28 Mar Looking for military maps
One of the most important ingredients for successful field work is good maps. The maps of Albania currently available on the market contain gross inaccuracies and don’t have the right scale to display all the dusty backroads that Google Maps and Wikimapia seem to indicate. The only publicly available maps with some detail are the 1:50,000 Soviet Topographical Maps, downloadable on Bunker Trails. The downside of these maps is that they are based on Italian data from the 1930s and are in Russian. It therefore contains few roads built during communism and you need to be able to read the Cyrillic transliteration of Albanian in order to make sense of them.
So together with geographer and collaborator Matthias Bickert we went on a reconnaissance mission to find the Institute of Military Geography, where legend has it that there are 1:10,000 scale maps that even mark cultural monuments with a specific sign. If only!…
Although I read somewhere that the previous government had attempted to privatize it somehow, it apparently still existed, and Matthias had found a lead through the Department of Geography of the University of Tirana where he teaches. Apparently it was up somewhere in Tufinë, in the outskirts (or in geospeak “rurban” areas) of Tirana. After asking around for awhile and visiting one of the military bases, we finally found a sign pointing us up a mud road toward another army base. We got our visitor badges and were introduced to the director who showed us the 1:10,000 and 1:25,000 maps from the Soviet period, neither of which consistently showed all lapidars. Larger monuments and martyrs’ cemeteries were indeed marked out, but it would require an enormous work to go through all the maps by hand looking for tiny gravestone icons. So now our last hope for a full overview of all monuments is the elusive 1945-90 archive of the Institute of Monuments.