Petrelë Castle( built in the 5th century)is about a 20-minute drive outside of Tirana, Albania. In ancient times, it was called Petralba. This word, translated from Greek means the “Stone of the Albanians”. The castle is built atop a small mountain and is built on a huge stone that protrudes from the mountain. Mamica Kastrioti, the sister of the Albanian National Hero, Skanderbeg (Gjergj Kastrioti). Before being her residence, the castle was used by the Albanian militia who used it to oversee the valley watching for approaching Ottoman soldiers.
The Petrelë Castle was part of the signaling and defense system of Krujë Castle. From what I understand, there was an elaborate signaling system between castles and other strategic locations to warn of an impending enemy attack.
The real adventure was hiking up the stone steps to get to the castle and the breathtaking views along the way! The original walls remain but the westernmost wall is almost completely intact.
GETTING TO THE CASTLE:
The castle is located about 18km out of Tirana City Center. After leaving the main, you find yourself on a steep climb with hairpin curves. The adventure begins. Easing the stress of driving up the mountain are the glorious views of the city and groves and groves of olive groves. Parking the car and then climbing the original 5th-century steps to reach the castle itself is, to say the least, a challenge. The steps are steep and not very deep. Some are short, others are tall. To top it off, the weather had been on and off rainy all day, so we needed to add “slick” into the safety equation! We were approaching dusk leaving the challenge of getting back down at night! What the heck was going on here?!? Stopping numerous times along the way to take in the views of the city and surrounding mountains, one could say, I felt like you were at the top of the world!
TRAVEL TIP: The climb is not for the faint of heart or a person who has mobility issues.
THE TOP OF THE WORLD:
Feeling very proud of myself, unbeknownst to me, there was yet another surprise in this adventure! I thought we would spend a few minutes inside the castle and begin the descent back to the car. Nope! Inside the castle is now a spectacular restaurant! The original architecture has been preserved seeming to be like the setting for a movie- complete with wood beams, a huge wood fireplace, ethnic music playing. The aroma of our soon-to-be meal was wafting in the air. All I could say was “WOW”! For as long as I had lived in Albania and with my countless visits to Tirana, Petrelë Castle was never on my radar- you can teach an old dog new tricks!
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Armel ordered a feast fit for royalty. We started with a village salad, handcrafted bread, and wine. Then the fun began….. potatoes, local cheeses, plates and plates of meat came to our table. It was like a feeding frenzy and yet, somehow, we managed to eat everything!
While we waited for our food, we sat on these tiny benches around the fireplace enjoying the glow and heat that gave the place a cozy ambiance. Armel explained that in prior times, the more mature gentleman would sit on those tiny benches, taking in the warmth of the fire, with raki and solve the problems of the world. (I’m betting there was a bit of gossip going on as well!). After the meal, we sat for a while longer summoning the courage to climb back down the path.
THE ADVENTURE WINDS DOWN:
After a great meal, many laughs, and great conversation, I can honestly say, the only thing better than the food was the company I was in! Stepping outside, I was surprised at how dark it was. The path was dimly lit, the rain had re-started making getting back down to the car frightening yet fun, at the same time. Using our phone flashlights, we cautiously negotiated our way down the uneven steps telling the person behind where to step as we went.
The afternoon and evening were full of adventure, laughter, great food, and the warmth of friends. It was the perfect way to spend my last night in Tirana, Albania! Spontaneous journies are always the ones that give you memories of a lifetime!
Until next time, friends, remember: “To Travel is to Live!”
© 2022 Dee Serkin