The people, the people, the people

Kruje Travel Blog

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To truly see a place you have to see it from the eyes of others. Albania is a place where you cannot see the true beauty in the scenery until you really get to know the people. The people here have got to be among the most hospitable on the planet, that’s for sure. If you are their guest you are like King of the House. This was proven during WWII where Albania was a stainless nation, with not one Jew being handed over to the Nazis! I lived here for 4 months and Kruje is no exception. I now have a second family in Albania, and would be very proud to call this place home. Amidst their severe powercuts and infrequent water, people here deal with a lot and bear it with dignity.


I just love to sit back and just listen to my host family as they talk. Their interactions, they seem almost magical to me.  The beauty of it all - the sincerity. I love being able to understand, to share in it  – I cannot get over how much faster I am learning it compared to my last language. And Oh the beauty of age never does cease to amaze me. Looking into the eyes of wisdom – of years of knowledge wrapped up in memories I have yet to and may never experience. The youth that still shines – the cheekiness that exudes joy. Oh the beauty of age. As I watch two friends one telling the other how to take their medication, I just smile and think about the years these two gorgeous ladies have lived through. I think about what they have seen and experienced, the everyday hardships, living through a communist rule. It is truly humbling and makes me feel rather small and ignorant in this journey called life.

I think about the beauty that you can see lived through the lines on the faces of these ladies, think about how beautiful they would have been in their ‘prime’ and how time has blessed them now with greater beauty. Age is the essence to true beauty as it enables the heart to mature and the inner aspects of beauty to appear.


Exploring the centre of town doesn’t take long and from pretty much anywhere you can look up to see Gjergj Kastrioti, or Skanderbeg as you may know of him on his stallion overlooking the town which could not be penetrated by the Turks, under his leadership. Looking to the far right you see Kalaja in the distance, it’s an impressive sight. Kruje, famed through out Albania for its castle which it has turned into an impressive museum of Albanian history. The history repeats itself in this day – through its people. They are fighters, trying to make their mark anyway they can. It has the curse of small towns - many flee.  To make their fortunes, and to give back to their families.


But that is the great thing about Kruja, it has tourism so the growth here will continue no doubt. It’s all about whanau (family for the non- kiwis) and this is reflected in the warm reception you get from all when you meet. Women greet with a handshake and 3 cheek kisses changing from cheek to cheek as you go. And usually men to men, and men to women just use a handshake. They really do welcome you with open arms, just today I was talking with a local woman and explaining that I live with a family here in Kruje and she said You should be living with me. People here love company and appreciate their loved ones so much they will never let you forget it.


I helped my house mother Lume in making her Raki (the local alcohol – it’s potent!).  So I carried numerous buckets of Kombolart (or plums) to her contraption. It consists of a fire and a device that looks like an oversized coffee maker (you know the real kind, non-american) and as far as I could see it works like that too.  The fruit which has been left to rot for a month is placed in the bottom over the fire and then the Raki goes up to the top compartment and through the pipe which then goes through the water which acts as the cooling agent. It then goes through a filter at the end and into the bottle. After a taste test from Lume, it is either filtered again into the storage bottle or biffed. It is quite the process.


How can you not love a place where chickens run along the top of garden walls and every night without fail there is a perfect sunset. Now don’t get me wrong I know I come from the place of killer sunsets but here there is something different about them. It’s like they are so unnoticed here and in that there is extravagant, simple beauty.

Sure the power might not come and you are forced to have an early night – but is that really a bad thing? No there is something incredible here, and part of me doesn’t want to leave. 


So this was my time in my Kruje, Shqepria. It was real life, a true experience. Who knows I may return one day, only God knows that. Throughout my journey I was privileged to run activities and hang out with some of the teenage girls and volunteered teaching English. But over all I went to learn. I learnt many lessons from these amazing people from a land where in many regards time has forgotten. But that my friend is the beauty of the land we call Albania.


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There is a national pride that remains in Kruje and Krujtanes are very proud of their national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti (Skendebeg). If you come to Kruj… read entire review
204 km (127 miles) traveled
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photo by: EmEm