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Review: Historical Museum - Kruja

Attraction - Museum

Rruga Kala, Kruja, 1501

All you need to know about Albania's national hero Skanderbeg

  • By SilverTraveller HMJ

    734 reviews

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  • September 2019
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41 people found this review helpful

The museum in Kruja’s Castle is referred to in our Bradt guide to Albania as the Historical Museum, whilst the museum information board calls it the National Museum ‘Gjergj Kastrioti, Skanderbeg’. To complicate matters further, Kruja (the spelling in Bradt which I’m using), can also be spelt Kruje.

The museum, resembling a castle in design was made from beautiful pale stone. Having seen ugly communist era blocks of flats, I found it hard to imagine that it had been designed and built during the same period by Pranvera Hoxha, daughter of the communist leader, Enver, and her husband, Pirro Vaso.

This museum is dedicated to Albania’s national hero, Skanderbeg, who I’d never heard of. Having been told that western Europe would be talking Turkish if he’d not prevented the Ottomans advancing further, I found it hard to understand why he’s not more well known in our history. Afterwards, I found an article written in 2018, 550 years after his death, asking the same question. I also found there is a statue of him in London.

In the museum’s porchway was a high mural and at the entrance was a huge relief of Skanderbeg wearing his trademark goat’s head helmet surrounded by his soldiers.

The displays on the ground floor were pots, coins and jewellery from the Illyrian (600 years BC), Roman and Byzantine periods. I was fascinated by a bust of Pirro or Phyrrus (319BC to 272BC) who was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome. His costly successes giving rise the phrase pyrrhic victory.

Other rooms contained maps and murals depicting Albania’s struggle against the Ottomans and Skanderbeg’s role.

We saw stone models of Albania’s main castles, which had been built at distances across the country that allowed them to communicate by flares. Mary, our guide, pointed out her family’s house on the model of Kruja.

The long central hall, festooned with flag standards down the side, had a mural at the end, ‘Death of Skanderbeg’ along with a replica of the Skanderbeg helmet and sword (the originals are in a museum in Vienna).

At a mural of Skanderbeg and his people, Mary explained that the faces had been real people and pointed out her brother as a young boy and a neighbour.

A room replicated Skanderbeg’s office with large chair, desk and documents and pictures showing the links he had with other countries and the depth of his involvement in trying to prevent the Ottomans expanding further. In another large gallery were artists’ impressions of what they thought Skanderbeg had looked like.

At one point we went out onto a large viewing area where we saw high on the top of a hill the Bektashi Temple of Sari Salltiku.

There was a statue of Lek Dukagjini who developed codes for blood feuds, which was an ancient mechanism for resolving conflicts between clans. These feuds were suppressed under the Communist regime but, after this system collapsed in the early 1990s, traditional ways of resolving conflicts resurfaced.

The final room contained communist era Skanderbeg propaganda.

As Kruja is only 30 km from the capital, Tirana, it is often done as a day trip: however, as we had plenty of time, we chose to spend two nights in the small town at the Hotel Panorama. This enabled us to make an early start on our visit to the castle and museum and consequently we had the place to ourselves. Just as we were leaving the large tour groups were arriving.

Contrary to our Bradt guidebook, signs were in English and Albanian and whilst it would be easy to navigate your way around on your own, our guide added much more to our visit.

The castle is also mentioned in ESWs review of Kruje.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 3 Comment(s)

  • HMJ
    12 months ago
    ESW - Having read your review, I suspected that I'd found it more interesting. Possibly helped by a number of factors: the fact that the information boards are now in English; it was very quiet and we had our own guide who had a real connection with the museum having seen it being built.

    discerning-traveller - thanks for your comments and what an interesting fact. It's certainly worth thinking about a holiday there before it becomes too touristy.
  • discerning-traveller
    12 months ago
    Very interesting, thank you.Many years ago I used to collect warm clothes to send on a lorry to Albania. i'd not thought to visit but I enjoy visiting Eastern Europe.
  • ESW
    12 months ago
    It sounds as if you got a lot more from your visit than we did... I enjoyed the first part of the museum but got completely lost in the very lomg and very detailed discussions about Skanderbeg given by our guide. By the time we got to the viewing area the group had lost the will to live!