Now that we’ve got a car we can go and explore Albania so on Saturday we headed out of Tirana to Krujë – about an hour’s drive from the capital. Krujë is most famous for its castle, the centre of the Albanian resistance to the Ottoman invasion in the 15th century. It was led by Albania’s most famous hero, Skanderberg, so the castle is more commonly referred to as Skanderberg’s castle. (People still adorn the walls of their homes with paintings of this bloke!)
This was the first place I’ve been to in Albania that was clearly geared up for the tourist trade. The bazaar was filled with the usual tourist tat, along with lovely antiques. The local traders have clocked that rich tourists fancy taking home an authentic Albanian bucket and have stocked their stalls accordingly. I was in antique heaven. So many things I wanted to buy so that I could start furnishing our apartment with old bits of farming equipment. Hubby just laughed at me. Apparently I’m better off going around the village near the family farm and buying things off the locals at a fraction of the price.
Inside the walls of the castle (entrance fee: 100 lek/59p) is a museum tracking the battles to defend Albania from the Ottomans, something Skanderberg was excellent at doing. Unfortunately there was no one to step into his place after his death and as a result, Albania became part of the Ottoman empire for 400 years, only gaining its independence in 1912.
We really enjoyed the smaller ethnographic museum, also inside the castle. It is sited in a traditional Albanian house and its displays show how life was lived 100 years’ ago.
Both museums have a 300 lek (£1.76) entrance fee. We couldn’t figure out if it was because I’m foreign or hubby is Albanian, but we were only charged for one person at each museum. Result!
Krujë and its castle are situated on the mountain – it’s a steep and windy drive up to the top (although the road was in very good condition) – so the most impressive thing in Krujë is the view down across the plains and all the way out to sea. Stunning.
We made the mistake (again) of forgetting that we run on cash only in Albania and forgetting to top up our wallets before we left home. So we were on a bit of a budget for the day which is probably the only thing that saved us from arriving home with an old window frame, a wooden bucket and copper jug – much to hubby’s relief!