Who knows the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg1certainly knows that his name is associated with the city Krujawhere Skanderbeg was born. Under his leadership, the city resisted Ottoman siege for 25 years. Unfortunately, after Skanderbeg's death, Kruja was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.
Kruja is located about 30 km from Tirana (http://a-trips.sk/tirana/). It is easily accessible from any major city by local transport. In the beginning I hesitated to really go, but it was worth it and I can tell you that the transportation was trouble-free.
If you are interested in Kruja and would like to learn something new, eventually share your experience, you can find us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/497006187815274/?ref=bookmarks
Our adventure began at the stationi i autobuseve2 in Durres, where I was running around among many buses in the morning. The station is a large parking lot full of buses. Every bus has a destination sign, but I could not find the one with the words "Fushë Krujë". A group of smoking drivers watched me for a moment. Then they showed me the right direction for the bus we needed. Buses to Fushë Krujë do not stop directly at the station, but a few steps away. Along the road 2 minibuses with a sign F.Kruje were standing. In Albania, the travel system is 'when the bus is full, then it leaves'. I had this information before, so I hoped we wouldn't wait for the bus long.
I just left this thought in my mind and the bus moved. From our arrival to departure, it has been no more than 5 minutes to guess. As for the quality of travel, it was an older minibus of course without air conditioning. Air supply was provided by open windows. Traveling was quite comfortable. Our Albanian passengers were very silent and the driver took us to the place. A moment later we stopped on the street in Fushë Krujë. A young man emerged from behind us, willing to take us to the bus departure point directly to Kruje. The disadvantage of this travel is that you need to know exactly where the buses are parked. It does not mean that when you get off somewhere, you will find the next bus you need to change in the same place. The main road in Fushë Krujë was dug up. A new bridge over the river was built here.
We just moved a bit and on the way the young Albanian told us a few words about himself and wondered where we were from and what we were doing here. "It is not the first time we are here"3. This sentence surprised him because, like all Albanians, he was amazed at what was pulling us here. I tried to explain to him that his country was pretty nice, but it was probably in vain. He led us over the footbridge to the shops with other minibuses standing. These were already marked Kruje.
The mood in the minibus was very happy. In addition to the locals, our fellow travelers were also three Americans. From every entrant they tried to find out where Kruja was. In a cheerful mood, we left the village and began to squeak along the road among the pine forests to Kruja. Walking on rather difficult roads, I had the feeling that Kruja would be a smaller town or bigger village.
Finally, we found ourselves in a 60,000 inhabitants town. First smaller houses began to emerge by the main road. Then the network of streets densified, the houses expanded and at the top the main attraction for tourists. All the way I watched Skanderbeg's fortress. When driver announced “Kalaja”4 , only we and 3 Americans stayed in the minibus. It was clear to everyone that we were in the finish. The Americans cheered with joy. We found ourselves a short distance from the fortress in a nice setting.Around us hotels, small square, bars, restaurants, parking house .... the surrounding was clean, not even junk. Again, I did not want to believe that I was in "the most underdeveloped" European state.
So we went to the main monuments of the city.On our right we were accompanied by mountains. Unbelievable look! I still have a tremendous height in mind. The first "Mire se vini"5 in the city we have heard from Skanderbeg himselfwho watched us from the horse. Further we continued to the fortress. It was here that he resisted the Ottoman occupation for 25 years. Unfortunately, after the occupation of this last Christian bastion, Albania became part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 500 years. Until then, the Christian ethnic group has been islamized and Muslim culture has influenced the future Albanian nation in all respects.
Skanderbeg is highly respected and celebrated in Albania. Today there is a museum inthe Kruja fortress. There are all the artifactsassociated with him, as well as his legendary saber.Neither Schwarzeneger would have picked it up. You will basically learn his entire biography. The museum is very nice and there is something heroic in it. Maybe it's the spirit of Skanderbeg.The fortress is truly majestic. It includes a restaurant and an ethnographic museum.In the ethnographic museum you will also find a small guide in Czech. It is a typical Muslim house furnished in the spirit of the past. This house is a nice and interesting example of how these areas once were lived. I definitely recommend to everyone.
After visiting the museum, we still had another attraction of this city, namely pazari i vjetër6. The bazaar is still from Ottoman times. It is completely renovated and full of souvenir shops.I guarante you nowhere in Albania you will not find nicer souvenirs than here. There's everything from auround the world. You can speak English without any problems. Prices are affordable and just a sight and walk through this place is an experience. I also recommend buying something. They have really beautiful souvenirs there.
We could not get enough attention to this beautiful bazaar and museum. For late lunch, we chose a restaurant with a terrace at the end of the bazaar. We ordered a typical local meal, as I always do and to eat what we have at home is nonsense.
With our belly full and full of impressions, we walked slowly down to the minibus parking lot. On the way we greeted Skanderbeg and praised his beautiful city. Two minibuses were waiting around the corner. The minibus was filled after about 10 minutes and we were driving back. Unfortunately. In Fushë Krujë, we all got off and ran across the bridge over a small river, past a roundabout to another bus parking lot. Here we could choose from a number of buses and minibuses that went to Durrës. In half an hour we were there where we left in the morning.
It was very difficult for me to leave. In this city I understood why it is said that Albanians are mountainous nation and Albania is a mountainous country. Remembering the shields towering over Skanderbeg's fortress, I have no doubt about that for a moment. I could quite imagine spending a few days here even if you visit the monuments in one day. Only in the museum itself can a day be spent absorbing the heroic atmosphere and a wealth of information about Albanian Christian past. The presence of this adamant nation and its heroes can still be felt. In the ethnographic museum you can perfectly put yourself in the skin of the Albanian bride.
On the list of places to visit in Albania, I would certainly put this place among the top 3 places.You can use local transport as well as me.I was quite impressed by the fact that whenever you came to the bus parking lot, there was always one bus available and you never waited longer than 10-15 minutes.Here, in different corners of Europe, buses have exact departure times and how many times they are delayed? Isn't that brilliant? It's very fun. Naturally the biggest advantage is that the whole trip cost about 8 euros per person . You would pay a minimum of 30 euros at the travel agency for the same trip. Moreover, nobody chased us.
To Kruja there is nothing more to add. You just have to go there and see it. In addition, you will learn more about the Albanians and their culture. Below the castle young Albanian artist sells his drawings for a few leks. Maybe you will meet professor Baki Dollma, who poor man earns a bit to poor Albanian pension by selling his monographs to tourists. He speaks several languages. Please make happy at least one of them, because their lives not easy. Unfortunately, such scenes belong to life in Kruja. Again, this is just proof that Albania is not just prejudice. All you have to do is choose and see how it really is. Kruja is a great choice.
1 Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu - hero of the anti-Ottoman liberation uprising. He gave obedience to the Ottoman sultan and declared war on Islam. He instructed his people to convert to christianity. He found so-called Albanian league, which had about 10,000 members and actively fought for about 25 years against islamization. Its seat was the city of Kruja.
2 Bus station
3 We are not here for the first time
6 Old bazaar