Located about 20 mi/32 km north of Tirana, the town of Kruja, Albania, has a spectacular setting hanging off the side of a mountain 2,000 ft/620 m above sea level.
Kruja served as the 15th-century headquarters for Skanderbeg, the chieftain who became Albania's national hero in the fight against the Ottomans. His fortress sat on this steep promontory backed by a near-vertical mountainside. It is there that Skanderbeg twice defeated the more-powerful army of the Ottoman Turks.
Portions of the fortress date from the fourth century, though it has been completely rebuilt several times—most recently in the 1980s. Today, the National Museum Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg sits high within the remains of the centuries-old citadel walls. Modeled on a medieval castle, the museum was designed by Communist leader Enver Hoxha's architect daughter, Pranvera.
Also within the fortress' walls are Turkish baths, an Islamic shrine and a fascinating ethnographic museum in a reconstructed 18th-century home.
Kruja is worth a visit for reasons other than history. It is a great place to purchase antiques, folk costumes and rugs. Also in Kruja is a rebuilt bazaar, which has a wonderful selection of souvenirs.
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