Gjirokaster Cold war:
the National Museum of Armaments
Have you ever visited a museum of a museum? Have you ever been to a museum that could be considered itself a relic? Probably not, but this is what we felt when we went inside the Gjirokaster National Museum of Armaments.
The exhibition, located in the stunning castle of Gjirokaster, could be considered itself an untouched relic of the propaganda of the former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha, born exactly in Gjirokaster in 1908.
As written in the official website of Gjirokaster: “Originally opened in 1971, the National Museum of Armaments is located in what was once the part of the prison. The current displays cover Albanian arms from independence in 1912 to the end of World War II, and most of the museum is dedicated to the Partisan struggle against the Italian and German occupation forces from 1939 to 1944.”
Exactly. But the most fascinating thing is that the exhibition has never changed since its opening. You can find the same old maps illustrating the military manouvres, the same rusty frames containing their documents exactly in the same position as 45 years ago. The woman working at the museum, who looked quite melanchonic, showed the exhibition to us and said “nothing has ever changed here.” So true.
I must admit that this kind of things absolutely charmes me, as I feel like jumping back into history, into Gjirokaster Cold war. And I consider absolutely charming the fact that Albania was the only country to get rid of the fascist and nazist brutal invaders, without the support of any other nation.
Unluckily what came after wasn’t much better. The dictatorship of Hoxha was one of the most cruel and dull ever experienced, and made Albania isolated from the rest of the World as much as it is North Korea right now.
In the same location of the museum we find the prisons used by the regime. As cited by the official website of Gjirokaster: “The entrance to the prison is in the first gallery of the National Armaments Museum. Completed in 1932, the prison was used by King Zog’s regime followed by the Italian and German occupation forces during the Second World War, and finally the communist regime until 1968. The only part of the prison that is accessible to visitors was developed as a museum by the communist regime in the 1970s. You may also gain access to the roof of the prison, going up the ramp situated to the right of the main gate.”
Another unique possibility of stepping back into history.
The last imprint of Gjirokaster Cold war is “the remains of a United States Air Force T33 Shooting Star exhibited on the ramparts overlooking the city. The airplane was forced to land at Rinas Airport, near Tirana in December 1957 due to technical problems”, as perfectly explained at the official website of Gjirokaster.
From the top of the castle, where the airplane is located, you will have a wonderful view of the city of Gjirokaster and the mountains surrounding the area. Unmissable.