hamburger in a Bunker?!
The bunker Tattoo Shop
Yes, you read it right, in northern Albania, a man has a tattoo shop inside a Bunker, and the word is that if you are kind and he likes you, you get a free tattoo from him.
source: https://www.facebook.com/keqmarku/, http:// https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/albanien-neues-leben-fuer-alte-bunker.1242.de.html?dram:article_id=417286 and here is something else you might want to watch from Nas Daily https://www.facebook.com/nasdaily/videos/albanias-tattoo-king/1854892797957972/
In many places Bunkers near hotels or homes, people use them to store things they don’t use daily.
Restaurant or Bar
There are places where people have found another purpose for the Bunkers. For example, they converted them into restaurants and bars for the locals to enjoy a drink or a meal. Fantastic isn’t it?
Source: https://www.javanews.al/fotot-forbes-shqiperia-biznes-me-bunkeret-e-braktisur-te-komunizmit/ http://www.forbes.com and https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Durr%C3%ABs._Restaurante_en_b%C3%BAn
In some places such as Bilishti, and Mali I Robit in Albania, people have converted bunkers into Caffes. An amazing investment to not forget the history. And the saying goes what doesn’t cause a war makes us stronger.
Bed & Bunker (or breakfast)
The students of the University of Polis in Tirana ( International School of Architecture and Urban Development Policies ) when the state of Albania threatened to destroy the bunkers, in association with the university FH Mainz of Germany started this project to repurpose them and show that they can be converted into something that is of use to the population of the country. Would you sleep in one of these concrete igloos?
In northern Albania where shepherds take care of cattle and run them in the mountains to feed them, they shelter them during the night inside the bunkers.
Abandoned places in Albania
Thousand of abandoned bunkers dominate the Albanian landscape. And you can find them almost everywhere and are almost completely forgotten or ignored by the people who seem to live in peace with the past. (and that’s good). The past is just a reminder of what we endured and how we can become better and that’s what is happening in Albania. Money was spent on these concrete mushrooms and people should make use of that. These bunkers nowadays belong to the Ministry of Defense.
The youth has united together to turn the Bunkers of Albania into works of Art. They draw on them, turn them into graffiti and give them a happier look, one that doesn’t remind the brutal past. And that reminds us that after the rain there’s always a rainbow.
These pillboxes (small concrete rooms) are a reminder of the isolationist Hoxha of Albania. A proof of how communism shapes a country in a way that it needs years to recover.
Facts: (Fun facts)
- There are 5.7 Bunkers in every square kilometer.
- Concrete, steel, and iron are what make a bunker.
- The plan was to build 750.000 Bunkers around the country
- They built only 170.000
- Albania became poorer after the bunkers were built, as the money was spent on them instead of infrastructure.
- The bunkers have a mushroom shape and were made to look like igloos
- The state trained its nation to use the bunkers in case of an emergency.
- Families had to keep the bunkers clean
- Many bunkers have many rooms and corridors which link to other bunkers
- Thousands were destroyed to make way for roads
- Near the beaches, people use them as toilets
- Stray dogs use them as shelter
- And you can always buy a Bunker as a souvenir