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Kruja - A view from our expert author
The buildings and museums within the castle walls, combined with the attractively restored bazaar area just outside them, provide an excellent introduction to Albanian history and traditions.
Kruja has been fortified since ancient times – ceramics and coins from the 3rd century bc have been excavated there. The name comes from the Albanian word for the spring (krua) within the castle which provided its inhabitants with water. The castle of Kruja was the centre of Albanian resistance to the Ottoman invasion in the 15th century, which was led by the great national hero Gjergj Kastrioti, also known as Skanderbeg.
View of the minaret, the clock tower and the National Museum of Kruja from Skanderbeg Castle © ollirg, Shutterstock
Kruja is the only town in Albania, apart from Saranda in the far south, which is really geared towards tourists and it is the best place in the country to shop for souvenirs. Kruja was the northernmost stronghold of Bektashism – it was the Kruja baba (father) who is said to have converted Ali Pasha Tepelena. Apart from the lovely teqe within the castle, there is a link with the Sufi saint Sari Salltëk: the teqe dedicated to him in the mountains above the town and, a few kilometres downhill, beside the road which leads up to the town, a rock where his foot is supposed to have left its print in the stone as he strode up from the plain.