środa, 09 września 2009
The name of the city – Kruja / Krujë – stems from the Albanian word “krua” which means “a spring”. In the neighbourhood, in the Ancient Times, there were several Illyrian strongholds here. Up to the ninth century there were no references in the written sources about the city, therefore it was probably built later. Krujë is positioned in the amphitheatre-like style on the slope of a massif bearing the same name as the city. The highest peak of the massif – Skanderbeg – soars 1526 metres above the sea level.
In 1408, the greatest national hero of Albania – Gjergji Kastrioti Skënderbeu was born here. In about 1435 his homeland was seized by the Turks. In order to ensure that the conquered terrains remained faithful, The Ottoman Empire enlisted into the army young boys who were adequately educated. One of them was Skanderbeg, the son of Gjon Kastrioti – one of the two most influential landowners in Albania.
Skanderbeg successfully took part in many battles and as a result he quickly earned the title of Bey. In 1443 he was sent to a battle against Hungarian national hero but instead of putting up the battle he returned with his army to Krujë. Leading the uprising under his command he managed to liberate the entire Albania from the reign of Turkey. In order to quell the uprising, the sultan organised several military expeditions; in 1450 his army numbered 150 thousand soldiers whereas Skanderbeg had about 12 thousand at his command. Nevertheless Turks did not manage to capture Krujë. Skanderbeg left in the fortress the garrison of 1,5 thousand soldiers while himself harassed the enemy by quick guerrilla attacks.
Krujë was not captured until 1478, ten years after Skanderbeg’s death. Two years later Turks took over the Lezhë fortress and consequently managed to take control of the entire Albania which was erased from the map of the world for over 400 years. Today Krujë has about 23 thousand residents.
Krujë is situated about 32 km to the north of Tirana. There are regular buses which run directly from Tirana and Durrës to the city. You can also get there by a van but you have to change in Fushë Krujë. One can also reach the city directly from Rinas airport which is 20 km away. If we were to land at night, we would have nothing to take but a cab for which we would have to pay 10-20€, depending on our ability to haggle.
A stop from which buses leave is located in the city centre. You will not have problems in finding it. Going from the side of a castle we cross a busy street over a recently redecorated square with a fountain. The road forks near the Skanderbeg statue. We go right and after several steps we should spot some buses. Of course one cannot expect in this place some bus station, an information sign or at least a timetable :). However, what is most important, there are all kinds of vehicles and drivers.
For instance, buses heading towards Tirana depart from 6 to 9 every hour and the ticket cost about 50-100 lekë (2009). Travel from Krujë to Shkodër by bus cost 400 L (2011). But everything can change, so it is better to find out about details a day in advance.
Certainly, the most interesting thing in Krujë are stunning mountains. Apart from that, it is worth seeing the remains of the castle in which Skanderbeg was defending himself so effectively. Its walls considerably tower over the city and thus it very easy to find one’s way to it.
You enter the castle grounds through a long, well-kept gate. On the right side there are the remains of a mosque, on the other a new building where you can find the Skanderbeg’s museum. Fare: 200 L (2011). Going up and passing the museum you will find two restaurants where one can savour Tirana beer while contemplating wonderful scenery.
On the top of the hill there stands a keep built in the 14th century which was converted into the clock tower in the 17th century.
Whilst in Krujë it is worth seeing rather shapely mosque; its minaret overlooks the city centre. Admission is free of charge.
In Krujë, cafés and restaurants are in abundance. Nevertheless, if you feel like having a cold beer, I suggest taking some trouble and walking up to the castle. A few minutes’ climb will reward you with a remarkable view (see the photos nearby) which it is best to relish by a very good beer Tirana. And, by the way, it confirms my private theory which says that the basis for the development of every civilisation is beer (vide La Paz).
Within the castle there are two restaurants. DHI restaurant has tables placed inside and outside as well as a small playground where your kids will pleasantly spend their time while you delight in a glass of beer and admire the panorama. Perhaps it is a little bit more expensive than outside the castle but I think it is worth coming here. I did not really like the food but I can recommend the beer with a clear conscience. Typical prices: pizza – 400L, baked chicken with rice in a big bowl (supposedly for two people but I think four people would eat their fill) – 2200L; and what is the most important – Tirana beer 0,33 – 150L. By the way I will add that when you take a walk in the city you can cool yourself with ice creams for 20L a scoop.
In the city centre there are two hotels, the more expensive Skanderbeg and the low-cost Panorama from which, as the very name hints, we would have a very nice view over the entire neighbourhood. In the Panorama hotel, a room for a family with two kids (september 2009) – 25€ per night. Online booking, room with breakfast (lipiec 2011) – 35€.
Heading towards the city centre we pass through a bazaar which holds the biggest collection of souvenirs in the entire Albania. Apart from the ordinary mugs, shirts and laces, you can also find here the products made from gold, silver, old weapons, old irons and even crank-propelled still working gramophones! If you do not want to spend much cash you can buy for example a bracelet with Virgin Marys for 100L only or brandy Skanderbeg for 2 €.
In the bracket quoted the year of information’s origination.
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