Kosovo – Prizren and Pristina
I caught the bus from Tirana and arrived in Prizren, Kosovo at around 18:30. After getting lost on the way to the hostel, I asked a group of people for directions and rather than pointing, they walked down the road and showed me to the hostel door. A positive start.
I went for a walk around the local are and found a supermarket. To my surprise they had some gluten free cornflakes, that was breakfast sorted. I’d already had lunch in Tirana so I just grabbed a coffee with some chips and cheese at a cafe. The people here are very friendly and open, much different to Tirana where they just seemed rude.
Driza’s House was great, a friendly place with comfortable beds, privacy curtains and breakfast included. You never know what to expect from a hostel as the reviews online are so subjective.
There weren’t too many people staying there either which is good as I’ve been in some hostels where it’s just too crowded. Still tired from my 4am start a few days ago, I had a lay in, the bed was just too comfortable to get up early.
After breakfast I walked up to the fort, which offered spectacular views over the city. It was glorious weather and a fine way to start the day. Prizren is a nice little town with a nice feeling to it.
I had been needing a new pair of jeans since Mostar as mine had shrank due to excessive tumble drying. I found a shop which had some Diesel jeans for 25 Euros. I’m assuming they’re knock off’s but you never know. I got a 32 inch waist and they fitted fine but they only seemed to offer one length.
After using google translate to communicate I finally understood what the girl in the shop was trying to say to me. With that, she marched me down the road to a seamstress who promptly measured me and then cut the jeans to length and re-hemmed them. All for the princely sum of 4 Euros! Since I can’t carry 2 pairs of jeans with me, I ended up ditching my old ones.
I didn’t really know what to expect from Kosovo, maybe bombed out buildings or the scars of war. What I saw in Prizren was the opposite. A friendly, welcoming town with cobbled streets, cafes and bars. It had a very European feel to it and I can see the town becoming more of a tourist destination in the next few years.
I was pretty sure that Pristina would be a step down from Prizren, a larger city, less friendly and more hectic. My predictions were correct but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. When I got off the bus some people showed me where to get a taxi from, another guy shared it with me and paid for me also. Definitely wasn’t expecting that in a capital city.
Pristina wasn’t as attractive as Prizren but it had a nice central boulevard lined with shops and cafes as well as locals trying to sell you their tit tat. I walked around for a few hours and found the obligatory bag of gluten free cornflakes and a couple of bananas for breakfast.
Pristina has a small old town and there are also a few museums but unfortunately they had closed for the season. The population of Kosovo is predominantly Albanian so I had to contend with more crazy drivers in Pristina!
Whilst there we went into a Mosque, it was interesting to see inside and the architecture was pretty impressive. I’m not a religious person but if I was then it would be church on a Sunday. Praying 5 times a day as a Muslim is quite the commitment but I guess if it’s all you have known then it’s second nature. Bizarrely there was a small Swastika within the artwork in the entrance hall!
Independence finally came to Kosovo in 2008 after a referendum. Serbia still doesn’t recognise it and other countries refuse to as well. According to the latest conditions, Belgrade will have to swallow their pride if they ever want Serbia to enter the EU.
There is still a small UN force here in the form of KFOR, their task is peace keeping and I saw a few of them walking around in both Prizren and Pristina. The UK and USA are held in high regard in Kosovo for supporting the country during war in late 90’s. Outside the parliament building there is a banner with names and photos of people still missing since the genocide in 1999 war.
There is a statue of former president Bill Clinton waving as you enter the city but nothing of Tony Blair. Say what you like about Blair but he was instrumental in securing peace in the region along with the USA so I’m surprised there isn’t a statue of him too.
Maybe it’s because of his achievements after Kosovo, namely the Iraq war, maybe they ran out of bronze or maybe he is just too ugly to be displayed in statue form for everyone to see!
Apparently some children in in the city were named Tony Blair in 1999. They will be able to Google their names and feel so proud!
I liked Kosovo. I was apprehensive about going as, like others, I associated it with war. I’m glad I visited the country though, it had a very European feel and I can see it slotting into the EU project quite smoothly.
It might take a few years but the people their seem keen to be a part of Europe and to be recognised worldwide as a country in their own right. Hopefully the EU will survive long enough for them to join!