If you’re like me and one of your best buddies is Albanian and has a car, getting around Albania will be pretty easy. If for some odd reason that isn’t the case, there are buses between most cities. I went by car from Tirana to get to lovely, historic Kruje.
The site of Albania’s battle for independence against the Ottoman invaders, Kruje is a place of national pride for Albania, despite them having lost the war. In Kruje you can find the museum honoring Skanderberg, the national hero who organized Albania’s flailing forces in this their most successful bid for freedom.
Though taken captive and raised among the Ottoman troops, Skanderberg never forgot his roots, instead taking what he learned and returning to Albania to better organize the fight for freedom. I’d make him a national hero too…
Entrance here is about 2 lek, and it affords some incredible views when you go outside at the upper levels.
Kruje is basically a mountain so you have to walk uphill to get to the museum. It’s worth it though, because you pass through a market of handmade items and trust me, it’s amazing. In one shop I met one of the last people who still make sheep’s wool items by hand. I played a traditional instrument I can’t remember the name of, and looked at countless hand embroidered, woven, and carved items.
If all this isn’t amazing enough, you can continue driving up the road past the part of town with the shops and museums, and get to the top of the mountain. Here there is a seating area for outdoor picnicking, shepherds grazing their flock (And apparently people making movies about it. Still don’t know what that was about…), plants you can pick fresh for the ever popular “mountain tea”, and an absolutely stunning view of lakes and rolling landscape while you’re at it.
Albania makes good on its reputation for a land flowing with water, because if you walk down the staircase next to the picnic area and turn into a creepy cavernous little place where you go down some more steps into utterly cold dankness (that’s totally a word…), you’ll find a pipe that lets out fresh spring water. It tastes amazing, and after romping around in the hot sun all day it feels amazing too. Bring a couple of empty water bottles!
Just be prepared to walk up all those steps on your way back.
- The walk up to the museum through the market is really smooth and uneven cobblestone, uphill. Make sure you have comfy shoes with good tread.
- Because of the elevation, it’s a good idea to bring a sweater and be aware of any health issues this might cause.
- The market is all cash, and all worth it. Prices are generally fair and not much bartering is needed.