Day 4 we set off for Kruja, a mountain city outside of Tirana. Erind, one of the Public Health students we met our first night at Wine Spirit, came with us along with Bernard who works for the UNDP- Albania, and Arben Theodhosi, Beni for short, an Albanian artist and close friend of Lori’s. Before leaving for Kruja, we met up with Beni at his art exhibit in the Tirana European University and saw some of his amazing paintings and he told us a little about each one.
Then we left for Kruja, and after one of many VERY narrow and windy treks up a mountain, we toured our first Ethnographic Museum. It was a very old, traditional Albanian home that has been turned into a museum. Our tour guide was very friendly and informative. The architecture of the house was entwined with the customs and traditions of the peoples. For example, all of the doorways are very low so that anyone entering a room is forced to bow to the inhabitants as a sign of respect, and the rooms were decorated according to gender because males and females did not intermingle in that time period.
After our tour of the house, we went to the Communist Era museum that was meant to house the history of Albania but was instead a sort of shrine to the legend of Skanderbeg. Lori and Bernard did not tell us before we went in that the museum was one of Hoxha’s attempts to miseducated the masses and let us be swept up by the grand stories and probably falsified “facts”. Then when our 20 minute tour was over (who has EVER taken a museum tour that lasted only 20 minutes… should’ve been our first clue) we went outside and Bernard informed us of the manipulated nature of the information in the museum and how children were required to take several school trips there, and places like it, as a part of their “education”. After this very enlightening chat, we went back through the museum and Bernard told us some true things about Skanderbeg’s history and we spent more time at each exhibit and went into rooms that the tour didn’t even cover.
Then we went to see Bernard’s family home. It has been locked up and unused for some years now since the last family member living there died. We could only see the yard and the outside of the house because Bernard said the inside was unsafe do to lack of upkeep.
Then we toured around the area a little, walked through a sketchy looking tunnel to see where the women traditionally took the laundry to be washed and then we bought some things at the shops (I won the unofficial scarf contest that we didn’t know we were playing until Lori declared me the winner upon seeing my purchase) and then departed to return to Tirana.
That night we had a fantastic dinner at Cindy and Dave Eldridge’s house where they graciously let us use their washing machine. And after a night of laughter and hours of drying we bid them good night and prepared for the next leg of our journey.