Tag Archives: albania

Kruje, Albania

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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.

Tips:

  • 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.

Tirana, Albania

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Albania is one of the few places I’ve been where I had to handle my own accommodations in any real sense (missionary perks y’all). While Hostel Propaganda is the only hostel I’ve ever stayed at, from what I hear finding this place is like winning the lottery.

Located in Tirana, the capital city, for an incredible 10 euros a night you get a clean place to stay with sheets changed as often as you like (room with private bathroom costs a bit more), a simple breakfast, quiet hours at 11PM with access to any desired non-quietness right outside, wifi, and a public desktop for the non-techie travelers.

They even have a Wii in the sitting area for all those Wii Sports and Just Dance fans. (Anyone who knows me understands that this alone would have had me hooked on this place…)

Friendly staff with just enough English skills seals the deal on this one for me.

Do note though that with a name like Hostel Propaganda and considering Albania’s past dabblings in communism, decors must follow suit. This is not the place for you if seeing pictures of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and other folks of similar ilk will distress you.

Tirana’s lovely artificial lake is a 10-15 minute walk away, and since it’s basically walking in a straight line, I’m pretty sure you can’t get lost on your way there. Go during the day to enjoy the scenery, or in the evening to enjoy one of the many lakeside bars and nearby clubs.

I didn’t make it to Tirana’s national museum but I heard it’s lovely. It’s also across the street from a green space and other nice center city walking areas.

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For food, check out world famous Creperie, which is within walking distance of the hostel. Also within walking distance, though a bit further, is the pizzeria where you will find some of the best pizza you’ll ever have outside of Italy. All throughout Tirana you can find any number of shops that serve Kofta, a type of meatball often served with lettuce, tomatoes, yogurt, and bread. 100 lek ($10) or less at any of these places will get you a satisfying meal and a couple beers to boot.

If you’re really on a budget, you can find burek, a savory dish of stuffed baked pastry dough, almost anywhere for under a lek.

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If you’ve got the time and space in your suitcase, check out the markets and outdoor stalls for fun fashion finds. Bartering is welcome.

Tips:

  • Albania gets very hot in the summer. And I mean very hot. Try cooler times like June-mid July and September, or make sure to stay hydrated and protected.
  • Be aware of yourself. Unfortunately there are many Roma children whose parents send them out begging on the streets all day, whatever the weather. They are persistent, and you need to pay attention. In order to encourage Roma families to stop this practice, Tirana officials caution against giving these children money. Since this policy has been in place, there have been reductions in the amount of children sent out.
  • Albanian currency has just changed. 10 lek is now 1 dollar. Previously 100 lek was a dollar, so double check your purchases if the numbers seems off. I almost got into an argument with a fruit and vegetable vendor because of the misunderstanding.