Elbasan is a city of about 125,000 inhabitants situated in the heart of the country, about 50km south from Tirana. It’s crossed by the river Skumbin and it was built where once was the ancient city of Skampini, founded by the Illyrians, crossroad of the Appian Way linking Durres to Constantinople.
Now the center of the city of Elbasan is represented by the castle district (Kala), where you can still admire the old city walls, built on the ruins of the Roman and Byzantine fortifications by the sovereign Ottoman Mehmet II, which gave the city the name of Eli-Bashan (“I put the hand”). In 2003 a project was started to recover the old fortress, today successfully completed, and it has returned to its former city walls. You may see the corner towers guard along the perimeter as well as the towers of the curtain and the fortified entrance.
Inside the fortress you can see the Royal Mosque, dated back to the fifteenth century, the Orthodox Church of St. Mary, built in 1650, and the Byzantine greek-Catholic Church. The city is one of the cultural capitals of Albania and it houses several museums.
Museums of Elbasan
To the north of the fortress, in the house where Alexander Xhuvani was born and grew up, there is a museum dedicated to him: he was very active in politics, culture, linguistic and education, becoming one of the figures the Albanian national revival. Also in the center, a building from the eighteenth century houses the Ethnographic Museum, created in 1982, which preserves the archaeological heritage of the houses of Elbasan. The Albanian education is finally represented and glorified through the School Museum.
How to get to Elbasan
Reaching Elbasan is not difficult: the city is about an hour and 30 minutes far from Tirana, reachable by car or furgon. Be careful because the road is narrow and winding, if you suffer car sickness is not the way for you, perhaps it is better to drive a rental vehicle. However, a new highway is under construction, which once completed will shorten the journey to just 20 minutes.
From Durres you must take a furgon, the journey is about 2 hours and the road is much quieter, car sickness will not be a problem.