Gjirokastra CastleRruga Elvia Celebi, Gjirokaster, Albania
Gjirokastra’s castle is one of the biggest in the Balkans. It is situated on the hilltop overlooking the city, witnessing the history of the whole region across the centuries. The date for building this fortification is still unclear. According to archaeological findings in the area around castle, the place had been inhabited since IV-V century. But the first walls of this citadel were built between 12th -13th centuries. According to historians, the decision to build this fortification came after the fall of Hadrianopolis. It was the castle built first as a typical feudal property belonging to some rich families, who wanted to be safe and protect themselves from different wars. Then gradually it turned into an inhabited center for many other families.
The first time where the name of Gjirokastra was mentioned in a document is the year 1336 from the J.Kantakuzeni (History of Albania 1959), writing for a revolt of Arberi people against Byzantine empire in a city called “Argyrokastron’. In 1419 the castle and the city were occupied by ottoman empire. What we see today from the castle dates back in early 19th century. Like a giant ship made of stone, it extends across the 1100-foot-high hillside. The name Argyro is linked with a legend of a princess who fall from a cliff with her little child to escape from ottomans. During ottoman empire the castle served for sheltering the soldiers. But in the period of Ali Pashe Tepelena the castle was reconstructed and expanded in the size it is today. The work was directed by the well-known master, Petro Korçari. During that time were built 7 towers, some of them 30 m high. The work and materials were very qualitative. That is still the castle resisted today in good shape. During communism the castle remains in shadows due to its use as a prison. But after the regime collapsed the prison is part of the Museum of the Castle, which includes a collections of arms during WWI and WWII, the prison, and a new pavijon of the history of Gjirokastra.
What to See
Inside the castle you can see the Clock Tower, a Festival scene, the Castle’s Museum and a superb views over the valley. The castle grounds also house a recovered US Air Force jet with an interesting backstory as to how it got here. Some rumors say that the jet was downed by Albanian forces during Cold War (1957). Others say that the plane was an American spy jet and was forced to land in Rinas Airport during December 957 after developing mechanical problems and flying off course, and the pilot was returned to US. The plane was moved to the Museum of Arms in Gjirokastra and considered for a long time as American spy plane. This now sounds ridiculous, because of very good relations between Albania and US
The entrance for the castle is 200 ALL/2 euro
The entrance for the Museum of the Castle is 200 All/ 2 euro
The castle is open all year round (April to September 09:00 to 19:00, October to March 09:00 to 17:00 )