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The National Ethnographic Museum is a fascinating insight into traditional Albanian household customs, brought to life through the vivid storytelling of a wonderful guide!
The National Ethnographic Museum in Kruja presents the story of Albanian customs and traditions throughout the centuries, and thanks to the captivating guide of this museum, you’ll come to understand them better than ever before! You’ll feel at home in this warm and cosy atmosphere as soon as you step inside.
Built during the mid-18th century, in 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 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 freely in an out, and creating a pleasant sense of open space. Outside, you’ll notice traces of former springs surrounding the castle, from which the name of the city derives (the word for “springs” in Albanian is kroje), which also reflect the city’s former position as an agricultural centre prior to the rise of commerce and artisanal activities.
The museum is part of the ancient Castle of Kruja, and is specifically located within its fortified courtyard. The exhibition begins in the house’s work yard, which contains centuries-old baking ovens, bee hives made of stone, houses for dogs and chickens, and many more traditional household curiosities. All the objects in the museum are original, and surprisingly, still functional! On the ground floor you’ll see 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 the legendary Skanderbeg’s time in the 15th century.
The second floor is dedicated to the exhibition of family life, and is certainly one the most fascinating parts of the tour! It’s here where our lovely guide usually reaches the peak of his gripping storytelling. First, we have the women’s room which includes what Albanians refer to as paja, a collection of specially-made items that a young woman preserves for her future marriage – often including sheets, table covers, ornaments, and other such items. The women’s room demonstrates the tradition of hospitality, as well as their traditional role of humbly serving 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 curious tradition that, though now is certainly considered a thing of the past, has left its mark on the lives of Albanians!
As you leave the house, you find yourself once again in the castle’s courtyard, with a heavy heart at having to say goodbye to the wonderful guide who has led you through this “Albanian story”. You face the city of Kruja, built during the Communist era, and recognise the stark contrast of the many lives the locals of this small city have lived.