Being a tourist in Tirana, Albania

Sept 27, 2022

We had a whole rest day to spend in Tirana. Bob and I had a nice breakfast in the hotel then taxied downtown. It’s about a half hour drive but wasn’t expensive (under $9).

Modern buildings and an old statue and one of many construction cranes
The old Tirana Hotel used to be a tall building in town, now overshadowed

We looked around the main square, went in an old mosque, then walked over to Grand Park, a large and beautiful park. It wasn’t raining but the ground was wet and muddy.

A little bit of the Grand Park of Tirana

Back in town we checked out the Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral which was pretty cool. Then on recommendation from a couple of our trip members we happened to meet, we went all through the House of Leaves. It used to be a clinic but was taken over by the State Security guys (Sigurimi). It’s a fascinating and very sad museum of taking paranoia about “The Enemy” way too far.

A tiny amount of the surveillance hardware on display at the House of Leaves

We needed a break but then it started raining so we walked over to the Bunk Art 2 museum, which is underground in an actual bunker and is large and depressing. It uses video and covers some of the same stuff as the House of Leaves and in the end, we had to escape.

The monster of security, 2.45m tall

We headed off to a nice restaurant nearby and had a good lunch for very little money. Tasty except the wine was kind of … (I said ‘Niek would send this back’). We didn’t stay too long since it was getting late and we wanted to go to Bunk Art 1, the craziest museum, built in a 5-storey massive underground bunker where Hoxha and his buddies would go in case of nuclear attack. Was he paranoid much?

We caught the local bus to Bunk Art 1 for $0.33 each and arrived about 4pm. The entrance is a long tunnel to put you in the mood.

The ticket lady said they kind of start closing around 5 so we stayed, wandering the corridors until 5:15. The place is amazing. First we walked through the special apartment where Hoxha and his wife would stay in the event of actually using the bunker.

The “Talk to Enver Hoxha” exhibit. I got to pick up a phone he had actually used and hear his voice. No answer when I asked why all the dick moves.
Hoxha’s office in the bunker, bedroom through the door
Amazing theater inside the bunker

All in all, it was quite an education. I left really feeling sorry for Albania as a country. I can’t tell if Hoxha and his cronies actually believed the BS that they were doing the right thing for their country and socialism is great. I’d like to hope so. In that case they were tragically wrong wrong wrong. If not they were simply terrible people.

We had a little excitement taking a taxi back downtown. The guy was not an actual taxi driver and made a call as soon as we got in. He then detoured up a hill and stopped “just for a minute”. We bailed not wanting to find out what he was up to. Maybe nothing but we took the bus instead. Downtown it was pouring so we jogged over to a restaurant I picked and had a nice filling dinner. The waiter called a taxi for us and the drive back took about 25 minutes. He spoke good English and it was great to be able to discuss what socialism is and whether or not Albania currently is run by a dictator [his opinion is yes].

Back at the hotel, everyone was there except for a few guys out drinking. It was great to hear how well the second shift had done and how they made it from Kotor to Tirana today – some by bus and some with Ype, but in 5 hours instead of the over 8 it took us yesterday. Hopes are high for some riding tomorrow.

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