Communist Albania was the most isolated nation in Europe. Fearing the invasion, his regime built a top secret nuclear bomb bunker. Today that bunker has become a tourist attraction.
The road could not be seen. A long tunnel, dug through the opposite hill, was the only gateway. And it wasn't located in a part where you could accidentally come across, it was at the entrance to a military base. In total, the tunnel (198 meters) is almost twice as long as a football field and at the end there is an institutional building.
This is Bunk'Art 1, and a few minutes walk along the next path, lead to one of the most secret hiding places of the Cold War.
Enver Hoxha has been the Albanian dictator for four decades. Since the end of World War II in the mid-1940s, 80 has ruled the country with a Stalinist brand of autarchy designed to transform Albania into a modern independent country. It was a completely unique journey: his adherence to Marxism-Leninism allowed a small deviation in his idea. Albania broke off relations with Yugoslavia in the 1948, the Soviet Union in the 1961 and China in the 1979, all due to an alleged abandonment of socialist duty.
From this came paranoia. Hoxha, a former partisan who had fought the Germans in World War II, believed that the enemies from both east and west planned to invade Albania. He ordered a huge bunker construction program, which would have allowed Hoxha, while the Albanian citizens faced the enemy, to command the resistance in peace.
The 0774 implant is the result of the unique paranoia of Hoxha. Built between the 1972 and the 1978, it boasts more than 300 rooms spread over five underground levels, mostly at the foot of the Dajti mountain, east of the capital. In the event of an enemy invasion, the entire defense of the country would have been organized from here. There would be up to 300 people inside, including the country's staff. Food, water and fuel would have been enough for a year.
The bunker was built in complete secrecy. It was used for the last time by the Albanian army for exercises in the 1999, only to fall into ruin. Only in the 2014 was it reopened thanks to the efforts of the Italian journalist Carlo Bollino, who wanted to bring this relic of the isolated Albanian past into the spotlight. And he did it and not only, because in his plans there is also that of proposing a theater to make visitors relive past characters.
Meanwhile, Bunk'Art - who has tried to remain as politically neutral as possible, without departing from the facts of Albanian communist isolation - is becoming a reason to visit Tirana. The complex's managers say they have begun to receive much more interest from visitors from the United Kingdom, the United States and even New Zealand.
This article was originally published in English on the BBC with the title "The nuclear bunker in 'Europe's North Korea'"
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