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Krujë Castle has stood on a rocky cliff, high above the city, for the last 15 centuries. It has been witness to the long tempestuous history of this city, once the center of Arbëria (Albania’s ancient name). At a time when the Ottoman Empire ruled over a large part of Europe, including Constantinople and the Balkans, this castle remained undefeated for 35 years, thanks to Gjergj Kastriot Skanderbeg, the Albanian national hero who defended its walls until his death!
Following Skanderbeg’s revolt against the Ottomans in 1443, this castle weathered many persistent attacks from the Ottoman army. For a long time, it seems that these attacks made the castle’s walls and Skanderbeg’s army of 3000 men only more impenetrable. However, on 1478, ten years after Skanderbeg’s death, the castle fell to Sultan Mehmed II. Erected as early as the 5th century, this castle had clearly weathered many storms prior to these events but it is this particular part of history that imbues this place with a certain kind of majesty. Albanians identify with this castle’s story, finding there the perseverance of a small but mighty force.
Among the ruins within the castle walls stands the old Clock Tower with the same bell that once announced the death of Skanderbeg. This clock, made from artisans of the Old Bazaar of Krujë, once organized the city’s time: the opening and closing hours of the shops as well as the times of prayer. Near the Clock Tower stands the National Museum “Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu”, designed by Pirro Vaso and Pranvera Hoxha, part of the architectural team of the Pyramid of Tirana. Built in the early 1980s, crowning the castle walls, this recognizable structure has become an icon of this city’s skyline. Inside the museum, the exhibits reveal Skanderbeg’s life, his historical victories and achievements, as well as copies of Skanderbeg’s weapons: the famous helmet topped with a goat’s head and his sword.
Facing the museum, there are the beautiful ruins of a former church, turned to Sultan Mehmed Fatih mosque following the Ottoman occupation. South of the Castle, the Ethnographic Museum, housed in a typical 19th century house, reveals the sustainable methods of food, drink, tool and furniture production in a typical household as well as the customs of life in the castle. The Masjid of Dollma is yet another beautiful monument, the pulpit of Muslim faith during the 18th century. Right next to it, the castle’s Turkish bath (hammam) reveals its gorgeous 15th century roof. The 450-year-ol Grand Bazaar of Krujë is located on the road heading to the castle. In its heyday, this bazaar had more than 150 merchants who supplied the castle’s inhabitants. Now, the bazaar sells traditional handmade objects and souvenirs. And so it continues! The sights are endless in this small city, the symbol of a country’s bravery and persistence throughout the centuries.