Albania: first bite… Kings of the Kala

Although we had flown into the capital Tirana, we weren’t planning to stay there straight away. Our flight arrived in the evening and we had decided to drive straight to the town of Kruja, a little north of the capital. We had arranged a hire car that we picked up from the airport and drove to Kruja.

Kruja is a fortress town which has existed since ancient times and we chose it hoping to gain an instant immersion into the character of the country. The castle above the town was a centre of resistance for the Albanians against the Ottoman empire in the 15th century.

We stayed at the hotel Panorama, which is situated directly across from the castle of Kala and seems recommended in every guide and it is indeed a very good place to start your travels. Access was a little tricky as you drive up the hill, all the time able to see the castle across a little valley.

It’s not always easy to tell if the mangled streets are temporary roadworks or if this is just the general condition of the roads but when we got into town our GPS-recommended route was curtailed with approximately 60m to go as the road was barred by a bit of construction.

We figured our way around it and found the hotel. We squeezed the car into a space and Gary went inside to announce our arrival. I stayed with the car as I was not sure if we were legally parked and we did not want to start off our trip with a parking drama! A man standing by showed us where to park and we checked in.

Our first impressions could not have been better.  The staff was very welcoming, the room was excellent with a commanding view of the castle and the restaurant served up some good food as well.


In the morning Kruja proved to be a little treasure trove with it’s cozy bazaar, the castle and the museums. We walked through the town, and were almost immediately accosted by a couple of young lads who exhorted us to ‘take a picture’ – I had my photo taken with each of them on their mobiles and I took pictures of them for my 100 Strangers photography project.

We then carried on, gazing – but not looking too closely – at the traditional wares on display in roadside stalls and strolled up the hill to enjoy the view. There is a large new looking  ethnography museum which we visited tagging along with a tour that had just started. I’m not going to apologise for nerdery – we like history, we like museums and I will be sharing them!

Exposure to other people’s culture is something I wouldn’t be without. It’s part of why anyone travels, it’s why you learn a language , it’s why you eat some dodgy looking food. I love it and it does make your world bigger. Seeing the styles of furniture, ways of living, food preparation and antique technology just made me see that we have a lot in common and also dispels a lot of preconceptions. Seeing the way that these people lived showed a lot of parallels with the history of my own country.

This is going to be a long trip and if it carries on as it started, I will be a happy girl.

How much history is enough for you on a holiday? I’d love to hear what you like to do while you are away.

About Elaine Batiste

I'm a teacher, a lifelong learner, a traveller, a maker, an adventurer and a 'want to do more' kind of gal.

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