A Hero's Realm: Historic Kruja with Folklore Performance
- Sights of Kruja: Tour atmospheric winding lanes and take in wide Adriatic views from the ruins of the hilltop castle where Skanderbeg, Albania's national hero, held off invading Ottomans during three long 15th-century sieges.
- Skanderbeg Museum: It was designed by the daughter of a brutal Communist dictator, but it's quite nice, and called the Balcony of the Adriatic for its views. See relics of Albania's great defender, including his giant sword and goat's-head helmet.
- Old Bazaar: Wander a narrow cobbled street where tile-roofed shops and studios offer antiques, filigreed jewelry, woven rugs, olivewood baskets, carved boxes, and traditional white felt hats known as qeleshes.
- Snack and Show: Enjoy colorful folkloric music and dance by performers in traditional national garb, hearty Albanian finger food, and stunning city and mountain views at the aptly named Panorama Hotel.
About this Tirana Tour
The mountain stronghold of Kruja became the capital of the earliest autonomous Albanian state in 1190. But in a region where hostile takeovers were the norm, control changed hands repeatedly as the Middle Ages unfolded – and Kruja's importance rose and fell with each new landlord's fortunes.
In 1443, George Kastrioti Skanderbeg – a 38-year-old Albanian heir to the Kruja princedom but a warrior slave to the Ottoman Empire since age 18 – decided it was time to stop fighting for the wrong side and take back what was rightfully his. Forging an alliance with local feudal lords, he seized the Kruja citadel, assembled a 10,000-man army, and marched from victory to victory against the better-equipped Turkish Ottoman forces then occupying his kingdom.
Under Skanderbeg's red double-eagle standard (the basis for modern Albania's flag), Kruja held its ground during three epic sieges. The great Mehmed II (aka "The Conqueror") was not only denied a victory here, but his Turkish army's westward expansion within the Balkans was shut down for nearly 25 years.
When Skanderbeg was finally defeated in 1468, it wasn't by the Turks in battle. It was by mosquitos carrying malaria. But his legend only grew in death. Already a larger-than-life hero in Albania, he became an enduring symbol of resistance in Western Europe and beyond. Books, poems, and operas celebrated his exploits. Sculptors and city planners built monuments and squares honoring him in Rome, Vienna, Geneva, Paris, Brussels, Durres, Skopje, Prishtina, even the small town of Rochester Hills in Michigan.
Five centuries later, it's hard to find a warrior more formidable than this one. Once you've come face to face with the relics and exhibits at Skanderbeg Museum, you'll have deep respect for his life and legacy. And deeper sympathy for those who met him in battle.
"The Athlete of Christ"
That was Pope Nicholas V's pet name for Skanderbeg. (The Latin athleta usually connotes "champion" in papal-speak, although swinging that huge sword did take serious strength.) Pope Pius II called him the "Christian Gideon." And locals around the Kruja fortress just went with "Dragon of Albania." Even after 500 years, the nicknames keep coming, although one feels lacking in dignity: A blog devoted to history's most intimidating warriors recently named Skanderbeg its "Badass of the Week."
Please make your way to the Kristal Center Bus Stop at Bulevardi Zogu I that is close to Tirana International Hotel to meet your guide.
In need of retail therapy after your tour? Shopping is available 7 days a week, although early closing at 3:00pm on Sundays is generally observed. Look for traditional Albanian souvenirs - embroidery, woolen items and Raki Skrapari, the local liquor.
Plan to walk a total of 1 mile with up to 100 steps over varying surfaces including cobblestones and flat terrain.
Cultural, Scenic, Walking Tour
46-seat Air-conditioned Motorcoach
English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated strenuous. Travelers must consider their physical fitness level and medical history when determining whether this tour is appropriate. Travelers with pre-existing neck, back, knee and/or shoulder injuries, cardiac conditions, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, other heart or respiratory conditions or any other medical condition must take particular caution when selecting a tour categorized as "strenuous". If you have concerns, you must consult with your personal physician before engaging in any activity that may be too strenuous for you.
Suitable for all ages.
Special Medical Restriction
Travelers must be in good health, disclose their physical fitness and advise any conditions that might impact their participation in the tour.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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