Friday, August 1, 2014

The Hoxha Bunkers of Albania

Three of many thousands
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

On May 31 we crossed the Albanian border and got our first look at a few of these odd structures, installed during the communist rule of Enver Hoxha (1944-1985) to protect Albania from its enemies. The people believed, with some justification, that their enemies were pretty much the rest of the world after Hoxha fell out of favour with the Soviet Union.

Almost three quarters of a million Hoxha bunkers were built, and their removal has proved to be economically impossible for this nation as it slowly recovers from all the years of repression and isolation from the world economy.  Most remain in place, concentrated along the borders and the Adriatic coast. A few have been repurposed as fruit or souvenir stands, and at least one has become an art installation in a park in Tirana, positioned with an equally-elegant piece of the Berlin Wall.