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Albania Albanian Road Trip - November 2018

The_Raw

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Albania is one of those countries where I didn't really know what to expect. Recent history saw the collapse of communism in the 90s which caused the economy to crash. Since then It has made remarkable economic progress, growing from one of the poorest nations in Europe to a middle-income country, with poverty declining by half during that period. We travelled from north to south and back again taking in a few places along the way. The people are friendly, the food is good, it has decent weather, and everything is extremely cheap. Here's some of what I got up to with Adders, extreme_ironing, Otter and Reenie.

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In the main square of Tirana the National History Museum has this famous mosaic called 'The Albanian' on the front. It tells the story of how Albanians have fought against invasion and occupation throughout the centuries.

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 Just down the road are these colourful government buildings

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In the middle of the countryside we passed this communist monument, the 5 red stars symbolising communist ideology

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Shëngjin Naval Base

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After an epic fail elsewhere we headed to this small naval base which turned out to be pretty cool. I've already written a separate report on this so I won't include much about it here.​

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Fier Power Plant

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Fier Power Station was Albania's largest thermal power plant having 6 identical groups of 31 MW each, totalling a capacity of 186 MW. The plant was decommissioned in 2007. Much of the site next to it was a fertiliser factory powered by the plant. The whole site has been completely stripped now, leaving just bland shells of buildings. The imposing chimneys and cooling towers however remain visible for miles as a reminder of its former importance. 

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Old security office next to the original gate

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Always wanted a shot of adders pissing

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Cooling tower ladders have long since been removed

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The best bit about this place was taking in the views from one of the factory towers, although the staircase was a bit of a headfuck

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Factory buildings below

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The turbine hall. Amazingly two security guys appeared from nowhere and made us leave before we could grab any shots of the inside. You're really not missing much though as the turbines have been removed along with everything else. Why anyone is securing it is completely beyond me!



Kombinati Metalurgjik, Elbasan



Elbasan is located about 50km from the capital of Albania, Tirana. The Kombinati Metalurgjik steel works, a flagship of the Albanian industry, was built between the 1960s and 1970s. The complex was built by Chinese engineers with the assistance of Albanian specialists. The levels of pollution caused by the plant were the subject of much controversy in the 90s. The size of the site is colossal but only a few buildings remain operational today. Much of it is derelict beyond repair or has already been flattened. 

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Most of the buildings you see in the distance here are barely standing. You can see the remains of a blast furnace to the left.

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The only buildings worth a look were located right next to the live site. This one was locked up tight with several dogs acting as security inside.

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Next door a few buildings were wide open

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Buckets for pouring molten steel

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Small control room. After this we went back to the car and found an old man shaking his walking stick at us angrily so we left.

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There were a few more buildings full of stuff that we didn't manage to get into as they were well locked up. Definitely a bit more to see here I think but nothing too epic.



Përrenjas - Locomotive Graveyard

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The country's first standard gauge line was built in 1947. From then on the construction of the country's rail network underwent significant development as Albania was considered to be the only state in Europe not to have standard rail service. By 1987, 677 km of railway had been constructed in total, linking the main urban and industrial centres for the first time since the end of World War II. Train transport was the main transportation method until 1990. After the collapse of Communism, and increase in use of motor vehicles, the network fell into disrepair. Today the country's rail network is almost entirely defunct. In Përrejas we visited this group of abandoned diesel ČKD T669 locomotives.

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Përrenjas abandoned station. There was a man inside there who didn't appreciate us climbing on the trains

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Pyramid of Tirana

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On 14 October 1988, the pyramid opened as a museum about the legacy of Enver Hoxha, the long-time leader of Communist Albania, who died in 1985. When built, the pyramid was said to be the most expensive individual structure ever constructed in Albania. After 1991, following the collapse of Communism, the museum closed and for several years it was repurposed as a conference centre and exhibition venue. During the 1999 Kosovo War, the former museum was used as a base by NATO and humanitarian organisations. Since 2001, part of the Pyramid has been used as a broadcasting centre by Albanian media outlets Top Channel and Top Albania Radio. Numerous proposals have been made to demolish the structure but the majority of Tirana's citizens are against the demolition. In 2017 it was announced that the pyramid will not be demolished, but refurbished. In 2018, a new project was unveiled that would turn the Pyramid into a technology centre for youth focused on computer programming, robotics, and start ups.

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Inside I bumped into a sleepy eyed squatter who invited me to take a look around.

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We meant to have a pop at this under construction skyscraper overlooking the main square but unfortunately ran out of time

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Not a particularly impressive view from up here but certainly a unique one

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A few friends we made along the way

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A bunker full of goats all set for the apocalypse. Just one of the 173,371 bunkers in Albania!

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Thanks for looking!​




 
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obscureserenity

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Wow! Top notch stuff as always mate, especially liking the animal shots! Looks like you had a good trip :)  

 

AndyK!

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It's like you went to literally every place I had planned to visit in Albania! Thoroughly cracking job though, and thanks for the update on the power plant - I didn't know the turbines had gone!

 
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