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Review: Kruje

City/Town/Region/Island

Albania

The Birthplace of Skanderbeg and his memorial museum

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    1856 reviews

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  • March 2017
  • On your own

Kruja is a small town in the mountains to the north of Tirana. The area has been fortified since ancient times and was the centre of resistance to C15th Ottoman invasion lead by Skanderbeg who was born in the town. It is the Skanderbeg connection which brings the tourists.

This was another fortified settlement like Gjirokastra and Berat, in the 1960s and the wooden shops and cobbled street have an authentic Ottoman feel. It sells everything from antiques to metal helmets to tourist souvenirs and silver jewellery. Be prepared to haggle.

The castle us surrounded by thick walls and entered through a small gateway. The inside is dominated by the massive Skanderbeg Museum which was opened in 1982. It is very much a shrine to a national hero and is very popular with Albanians. There is little information in English so the average visitor may leave not much wiser unless on a conducted tour. We had a local guide who did his best to enthuse us, but it was an uphill struggle. The acoustics of the building are not good and sound reverberates round the space making it difficult to hear what the guide is saying. There are very few places to sit and rest. Although there are signs everywhere banning photography we were told it was allowed but without flash.

As you enter there is a large diorama of Skanderbeg leading his troops into battle.

The ground floor rooms have displays from Illyrian, Roman and early Middle ages. There is a large mural showing the Roman fighting the Illyrians and examples of pottery from those times. The displays in the National Historical Museum in Tirana or the museum at Apollonia are much better. In the next room is a painting of Kruje in medieval times along with some icons.

The upper floors tell the story of Albania’s struggle against the Ottomans using maps, and paintings, like the massive ‘Endurance’ which is a generalised depiction of Skanderbeg’s battles over 25 years. In front on the red cloth are replicas of his helmet and sword. The originals are now in Austria.

On the upper floors are documents (untranslated) showing links Albania developed with other European countries in Skanderbeg’s time, focusing on his diplomatic efforts to rally support for the resistance as well as copies of all the books that have been written about Skanderbeg.

A door leads out onto a terrace with good views of the castle and surrounding area.

Apart from the house with the Ethnographic Museum which is well worth visiting and the remains of a minaret, little is left inside the castle. The rest was destroyed when the museum was built.

Kruja is a pleasant town and the old bazaar is a good place to buy souvenirs and holiday gifts. The Skanderbeg Museum however is a bit turgid and can be missed unless you are really ‘into’ Skanderbeg.

There are more pictures here.

This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 2 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    9 days ago
    Albana had been 0n the 'todo' list for several years before I eventually got there, and delivered in bucketfuls. I had done quite a bit of preliminary reading up about the history before I went which was extremely useful as you do need to understand something of the history to understand Albania and what you are seeing. It is beginning to appear on the tourist itineraries, so I enjoyed visiting before it is discovered by the masses.

    Serbia and some of the surrounding countries are now on the list to visit.
  • da_outaouais
    9 days ago
    I'm glad to see people taking interest in Europe's lesser-known - and less tourist-thronged - corners. After taking a trip to Serbia, I found real gems of places and experiences with just a little bit of effort, and it paid off. Skanderbeg features large in Serbian history too, so that's where I first learned of him. I think that under an hour of internet historical research on Albania and its history, before going, would open MANY doors there (as it did in Serbia, and other similar places I've been). You also might make a good impression on the locals, that you've "heard of" their national hero, or took the time to learn about them. Your reward will be in the form of friendlier, more helpful service, and/or some worthwhile local recommendations, which will pay dividends when the touristic sites are poorly prepared for English-speaking travellers. Incidentally, Italian is often spoken as a second language in Albania, so if you speak ANY, it might help you out in situations where your communication seems stumped.