Albania's former communist ruler Enver Hoxha had around 750,000 igloo-shaped bunkers constructed across the country in the 1970s and 1980s. Hoxha feared foreign invaders and built the concrete structures to offer his people shelter in an emergency -- or as a place from which to attack potential enemies. The bunkers reflect the dictator's unparalleled paranoia. Iva Shtrepi wants to re-purpose these redundant gray concrete domes, as proposed for a university thesis that has been brought to life as a research project. They're converting a former bunker into a hostel that will provide space for up to eight people.
Tourists will be able to gaze out on the beautiful countryside through the bunker's gun slits, and dream beneath a concrete dome 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) thick. Perhaps they will even spare a thought for the dictator who had hundreds of thousands of these bunkers built, and made Albania one of the world's most isolated countries.
The German-Albanian tourism project is meant to primarily benefit local residents. The bunker that the students are currently transforming into a cozy igloo-style hostel -- with wood floors, mattresses for lounging on, a shower and a kitchenette -- is just a prototype. If backpackers like it, many other bunkers could be converted into accommodation in the same way. Officially, the bunkers belong to the country's Defense Ministry, but usage rights have been granted to the private individuals who own the property on which they stand.