Monday, June 5, 2017

Monday, June 5th, Tirana, Albania


Today was a day full of Albanian history.  We headed north to Kruje, the former capital of the country, and strolled through the town's old bazaar.  Like most shopping areas in the regions small towns, one can find some local products among the many imported materials.  We're trying not to add to the weight of our suitcases, or bring home anything that will break in transit.

Just up the hill is a trio of interesting sites.  First, we saw a Bektashi Mosque and lodge, a Sufi dervish order mainly found in Anatolia and the Balkans from the 14th to 16th centuries.  In 1826, it was banned in the Ottoman Empire, and its leadership moved to Albania.  It had a considerable impact on the islamization of Albania.  But after the communists took power in 1945, several babas and dervishes were executed.  Ultimately in 1967, Enver Hoxha banned religious practice in Albania, declaring the country "atheist".

Kruge castle sits a few hundred yards from the Bektashi mosque, and was the site of the twenty-year seige (1444-1467) by the Ottomans in which the country's national hero (Georgi Castriot Skanderbeg) defended the castle.  A museum has been built on the castle grounds which is dedicated to Skanderbeg, and displays everything ever made in his honor.

Finally, we visited the Toptani family home near the castle, and understood better how powerful ex-Roman Generals families could become.  The two-story house very well displays the possessions and furniture, tools and weapons, art and family treasures acquired over centuries of power.

Back in Tirana, we were guided on a city tour which included the Et ham Bey Mosque, the Resurrection Cathedral, the Memorial to Communist Isolation and Mother Teresa Square.

To see all of the photos taken today, cick on Monday, June 5th, Tirana, Albania.


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