Durres Travel Blog› entry 9 of 18 › view all entries
I start out the day by finding my way down the main street of Tirana to get to the bus station to go to Durres - on the way I run into the local hustler who tries to hit me for some cash - yeah they even exist in Albania despite the low level of tourism around here. Fortunately there are not that many hustlers around the city and he is the only one I meet in Tirana.
Durres is the old important city in Albania it used to be the main city until the administrative capital was moved from the coast to the central part of the country back in the 1920s.
In the city there is some reminiscent from the old roman times back then the city were already an important port. There were a lot of people living in the city back then - and the Romans liked their entertainment - hence it is not surprisingly you can find an old giant amphitheater in the central part of the city. What is more surprising is when you visit the amphitheater there is houses inside it - and people are still living inside the old walls of the amphitheater. The place had been buried under the soil for hundreds of years and then it was suddenly rediscovered back in the 1960s. But things takes time in Albania - money is tight hence a quick excavation and new housing of the people living inside a historic monument is not on the agenda.
I go in the theater to have a closer look of the place. I start walking a bit around and as I do this suddenly I hear a noise - it is bottle which has been through out of one of the neighboring houses - I don’t think it was actually through at me but it is more a sort of expression of the local attitude toward the history of the country. There is actually not much to see of the theatre which I could not see from the street and I quickly move on to see the rest of the city. I start heading up a hill.
On the hill is one of the one of the famous marks of Albania - the bunkers. Albania is covered in small one man bunkers made of concrete. The bunkers are constructed so they could withstand direct fire from a tank - hence they are virtually indestructible.
The number of bunkers which were built is unknown but estimates are around 700.000. If you want to put it into a bit of perspective then the USA should build about 75 millions if there should be the same number of bunkers per capita as was the case in Albania back in 1985 when the last of the bunkers were build. If there should be the same number of bunkers per square mile in the USA there should be an amazing 240 million bunkers in the USA - of course a great deal of those would be in Alaska. The idea behind the bunkers was every Albanian man capable of using a gun should have a bunker from where he could defend the country.
I was not actually walking up the hill to study the bunkers - it was only a side effect. I was walking up the hill to go and see the old palace of King Zug. He was a bit of a crazy man making himself the king of Albania back in the 1920s - he allied himself with Mussolini but Mussolini did not pay him back the way he expected - instead Mussolini conquered Albania to rule the country as an Italian colony instead. King Zug was not really a man of the people and if you should judge him today his policy was not up to the standards we would like.
His palace is up the hill in an area which is sort of a military area and there is some barbed wire around it. But I am let in to have a look around. The palace has got a really nice location and it probably used to be a very impressive building. But it has fallen into hopeless disrepair. The roof is falling down all over the palace - the floor is destroyed - the railings on the stair have disappeared on certain parts of the stair. I am not sure when exactly the destruction has taken place if it was in the period of use as a military area - or if it happened during the riots in 1997 after the end of the big poonzi like scam which plagued Albania back then.
After the visit to the palace I try to walk further up the hill to a small lighthouse I thought it would be a piece of cake.
Walking down the hill I want to find an old little citadel. I walk back and forth to find this place - but I can’t find it. I am sure I am at the right place so the citadel gotta be right here. Then suddenly I realize I have found the citadel - actually I have been walking around it for a while. The citadel is just not what I expect - like a museum area. Instead the citadel is an integrated part of the city with houses all around inside the place where the citadel used to be.
The last stop I do in the city is a short trip to the old museum in the town. The museum looks really big from the outside - but inside it is not. The museum only uses the ground floor while the rest of the museum is closed.