Underground Gjirokastra tunnel becomes tourist attraction

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 21, 2015 10:40

Underground Gjirokastra tunnel becomes tourist attraction

TIRANA, Aug. 20 – An underground tunnel built by the former politically imprisoned in Gjirokastra, has become a tourist attraction in Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The visitors come mainly from former communist countries and are amazed at the underground passages that would serve as a shelter for the Albanian communist elite in case of a possible Western attack which also urged the Albanian late dictator Enver Hoxha to order the construction of some 500,000 bunkers nationwide.

Temperatures inside the tunnel are at 18 degrees and lighting is modest making only part of the tunnel accessible to tourists, reports VoA in the local Albanian service.

Skerdi Thomai, a tourist official at the municipality of Gjirokastra, describes the tunnel as a shelter which was built between the 1960 and 1970s in 15 years to protect the local political elite from a possible nuclear assault.

The 800-metre long tunnel linked the two most important headquarters of the local communist leaders, the Party’s Committee and the Executive Committee.

The tunnel has about 100 rooms, including offices for the party officials and even the notorious prosecutors of that time.

Representing a history of repression and intrigue for many Gjirokastra residents, the tunnels had been looted and left to decay since the end of communism in Albania. But, to one local NGO, the Gjirokastra Conservation and Development Organization (GCDO), the tunnels provide an opportunity to educate Albanians and tourists about the unpopular history of communism in the country between 1946 and 1991.

Inscribed on UNESCO as a rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period, Gjirokastra, situated in the Drinos river valley in southern Albania, features a series of outstanding two-story houses which were developed in the 17th century. The town also retains a bazaar, an 18th-century mosque and two churches of the same period. The 13th-century citadel provides the focal point of the town with its typical tower houses.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 21, 2015 10:40