Tell your friends or family that you’re off to Albania, and you’ll likely receive a stock response: “Isn’t it dangerous?”, “Isn’t there a war going on there?”, and “Is that even in Europe?” are some of the most common. Speak instead to those who have been, and the associations with the country’s name become infinitely more positive – you’ll hear of rippling mountains, Ottoman architecture, pristine beaches and endlessly hospitable locals. Following decades of isolationist rule, this rugged land still doesn’t seem to fit into the grand continental jigsaw, with distinctly exotic notes emanating from its language, customs and cuisine. Pay a visit to this beguiling corner of Europe now, before it garners the popularity it deserves.Read More
Cross into Albania by land or sea, and you’ll soon notice clutches of grey, dome-like structures dotting the countryside. Under Hoxha’s rule, these bunkers were scattered around the country in tremendous numbers – estimates run as high as 750,000, which would have meant that there was more than one for every four Albanians. These were no family shelters, as might be expected, but strategic positions to which every able-bodied man was expected to head, weapon in hand, at the onset of war. Though Western spies did indeed make attempts to infiltrate the country, the bunkers were never really put to the test. Almost impossible to shift, they’re now a semi-permanent part of Albanian life; young, privacy-seeking couples occasionally put them to interesting use, while in 2011 a festival “Bunker Fest” was launched in celebration of them.