GES102 - Porto Palermo Submarine Base, Albania
Whilst looking through threads on Lonely Planet's online temple to globetrotting, Thorntree. I came across a remark about a Submarine base being abandoned and visible from the road. Intrigued I made a mental note of it, as I was rather taken by another explorers trip to one in France.
I had hired a car for 2 days to look around Albania's southern charms, and was heading back to Tiranë on day two from Sarande. Driving using a style i'd acquired from having played every Grand Theft Auto game released, Hendrix blasting out of the stereo to keep me company. I passed through endless villages separated by horrifying hairpin bends, most littered with recent rockfall. At one point I drove into the clouds and couldn't see more than a car's length ahead, forcing me to finally slow down. As I passed through the village of Porto Palermo, I glmpsed the view below.
I pulled over on the edge of the road, and grabbed a closer shot. It all looked deserted with overgrown buildings sans windows. Two boats that looked like fishing vessels appeared to be occupying the former sub base entrance.
I drove around the corner to the top of the base, and found somewhere to park. In my nice DKNY jeans and special sun and sweat proof Nike top, looked at ways to descend. It initially looked like there were some established paths down. However these expired as I descended. I ended up ploughing through an endless maze of shrubs and bushes that had been sneakily infiltrated by brambles. Brambles only to happy to rip the shit out of my clothes. Bugger.
As i got down to the buildings at the bottom of the slop above, I found them somewhat predictably to be missing anything of interest. Just bland empty shell buildings.
Amazingly from the outside, they were also distinctly uninteresting and decidedly bland.
It was after passing the above buildings I noticed some more buildings which were certainly lacking the abandoned look. In fact they had all their glass, curtains and a car parked outside. Hmmm. As I approached this area of what looks like some kind of outdoor activity area, I was lucky enough to be met by a group of dogs. Dogs that liked barking. Dogs that liked barking loudly! They were obviously trained alert dogs, rather than attack dogs. They just followed me down to the sea at a set distance, barking all the time. I tried several attempts to shush them, but to no avail.
I grabbed a shot of the entrance to the sub base. It was then that i noticed what looked like fishing boats, were actually of a more official looking purpose. With the dogs still barking behind me, I had the feeling my time here was limited, so ventured away from what might be a sensitive area. The blue door near the entrance teasingly out of reach. I think this is actually some sort of coastguard base now.
Something I hadn't spotted from the road was a set of slowly rusting Anti-Aircraft guns sat on the beach.
Looking down the barrel of a gun.
It was after taking the above picture that the inevitable happened. The dogs still barking, I heard a "Heyyyy" shouted at me. I turned around to be met by two meaty guys in civilian dress, and a chap wearing naval attire with a sailors hat. Oops! Fortunately I didn't speak Albanian, and he didn't speak English. I tried to explain I was just a tourist taking pictures. And how I thought it was abandoned. Pointing at the shagged buildings. I think the meaty chaps wanted some action taken. The navy chap made a phone call to someone. I heard the words 'photographica' and 'tourista'. Maybe the secret to speaking Albanian is adding an 'a' to English words. As he was talking I sheepishly tried to tuck my ludicrously large camera under my armpit. Eventually he said 'no photographica' and escorted me up the path. He then pointed to the small road that lead up to the main road. And walked off. So I did the walk of shame. One of the alert dogs was still frigging barking at me. Even as i was high up on the road as in the first photo on this page, he was still barking. git. I grabbed another shot of some buildings with lorries in as I walked up to the main road.
It was only as I walked up the road I was able to take stock of my clothes, which had seen better days. Sadly I didn't see as much as I wanted too, but maybe other explorers armed with pepperoni or a drugged steak will do better. Getting into the sub base would be a worthy cause indeed.