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Kruje Travel Blog

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Skanderbeg statue in Kruje

I will go and visit the castle of the most important Albanian hero today he was an Albanian prince given as hostage to the Ottomans who converted him to Islam and gave him an education. His name is Gjergj Kastrioti - fortunately the Ottomans realized you could not market a man with the name Kastrioti as a national hero on the western European market the name just give too much resembles to another word. Hence the Ottomans quickly changed his they named his Iskander after Alexander the Great.  He rose through the rakes in the Ottoman army and achieved the rank of governor or bei - this title was added to his name which turned into the name he is known under today Skanderbeg.

The walls of Skanderbegs fortress

 

He served under the Ottomans for years until the Ottomans suffered a defeat against the Hungarians in 1443. This gave Skanderbeg the opportunity he had been waiting for and he left the Ottoman army to lead the Albanian rebellion against the Ottomans. The Ottoman soon came to regret they had named him after Alexander the Great because for the next 25 years he kept fighting the Ottomans and he managed to repulse 13 consecutive invasions. He was named the captain general of the Holy See by the pope and was the main European resistance against the Ottomans during this period. The Ottomans besieged his main base in Kruja 4 times but every time they failed in their attempt to conquered the city.

 

Skanderbeg were never defeated by the Ottomans but died by disease shortly after the last time the Ottomans had laid siege to Kruja. After Skanderbeg died the resistance quickly faded away and the Ottomans managed to take full control over Albania and they were in control until 1912 when Albania finally got their independence.

Looking down towards the lower parts of the fortress
In Albania there seem to be a feeling that Skanderbeg resistance during a period when the Ottomans military strength were at its peak help prevent the rest of Europe from being conquered by the Ottomans.

 

I want to go and see this city which played such an important role in Albanian history. I go down the streets of Tirana to go find a furgon (small minibus) to get to Kruja. I find the place where the furgons to Kruja is leaving from and there is all ready a couple of people sitting inside. I guess a couple of locals are going the same way - or that is what I assumed until they started speaking English with an American accent. I guess I am not the only tourist going to this tourist place. We wait for about 5 minutes more until the furgon is filled up with passengers and then we leave for Kruja - it is only a short ride of about an hour or so.

 

When we get to Kruja we get out of the furgon and starts to get going to the castle of the city - but as we are walking down the road a huge bus is coming - and it is a tourist bus full of Japanese tourist.

Always constructions going on all over Albania
I guess the Japanese just go anywhere in the world - even to the last frontier in Europe. Then something amazing happens - just after the first bus has overtaken us another bus full of German tourist arrives - ok we don’t really know if they are German but they were wearing socks in sandals - which according to conventional wisdom would make them German or Swedish - and only a few countries will have enough tourist to actually fill a busload of tourist to go to Albanian - hence they had to be German.

 

I talk a bit with the Americans and we all agree it is better to go for a cup of coffee and let the crowd just pass us before we go to the castle. We walk through a small market street full of people selling carpets and other souvenirs - this gotta be the touristiest street in all of Albania. When we are sitting drinking coffee yet another busload of tourist arrives making it a total of three busloads in Albania - considering the number of tourist in the country this might just be half the total population of foreign tourist in all of Albania this particular day.

The roof within the mosque inside the fortress
We continue our guessing of nationality of the passengers - and we figure we have already covered German and Japanese - hence this bunch gotta be either British or American - and they just don’t look heavy enough to be American so they must be British. Ok enough of my unfair judgment of stereotypes of different nationalities for now.

 

We go up to the castle and one of the first things we see is a big museum. And it is quite obvious that this museum is new - it looks brand new like it is only a few years old. Actually the Albanian is not very good at restoring their old heritage - they do it in a way so you can see it is all brand new. We go into the museum - and the principal of restoration also seems to affect the artifacts on display - several of them looks like copies of the original artifacts which have been reconstructed by the local fifth grade class in art class. The best thing of the museum is actually the view from the second floor terrace.

 

We get out of the museum and have a look around the old castle it is sort of interesting the way people is still living inside the old castle and people have probably been living inside the castle ever since the days of Skanderbeg.

