The ATRIUM Cultural Route, which takes a look at a place’s “urban memory” and attempts to understand the traumatic results, makes a stop in the capital, Tirana. For anyone who knows the history of the region and the country, specifically, this will come as no surprise. For the more than forty years, Dictator Enver Hoxha ruled Albania and closed its borders to the rest of the world. In the years since his death, in 1985, and then the fall of the Communist regime, Tirana has fully taken on the subject of Hoxha’s divisive influence on society.
For visitors looking to get a taste of the before and after of the regime, head first to the two BUNK’ART museums. The museums are housed in two of the thousands of bunkers that an increasingly more paranoid Hoxha had built as a system of defence—manned by citizens, who kept an eye out for foreign invaders—throughout the country. BUNK’ART 1 is just outside of town and, according the website, is dedicated to the “history of the Albanian communist army and the daily lives of Albanians during the regime’s years.” BUNK’ART 2, according to the site: “reconstructs the history of the Interior Ministry in Albania from 1912 to 1991 and reveals the secrets of Security, political police which was the fiery weapon of persecution used by the regime of Enver Hoxha.”
After learning more about the history, walk over the city’s Blloku neighborhood, where Hoxha’s former residence still stands. The district was once off limits to regular citizens, or those who were not part of the Communist ruling class. Today, the quarter teems with life and has been completely repurposed with restaurants, cafes, bars, and nightclubs.