Gjirokastra

Gjirokastra is another world heritage town further south, less than 30km from the Greek border. It seems that every town in Albania has several hundred meters to climb on steep, cobblestoned alleys from one side to the other, and Gjirokastra is no exception. It so happened that the bus stop is at the bottom and my chosen hotel at the top. In between is a gleaming white Ottoman-era old town, centered on the bazaar neighborhood.

Also at the top is an amazingly well-preserved castle with imposing arched hallways, now housing WWII guns, and a tiny Fiat tank that looks like its mother had an affair with a steam locomotive. It seems that they were no good in battle and only three are still in existence.

Deep underneath the castle is a huge depressing bunker made from connected tunnels where all the important people were supposed to be when any of the communist leader Enver Hoxha’s numerous enemies decided to attack. It was finished in 1980 and never used.

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