Yesterday we went hiking with a few friends to explore bunkers just outside of Tirana. It was probably the hottest day we’ve had yet – 100 degrees, full sun and humidity, but we made it with smiles. And we revived our bodies with icy “frappucinos” from the “twin towers” once back in the city again. Can’t really complain, can we.
About these bunkers… There are more than 700,000 bunkers (1:4 persons) across Albania that were designed to ensure that every Albanian would have safety if they were invaded. There were created during the Communist regime and arguably in the midst of crazy paranoia. They are made entirely of concrete and the ones we visited today were mini labyrinths inside the mountains that surround our city. We found old, abandoned vehicles that have been sitting within the cement walls for decades, untouched and saw walls painted for driving school. The caves were cool and dark, with remnants of where electrical cables were once giving them light. And there were domed entrances where tanks may have been stored for battle. All of it just makes you wonder … did this actually make people feel safe? Was it all created to just give the impression of safety, but really would it have made a difference? Was this really the best way to spend millions of dollars while families were living off of rations of 1 kg of meat, sugar, and flour a month? It’s all a bit hard to believe because Albania is so different these days. But you don’t have to dig very deep to find a bunker or hear a story that makes you realize that this country has been through some very difficult times (and in many ways they still are.) For instance, I baked some muffins for our friends and they told me that about 20 years ago families would have to go to the neighborhood baker to put their meals in the oven for baking because no one had their own oven. You would get a number and all the kids would be excited to see their friends coming home with hot food. There are hundres of similar stories … and they aren’t from long ago.
All this to say, we had an awesome day exploring and especially having fun with our friends ! Here are some photos … unfortunately we missed our friend Elizabeth in these photos and she was the most amazing one of us. She carried her 1 year old son Gabriel up the mountains on her back. Admire her ! Enjoy …