Albania opens up communist relics for tourism

Albania, in the Balkans, is using its rich communist legacy and leftist leanings to its own financial favour.

The nation, which has hundreds of thousands of disused communist-era bunkers, is now looking to convert those bunkers into tourist attractions. With help from Germany, the firm is looking to put beds in the bunkers and rent then out to tourists willing to savour the authentic history of the communist era in the nation.

In the coastal town of Tale, which is located about 50 kilometres from the Albanian capital of Tirana, developers are giving shape to a new tourist concept. Ten German students and 10 Albanian university students are creating a tourism project that could soon repeat itself in other nations where communist forces had for long fought outside forces or perceived threats.

The project on which the students are now working would convert a former bunker into a hostel that would provide space for up to eight people. Deviating a lot from the original intended use of the bunker, the project would allow tourists to savour the countryside through the bunkers’ gun slits. The entire structure is located beneath a concrete dome that is 1.3 metres thick. Such bunkers were common in the country during the communist regime. During that time, the nation was dotted with hundreds of thousands of such structures. The bunkers, then a sign of mistrust and isolation, would hopefully bring in much money and outside contact for the nation.

Albania’s former communist ruler, Enver Hoxha, had built close to 750,000 igloo-shaped bunkers across the country in the 1970s and 1980s in fear of foreign invaders. The tourism planners are looking to renovate only one bunker for the time being, but it could soon expand to other bunkers and even nations that have similar structures.

The German-Albanian tourism project is meant to primarily benefit local residents. The renovated bunker would have wooden floors, mattresses, a shower and a kitchenette. It is expected that a night’s stay in the ‘hotel’ would cost less than €8.