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May 09 2014

Rozafa Castle in Shkodër, Albania

In the distance, on my bus ride from Ulcinj to Shkodër, I spotted a hill with what looked like a castle on it.  As we got closer, I had a better view of it and tried to take a photo, but that’s never easy on a moving bus.  I knew I would have to go back and investigate one of the days.  As it happened, two Malaysian women I was sharing a dorm with also wanted to visit the castle, so the three of us headed off together.  Actually, we were really lucky.  Two Swiss guys, staying at the same hostel, gave us a lift most of the way.  It’s on the way out of the city, so it saved our legs for the way back.

I’ve chosen it as this week’s Foto Friday because it was an interesting place and it’s the highest point in Shkodër, so you have far-reaching views when you’re up there.


Apparently, there was originally a Bronze Age settlement on the site.  Later, the Illyrians settled there and built a fortress before it was captured by the Romans.  Because of its strategic location, the castle was built in the medieval times and since then has been the site of several sieges.

What I find really interesting about this castle, is the fact that there is a legend to go with it.  One of the women I visited the castle with had read about the legend and told us the story.  This legend is how the castle got its name.  So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin…

Once upon a time (sorry, I couldn’t resist) there were three brothers building the castle, but they had a bit of a problem.  Every morning they returned to continue with the build, only to find the walls had fallen down again.  They met a ‘wise’ old man, who told them that if they sacrificed someone, the walls would stay up.   The brothers discussed it and decided to sacrifice one of their wives, the first one to bring food to her husband the next day.  When the two older brothers got home, they told their wives to stay at home.  The next day, the youngest brother’s wife, Rozafa, went to the castle to bring her husband some food.  As she was the first wife, she was the one who would be sacrificed.  The brothers explained what was going to happen to her and why.  She agreed to be buried in the castle walls on one condition.  She wanted a hole in the wall for her right arm, breast and leg so she could caress her newborn baby, feed it, and rock the cradle.  It’s not a happy ending, except for the fact that they were able to complete the castle.

Apparently, most of what you see now is from the Ottoman and Venetian periods.  It was great wandering around the castle grounds but, it was the view that did it for me.  Because the castle is on a hill, you get fantastic views of Shkodër and beyond.  You can see Lake Shkodër/Skadar and the Montenegrin mountains, the river Buna, and the area where the old city centre was located, although all that remains is a disused mosque.

It costs 200 Lek to enter the castle grounds.  There is an archaeological museum, although it costs an extra 150 Lek to enter.  There is a restaurant next to the museum, called Rozafa.  I wanted to go there for lunch, so I could admire the view, but it was closed.  I assume it will open for the high season.


This is where Rozafa Castle is located:

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About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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