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If you find yourself walking through the beautiful cobbled streets of Gjirokastra and ask for directions to the Ethnographic Museum, the locals may hesitate a bit before answering. If you cleverly change the question and mention Enver Hoxha’s house, you will get your answer within seconds, and the most accurate instructions to reach it! Though officially called The Ethnographic Museum, Enver Hoxha’s childhood home is still known by its former name. This former leader’s powerful image still arouses a strong sense of curiosity in Albanians who still want to know more about his personal life. Even foreign tourists, who seek to learn more about Albania, realize that much of it can be discovered inside the childhood home of Enver Hoxha.
The castle neighborhood, called “Palorto”, is home to some of the country’s most famous houses: that of the internationally-known Albanian author, Ismail Kadare, and those of the Cabej, Babaramo and Fico families. All of these houses represent constructions of rare architectural value but none possesses the magnetic force of Hoxha’s house! The locals say that this 3-storey house was burned when Hoxha was only eight years old and rebuilt after the country’s liberation in ’44, becoming a museum in 1966. Initially, the museum displayed the dictator’s various activities and the martyrs of war but, following the fall of communism in ’91, it was transformed into an ethnographic museum. Though the house no longer contains Hoxha’s specific items or original furniture, it carefully details the traditional life of an upper-class family from Gjirokastra.
The rooms appear still-functional, decorated with artistic objects that testify to the culture of wealthy families of the 19th century. The ground floor, predominantly built in stone, was used for the winter. The first floor has traditionally low ceilings and small windows while the second floor, higher than the others and worked mostly in wood, houses the guest room. The third floor holds the most beautiful room of the entire house, called a cameretta: a big, open space with high ceilings, where women chatted and looked out onto the town. In its entirety, the house does not only give an idea of a leader’s childhood dwellings but a significant part of Gjirokastra’s culture, a culture that this crucial city gave to the entire nation.