Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Beautiful Towns # 5 - Kruja, Albania

This small historic town sits on a steep mountainside north of the capital Tirana. The drive up the winding road full of hairpin turns is thrilling and impossibly scenic, particularly if you're bouncing up and down and hanging on for dear life in the back of a Furgon (An Albanian taxivan).
The town features an old cobbled market bazaar with many brightly-coloured carpets and metalwork for sale, as well as a few souvenirs for the relatively small number of foreign tourists that make it here. Kruja castle is the former stronghold of the country's greatest hero, Skanderbeg, who united the Albanian princes in their fight against the invasion of the Ottoman Turks.
Skanderbeg kept the Ottomans at bay for 35 years (1443 to 1478) during four sieges that were made on the castle. Although he was killed in the final siege and the castle fell shortly after, today he is revered as the greatest of all Albanians. Today a museum to Skanderbeg sits at the centre of the castle complex; it was designed by the daughter and son-in-law of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha and originally contained exhibits where Skanderbeg and Hoxha were given equal billing as heroes of the state. In the modern museum all traces of Hoxha have been removed, and the museum is now dedicated solely to Skanderbeg and provides a broad overview of Albanian history in the Ottoman period.
The town of Kruja and its connection to Skanderbeg continue to be a source of pride and inspiration for all Albanians. Kruja can be reached from Tirana by bus or taxivan and makes an easy daytrip from the capital. There are a number of traditional restaurants in the historic part of the town to try local cuisine.

1 comment: