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Tirana - Krujë


From Elbasan we drive on a good road and a stretch of highway to Tirana. As soon as you come over the hills you can already see Tirana from afar. What a big city, it's the capital for a reason either.


Camping Tirana

We choose camping Tirana, despite knowing that the last stretch of road to it is not so good. As soon as you drive down the highway you will get to a 'white' road (white on the map). It is still asphalt, but it is bumpy road, hole in the road, rope over the road, oncoming vehicle on narrow stretch, another hole and so on. Finally, you can drive 1.5 km on a gravel road. Fortunately, it is dry, it seems that the campsite was almost impossible to reach last week due to the much rain that fell. We slowly tumble up, it bumps, there are holes but it works. Tip: if you go to this campsite do the approach route from the west and not from the east. The people from the east side have had a much longer gravel road and also a much steeper road.



Camping Tirana is beautiful. You look out over a lake, it's quiet, green. At night you only hear the frogs. Here Instagram vs reality Instagram applies then you get the same beautiful view. Nothing to lie about it.


Tirana

From the campsite you can book a taxi, but we drive our own car to the centre. We park just a little outside in a large garage under the casino. Fine to do. Only in the city itself is it busy. It honks, it crosses, it cycles, it builds, the flute (police passers), or it's nice and busy in the city. We first pass a large pyramid that you can climb. It was built to a design by President Hoxha's daughter and son-in-law. Humanitarian organisations moved in in the 1990s and then the pyramid fell into disrepair. Until a few years ago. At first the pyramid would be demolished, but after a petition it stayed and renewed. Rudolf climbs up and I stay downstairs in the shade on a bench.



We walk towards the centre over wide boulevards, lots of greenery, play area for the children and it is neat. No waste or filth. Skanderbeg Square is the most central square in the city. It seems like many sights are located around this square. The warrior Skanderberg himself is also in the square he sits on a large horse.


House of leaves

We go to House of Leaves first. A 1930s medical clinic that was quite progressive and has been converted from the Hoxha regime into the headquarters of the Albanian security service (Sigurimi). The security service had the task of knowing everything, eavesdropping on people, spying, torturing etc. The laboratory was converted into a darkroom, treatment rooms into torture chambers. The museum impressively depicts how it went and which eavesdropping materials were used. The great thing is that the building of the old clinic has been preserved. It is almost hidden between all new and high-rise buildings. We are looking for lunch and less than 50 metres from House of Leaves we find a typical Albanian snack eatery, but with Greek doner. Delicious sandwiches with delicious doner in a small eatery at the back of the terrace - which you can't see in front. Maybe good to mention that I thought I didn't like this, but since Greece I've discovered that I really like it. (with chicken meat) Rudolf loves that I've always shouted that I don't like it and now that I'm almost 50 discover that I like it :-).



Bunk'Art2

An exhibition in a former Interior Ministry atomic bunker about communist rule. It seems that there are many more in Albania. Well small spaces and tunnels are not my strongest. Still, I go in, because on the other hand I'm curious. You will be guided through corridors through a number of rooms and in each room you will see a piece of the regime through photos, film and documentation. From before WWII, to the communist regime of Hoxha and the liberation of this regime. Because we have already seen House of Leaves, it is easy to follow. By the way, there is not much Art - Art. However, a number of closed doors, which block the way to continue into the bunker complex. So a number of bunkers are still present............ exciting.



Central Market - Bazaar

There are many more sights around Skanderplein, but we choose the bazaar for the central market. The central market is covered. Meat and fish are sold indoors, fruits, rugs, tobacco pipes, nuts, souvenirs outside. You can stroll past the stalls and yes we managed to buy a dress. They have them in all shapes and sizes and yet different than in Gjirokaster. For 1000 Leak - 9 euros we won't miss this one. Just a small one of 1 by 1.5 for the caravan.


Lianne as campsite manager

On Wednesday evening, the owner asks me if I would like to accommodate any new guests. She has to go to town with her daughter, for training. No problem. It remains quiet, until suddenly five Romanian engines arrive just before dark. They have reserved! Unfortunately I don't know about that, but I can help them. There are tent spots on a small elevation, but our car stands in front of the stairs. I order Rudolf to move the car so they can put their engines there. The men are completely happy, luckily they could speak English well. A few German guests say that the motorcyclists have to pay me :-).



Supping and swimming in the lake

In the mornings the sun shines and in the afternoon there is sometimes some rain or thunderstorms. The lake looks so good that we are blowing up the SUP. Last summer I last supped, but supping in peace, enjoying, relaxing is what I had imagined in my dreams (literally) when we went on a trip. Yes it is delicious, how uncomfortable, but delicious. Rudolf even takes a dip in the lake and goes swimming. This is really a holiday!


Krujë

On Saturday we leave campsite Tirana and go to Krujë. A drive of only 30 km, which will take you 50 minutes. Unless......... unless you come to an open broken road. Google leads us behind Tirana airport and this is a well asphalted road, until......... until this is no longer the case and there is a road full of gravel, holes, hills and a makeshift bridge that we cannot cross with the caravan. We know this because we walked a lot up the road and asked people. Rudolf drops a number of words that I won't repeat here. Without a jiffy, he turns the caravan on a cove, reverses and we drive the same road back to the airport. In reality, this took up to 20 minutes together. Then we have nothing left but to connect in traffic jams. Why? Because there are roadworks, because it is busy and because the Albanians drive at a certain point like, well as something. Fill in yourself. It is a one-lane road, which ends at a busy intersection, where there is also the motorway exit, where you can go left and right. Despite being a one-lane road, the Albanians can drive four cars next to each other here. They don't wait neatly, just catch up, despite oncoming traffic arriving. The other side does not progress as a result. Total chaos and yet it slowly creeps on. Finally we are 2 hours further when we arrive at Krujë campsite. The rest of the day we don't do anything for a while! Until we eat out at a restaurant near the campsite, but an 8 minute walk. Don't you know the superstition going under a ladder? Well this was one of those too. They were working at a house, hoisting stones up with a bucket. They don't have the tools and technology here yet as in the Netherlands. I thought I step aside a metre, I don't walk under it. As if it had to be, a big brick falls down and it splashes into a thousand pieces. I feel them against with legs and arms splashing. The scare struck me around my heart, I shouldn't have thought about such a brick coming on your head on arm. The men? They only scold each other, we keep walking quietly. Just recover. When we came back after dinner there was a kind of excuse, with hand gestures 'stupid of us'.


On Sunday we drive up the mountain to Sari Salltik. I asked the owner on Saturday night if the road is paved and it is. Sari Salltik is located at the top of the mountain behind the campsite, behind the city of Krujë and is not only a place with magnificent views but also a religious destination. The drive up is beautiful, the road is good, let each other pass here and there, but nature is so beautiful in Albania in the spring. Upstairs we only see Albanians, the tourists have not yet discovered this place. I don't think the fact that the road is now so well constructed will take long. Upstairs you can look out over a large part of Albania. All the way from the coast off Skodër, to Durrës and Tirana and a little further. This is 'by far' the most beautiful view we've seen on our trip so far.



The hotel / restaurant that it says is empty, but there is a babysitter who opens the fence in front of the temple of Sari Salltik. Sari Salltik seems to perform various miracles during his lifetime and was therefore canonised. He brought Islam to the Balkans. There is a 13th century temple built in the caves. If you go down even further down a steep staircase you come to the holy water. The Albanians have brought candles themselves and they light them in the temple and then they go down to the holy water. They iron this water over their foreheads and on the head. Legend has it that Sari Salltik is buried in seven coffins in remote cities and villages across the Balkans. A number have now been found, including in Krujë. By chance we meet the sitter who offers everyone a candy, but he also offers us a Turkish coffee. We are invited inside, can sit on the beds/sofas and he tells a hundred. He can also be a little Italian. He says that many Albanians can do some Italian. (from history or from smuggling I wonder). He wants to take a picture with us, he takes a selfie and we take a selfie. He doesn't want anything for the coffee, he has a great day he says. We too, another spontaneous encounter with a welcoming Albanian.



After this meeting we drive down the mountain and head towards Krujë's bazaar and the ruins of the castle. This bazaar seems to be the oldest in Albania, at least it is one that is larger than that of Gjirokaster and Berat.



At the bazaar you can buy all kinds of products again and just like in the other cities, most of it is made productionally. There are only a few shops that still sell original handicrafts and antiques. What's annoying is that there are vendors at every door who want to lure you in with the same chat. That's exactly then we don't do it. We go in where we are not asked. It is precisely there that we find a lady who is working by hand. Who also honestly says what production work is and what is handmade and how you can feel that difference. Of course we don't leave without a dress and I also bought a tablecloth. We can also film her and take a picture. Our day is complete again.



We are still going to eat well in a traditional tavern, not the modern one but the one that looks a bit older. Why? The Albanians are there themselves. The ruins of the castle are a bit disappointing, but within the castle walls we still meet 'Xeni'. He is described in Dominicus' Albania guide written by Yvonne van Osch. (in our guide on page 92 near Krujë)



Krujë was not in our planning when we entered Albania, but we can recommend it to anyone. Be sure to go up the mountain, by car, bike or on foot. Nature is beautiful. We continue to our next adventure. Warm regards from Krujë



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