Albanians call their country Shqipëria. This means “Land of the Eagles” in Albanian, and double-eagle symbols are everywhere. Although this country’s historical leaders included some weirdos-King Zog, Hoxha–the people also have had one outstanding hero. His name was Gjergj (George) Castriot, but in Albania he’s known as Skanderbeg.
Castriot was a nobleman born in 1405. He deserted the Ottoman army during a battle 39 years later with 300 other Albanians, and they headed for the town of Krujë (Kruja) where Castriot declared himself lord of the city and made its castle his base of operations. A castle has stood at Krujë on a prominent promontory in the mountains north of Tirana, Albania’s current capital, since the 5th century. The Ottomans were not happy about this turn of events and a siege of the castle began that lasted for 35 years. Skanderbeg fought 25 battles with them and won 23. In the first he disguised his men as goats. The biggest benefit of his resistance was that it gave Europe a chance to prepare for an inevitable Ottoman invasion. Castriot became a national hero.
There are sculptures and paintings of double-headed eagles and Skanderbeg all over Albania. The one above is in Tirana’s major park/square. The most impressive statue, however, is in Tirana’s National Museum of History on the north end of the park/square. This hero is depicted with a huge body and a rather small head. Skanderbeg was said to be quite tall. I have no picture of the statue because photography was strictly forbidden in this museum built during the Communist years. The one below is from google.com.
Ruth & I visited Kruja castle. It’s a major tourist attraction now. While there, students from all over Albania lined up to shake hands with me. They were very curious about the United States and claimed to like Americans. The castle itself is pretty much in ruins. Some walls remain. There’s a far more impressive museum devoted to Skanderbeg where the castle once stood. It was reportedly designed by Envar Hoxha’s daughter with her husband’s input. We didn’t visit it because we had already heard quite a lot about Castriot.
There are Kastrati gas stations all over Albania. Kastrati is a privately owned Albanian energy company. Its name has nothing to do with either Castriot or the similar Italian-English word that makes men cringe.