Tirana: Art, History, and Bunkers

Tirana is the capital of Albania. It has approximately one million bus stations (slight exaggeration), so it’s hard to know where you’ll end up when you arrive. Just be prepared to either do some charades for a taxi or walk a great distance to your destination. Your choice. 
On the one hand Tirana is your typical European capital, and on the other I liked it better than I thought I would. I arrived at Trip’N Hostel in the early afternoon, dumped my bag, and hopped on a city bus to travel to Bunk’Art, located about 20 minutes from the city center.

Bunk’Art is a museum/art space located in a huge 5-story underground nuclear bunker built in the 1970s for Albania’s political and military elite.  It was very interesting and different, so I would definitely recommend it. The best part about visiting there in the summer? It was cold in there to the point where you need a jacket!

The creepiest part about the bunker is that it runs on a generator, so every so often all of the power goes out. And you are left alone. In the dark. In a bunker. And when I went I was the only one there. Here’s a picture of what I was standing next to one of the times the lights went off:

I spent several hours in the bunker, and then made my way back to the city center just in time for the freewalking tour.

Statue of Skanderbeg with Albanian flag:

Unique building under construction:

One of the many bunkers you see around Albania:

I learned some great historical information from the free walking tour. It lasts for 2 1/2 hours, so make sure to be prepared for that if you go.

Facts I learned:

  • 10 million people speak Albanian worldwide
  • Skanderbeg, an Albanian military commander who lived 1405-1468, is their national hero. Like, they really, really like the guy. A lot.
  • In the 1980s Albania was cut off from the rest of the world, a tiny bit like North Korea today. If you were lucky enough to own a TV, you could only watch Albanian stations, so you were watching propaganda.
  • Albanians went bunker happy for awhile. 700,000 were built in the 60s, 70s, and especially the 80s.

Just in case you weren’t sure of the light color:

And since he is the only US President to ever have visited Albania, he gets his own street:

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