Inside the teke in the fortress

 

Even though the castle is not very big it is actually possible to find a bit of the castle where the tourist do not go. It seems like the tourist only go to the museum and the top part of the castle but if you walk a bit down the castle there is a small mosque where not very many people comes. A local let us into the mosque to have a look. Inside there is the tombs of some dead people. I have no idea who they are and the local man is not much help given he speaks no English or German whatsoever. But is a nice little mosque with some drawings on top. The reason the mosque survived the communist era seems to be it was declared a cultural monument - hence the bulldozer where not put in to level it to the ground.

 

Next to the mosque is a small building - it is a style of building I have never seen before. It seems to be a really important building given the local man is very keen for us to see it.

Skanderbeg on his horse with his goathelmet
We guess it is probably a teke -which is a special building used by Bektashi order of Islam as a house of prayers. The Bektashi order is actually pretty important in Albania which also used to house the world headquarter of the Bektashi order. Actually the Bektashi order got some pretty important deviations from the other orders of Islam. They drink alcohol and eat pork - but they do not eat rabbit nobody seems to know why they don’t eat rabbit if there is a special reason for this or if they just picked an animal by random and came up with rabbit. This actually means this order of Islam has gotten rid of my two main problems with Islam as a religion - I think I could live with the not eating rabbit part of the religion.

 

After a bit more walking around it is time to leave the castle and get some lunch before the road will take me back to Tirana.

tj1777 says:
Thx for the info. I didnt notice the names on the tombs. The people at the hostel I stayed at in Tirana told me the story about the Bektashi not eating rabbits. It sounded a bit strange - but he seemed to know what he was talking about - I guess he didnt.
Posted on: Feb 21, 2011
era24 says:
Oh that's a story about that mosque. It's of Bektashi order and if you read the names in all the tombs inside and outside, you should have realize that all the surnames are Dollma. Even the mosque is called : Dollma teqe! They are the Bektashi people who "worked" for that mosque, 'cause every night, before the sunset there must be lit a "candle" (exactly its a cup of oil and inside it there is a small piece of cotton). Generally people go there in the afternoon and its not true that they don't eat rabbit, Bektashi is a very tolerant religion. As I see, you haven't visit the ethnography museum... it's an old one! Maybe next time :)
Posted on: Feb 21, 2011
tj1777 says:
Then I dont know if you can join. I am not sure if it mandatory to eat pork to be accepted.
Posted on: Apr 21, 2009
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Skanderbeg statue in Kruje
Skanderbeg statue in Kruje
The view of the city of Kruje
The view of the city of Kruje
The walls of Skanderbegs fortress
The walls of Skanderbegs fortress
Looking down towards the lower par…
Looking down towards the lower pa…
Always constructions going on all …
Always constructions going on all…
The roof within the mosque inside …
The roof within the mosque inside…
Inside the teke in the fortress
Inside the teke in the fortress
Skanderbeg on his horse with his g…
Skanderbeg on his horse with his …
The view of the city of Kruje
The view of the city of Kruje
The view of the city of Kruje
The view of the city of Kruje
The museum in the old fortress
The museum in the old fortress
Looking down towards the lower par…
Looking down towards the lower pa…
The soccer stadium in Kruje
The soccer stadium in Kruje
The city of Kruje
The city of Kruje
Watchtower in the fortress - looks…
Watchtower in the fortress - look…
The walls of the fortress in Kruje
The walls of the fortress in Kruje
Rocks at the back of the fortress
Rocks at the back of the fortress
Watchtower
Watchtower
The walls of Skanderbegs fortress
The walls of Skanderbegs fortress
Some important people burried with…
Some important people burried wit…
The paintings on the walls of the …
The paintings on the walls of the…
Inside the teke in the fortress
Inside the teke in the fortress
The bastion of the fortress
The bastion of the fortress
Walls of the fortress
Walls of the fortress
The new museum within the fortress
The new museum within the fortress
The fortress in Kruje
The fortress in Kruje
Skanderbeg statue in Kruje
Skanderbeg statue in Kruje
The market street
The market street
Kruje
photo by: EmEm