Olli Thomson

Albania – Kruja

I bought my first digital camera in 2005, a 4MP Canon A520 point and shoot if I recall correctly, the year we moved to Albania. The two events were related since I assumed it might be challenging acquiring film in Albania and getting it developed. Mostly I photographed for my blog, Our Man in Tirana, a record of my impressions of life in the city. Unfortunately, I knew very little about digital cameras in those days and after downsizing my images to 800 pixels for the blog – essential given the slow and unreliable internet connection at the time – I deleted, or possibly overwrote, the full size picture. As a result my collection of pictures from Tirana are not the best for viewing at anything other than very small sizes. Nonetheless there are some decent photographs and some great memories.

This first set is of the small town of Kruja, not far from Tirana. Historically Kruja was an important city in Albanian history having been capital of the first Albanian state in the 12th century and of the Kingdom of Albania in the 13th century. The city was captured by the Ottomans in the 15th century before being retaken by Albanian forces under the command of Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu. Skënderbeu, or Skanderbeg as he is generally known in English, held the city for 25 years seeing off three sieges by the Ottoman forces during that period. Skanderbeg’s story – part history, part myth – became a defining feature of Albanian national identity during the Albanian National Awakening on the late 19th century, promoted in particular by Naim Frasheri, one of three brothers all of whom played prominent roles in the Awakening.

Even during the communist era the regime promoted Skanderbeg as a national hero. In 1968, the 500th anniversary of his death, an equestrian statue of Skanderbeg was unveiled in Tirana’s central square – Skanderbeg Square. In Kruja itself the regime opened a museum dedicated to Skanderbeg’s life in 1982 situated in the town’s fortress where Skanderbeg fought off the Ottomans. Only 20 km from Tirana we visited a number of times during our two years in the country, but sadly only a handful of my pictures are presentable.

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