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The National Ethnographic Museum in Kruja offers the entire story of Albanian custom and tradition throughout centuries, and thanks to the guide of this museum, you’ll understand them better than ever before. At once, you will feel at home in this warm and cozy atmosphere.
Built in the middle of the 18th century A.D. (1764), by Ismail Pashë Toptani, this ottoman house is considered one of the most unique museums in Albania. It includes a total of 15 rooms which tell of the work and family life in the town of Kruja. A white, three-story construction with a tower placed in the middle, this house is surrounded by wood-carved windows of all sizes, letting the breeze flow in an out and creating a pleasant sense of open space. Outside, you will notice traces of former springs surrounding the castle, confirming the namesake of the city (the word for “springs” in Albanian is kroje) as well as the city’s former position as a farming and agricultural center prior to the rise of commerce and artisanal activities.
The museum is part of the ancient Castle of Kruja and is specifically located in its fortified courtyard. The exhibition begins in the house’s work yard which contains centuries-old baking ovens, bee kennels made of stone, houses for dogs and chickens, and much more. All the objects in the museum are original and, surprisingly, still functional! On the ground floor you will find traditional farming tools, some used in the old craft of leather processing and many used in the traditional cultivation of olives and olive oil. Kruja has a long tradition of olive cultivation and olive oil processing that goes all the way back to Skanderbeg’s time in the 15th century.
The second floor is dedicated to the exhibition of family life and represents the most fascinating part of the tour! Here is also where our lovely guide usually reaches the highest point in his story-telling. First, we have the women’s room which includes what the Albanians refer to as paja, a collection of specially-made items that a young woman preserves for her future marriage. They may include sheets, table covers, ornaments and other such items. The girls’ room demonstrates the tradition of hospitality as well as the girls’ humble service to the heads of the household. A completely different atmosphere is found in the men’s room, which is decorated with swords and rifles. Women observed the men’s activities through small windows in order to ensure they were not lacking in food or drinks and were only allowed to enter it to serve them. A tradition that, though now considered a thing of the past, has left its mark on the lives of Albanians!
As you leave this house, you find yourself once again in the castle’s courtyard with a heavy heart at having to say goodbye to the lovely man who has guided you through this “Albanian story”. You face the city of Kruja, built during the Communist era, and realize the contrast between the many lives the locals of this small city have lived.