Half a day in Kruje

Krujë Travel Blog

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Kruje Castle

My brother was reluctant to do an overnight trip anywhere, as he had quite a lot of stuff he'd brought for work, so we settled on making a day trip somewhere nearby, and Kruje seemed like an obvious choice. Situated in the mountains above Tirana's Rinas Airport, it wouldn't take long to get there, and the town was supposed to be beautiful, so we asked the hotel reception for advice. 

"By bus? Oh I don't know, let me find out." 

The standard response to a question about transport it seems. I mentioned in my previous post that Tirana doesn't have a central bus station, just places where buses and furgons to different places congregate, and only those who use them regularly seem to know where these places are.

Kruje Bazar
The girls at reception had no idea, and spent a while calling different people, even coming up with a definite answer at one point, until a porter overheard and said no, it was definitely in the north east of the city, near a large roundabout called Zogu i Zi. They called a taxi for us, but after waiting a while, we decided walking would be a better bet. I mean, we knew where Zogu i Zi was, and it shouldn't be too hard to find the bus to Kruje, should it?

Wrong! We found what looked like a bus station eventually, but that only dealt with international buses to Kosovo and Greece. Asking around, we found several drivers who were willing to drive us there for silly money. By chance I spotted a furgon driving past the bus station and heading into what looked like a garage forecourt much further down the road.

Inside the citadel in Kruje
Once we'd crossed the busy six lane highway, it turned out to be quite a large furgon station, and even had a timetable on the wall. And there were furgons to Kruje...but we'd just missed one, with the next departure not until lunchtime. So our day trip was half wasted before we'd even left Tirana. We should have waited for that taxi from the hotel.

But it's not far to Kruje, we told ourselves, maybe half an hour? An hour into the journey, and we were stuck in traffic in the neverending northern suburbs of Tirana, Kruje actually visible in the distance but not getting any closer. Roadworks had closed off one lane of the narrow busy road, so it really felt like it would have been quicker to walk. 

Once free of tirana's traffic, we began to climb through forested hillsides, and suddenly there we were, in the high rise new centre of Kruje.

Kruje
The driver told us that he would be returning to Tirana at 4, the last service down to the capital, so that left us with just over 2 hours to explore Kruje. 

Luckily it isn't a huge city. A short walk brought us to a viewpoint, across the rooftops of the old bazaar to the castle high on a cliff above. The bazaar was restored in the 60s, but with wooden shutters and doors, brown tiled roofs and cobbled streets, it's been done well. Instead of a local market, it's very much a tourist attraction with only souvenir stalls lining the narrow main street. The most touristy thing I've seen in Albania, but the odd thing was that apart from us and a couple of other tourists, there was nobody else there. Perhaps October isn't the right month. Or perhaps it was because we'd chosen to come on a Monday, the day when all museums are closed.

The Bektashi teqe in Kruje's Castle
 

The castle was open though. In fact, inside the castle walls is a proper neighbourhood, so it can't really be closed off. Through the gates, the first building you see is the historical museum, a bizarre modern structure which I suppose is meant to look castle-like but unfortunately just looks a bit out of place. Opposite, in a more traditional house, the ethnographic museum looked a better bet, but both were closed. 

I climbed the steep hill to the upper walls of the castle, where a stone tower commanded panoramic views over Kruje in one direction, and down the valley towards Tirana in the other. Looking back down into the castle, it is built on a slope, so again the views are stunning, with the Adriatic just visible in the distance. 

We were approached by a local who wanted us to see the teqe, a building belonging to the Bektashi sufi order, hidden away at the very bottom of the castle.

Kruje
It's the oldest one in Albania apparently, and sits in a nice courtyard with an equally old olive tree in the centre. 

Time was ticking unfortunately, so we made our way back through the bazaar, stopping for a coffee and an ice cream, before taking the last bus back down the hill. It was nice to get out of Tirana for a few hours, but it might have been nicer to spend longer there. 

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Kruje Castle
Kruje Castle
Kruje Bazar
Kruje Bazar
Inside the citadel in Kruje
Inside the citadel in Kruje
Kruje
Kruje
The Bektashi teqe in Krujes Castle
The Bektashi teqe in Kruje's Castle
Kruje
Kruje
Kruje Bazar
Kruje Bazar
Kruje Bazar
Kruje Bazar
Kruje Bazar
Kruje Bazar
Tower in Kruje
Tower in Kruje
Tower in Kruje
Tower in Kruje
Krujë
photo by: maykal