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albanian-bunkerSaranda, Albania.  Standing on a hilltop here overlooking the Adriatic arm of the Mediterranean, you can’t help but be mesmerized by the beauty of the scene, the Adriatic coastline, “the wine-dark sea” as Homer so often described it, and off the coast the Greek island of Corfu.  Yet you can’t help being puzzled by the small mound of concrete in the foreground.  What is that, you ask?

It’s a one-man pillbox bunker with a slit in front for the soldier to fire at Albania’s enemies about to invade during the Cold War.  Stalinist madman Enver Hoxha ruled Albania for forty years, from the end of WWII to his death in 1985. During which he built 750,000 of these bunkers in a country barely bigger than Massachusetts (11,000 square miles).  He maintained his Fascist-Communist rule of total control by constantly claiming that Albania was surrounded by neighbor enemies – Yugoslavia, Greece, and Italy – all of whom were preparing to militarily invade, seize, and destroy Albania at any moment. For forty years.

With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Albania quickly liberated itself from its Communist past.  Today it is stunningly gorgeous, a delight to travel through.  The mushroom bunkers still litter the countryside, kept as a reminder of how history can go lunatic, and for Albanians to make sure such madness never happens to them ever again. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #296, photo ©Jack Wheeler)