Classical Tour of Albania

Day 8 - Kruja and Skanderbeg Museum


Birthplace of Skanderbeg and the centre of his resistance against the Ottomanas


We finished a stay in Albania with a visit to Kruja 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.

The road climbs steeply up past large limestone quarries that are used to produce cement.

The castle is set high above the old town and is reached by walking up through the old bazaar.

Kruja

Kruja

This was restored 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.

Old bazaar, Kruja

Old bazaar, Kruja

Old bazaar, Kruja

Old bazaar, Kruja

The castle is surrounded by thick walls and entered through a small gateway.
 
Kruja castle

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.

Skanderbeg Museum, Kruja

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 Scanderbeg leading his troops into battle.
 
Skanderbeg Museum, Kruja

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 more comprehensive and much better. 

Skanderbeg Museum, Kruja

Skanderbeg Museum, Kruja

There is a painting of Kruje in medieval times along with some icons.

Skanderbeg Museum, Kruja

Skanderbeg Museum, Kruja

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 Skanderbeg's helmet and sword. The originals are now in Austria. 

Skanderbeg Museum, Kruja

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.

Kruja

Apart from the house with the Ethnographic museum and the remains of a minaret, little is left inside the castle. It was destroyed when the museum was built.

Kruje Castle

Kruje castle

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