Kruje was both our first and last day trip here in Albania. Because of this, here's a repost of a popular blog posting from two years ago:
We had been in Albania less than a month before we discovering the town of Kruje. Located less than an hour driving time outside of Tirana (which is nothing given the road conditions in the country and the time it takes to drive the shortest of distances), this small mountainside town is historic, touristy, and breathtaking all at the same time. It has become our go-to location to take our out of town visitors- both official and unofficial.
|View of the castle ruins|
By far, the main historical attraction of Kruje is its castle ruins and the Skenderbeg Museum. While the walls remain, the castle itself is mostly in ruins. It is possible to see the remains of some of the original buildings, including a mostly deteriorated monastery. A small ethnographic museum depicting early life in Albania is located in one corner of the grounds. And this being Albania, several cafes have been erected on spots that were once strategically placed lookout spots along the castle's exterior walls.
In 1982, the Skenderbeg Museum, designed by Pranvera Hoxha, the architecture daughter of the later dictator, opened. We've toured this museum on several occasions both by ourselves and under the guidance of English speaking docents. As you wind through the warren of small rooms filled with ancient artifacts, maps, and historical reproductions, you are treated to a thorough retelling of Albania's ancient history. The crowning jewel of the museum, however, is the panoramic views from the building's rooftop terrace. From here you can see to the Adriatic and beyond. (Sidney, of course, is partial to the spring fed water fountain that is built into the side of the museum's exterior walls).
This would not be an Albanian town if it wasn't filled with smoke filled cafes and restaurants. You don't go to Kruje because you want fine dining. Whether tucked into nooks in the bazaar or perched a top the castle ruins, Kruje has its share of restaurants with menus boasting "traditional Albanian cuisines". Roasted lamb and village chicken (whole roasted chicken served over heavily salted rice) accompany whatever grilled vegetable is in season. As is the case in all restaurants in this country, pizza is always an option (and one usually taken by the Brown boys). Harsh tasting red wine and raki are the drinks of choice. The often mediocre quality of the food is quickly forgotten since the scenic views are the real reason for your visit.