This town holds a special place in the hearts of all Albanians: It's the home of Skanderbeg, the country's national hero. But you should visit Kruje even if you have no interest in history—the setting is spectacular, and it is a great place to purchase antiques, folk costumes and rugs. Also in Kruje is a rebuilt bazaar, which has a wonderful selection of souvenirs. Its location is convenient to Tirana, about 15 mi/25 km north.
Skanderbeg's fortress is built midway up the slope of a mountain overlooking a low, undulating plain. It is there that Skanderbeg twice defeated the more-powerful army of the Ottoman Turks. You'll get an idea of how the Turks must have felt on your drive to the fortress: The mountain rises up like a wall behind the remains of the citadel. Portions of the fortress date from the fourth century, though it has been completely rebuilt several times—most recently in the 1980s.
The present building, designed by Enver Hoxha's daughter Pranvera, houses the Gjergi Kastrioti Museum dedicated to Skanderbeg. At one time, the displays seemed to have equated Hoxha with Skanderbeg, but these were removed after the collapse of communism. The museum is worth visiting, even though its contents include items that may only appeal primarily to Albanian Skanderbeg fans (such as an artist's rendition of what his throne might have looked like). Within the fortress' walls are Turkish baths, an Islamic shrine and a fascinating ethnographic museum in a reconstructed 18th-century home.
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