Kosovo

Kosovo

Curious what backpackers do in Kosovo? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

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  • Day78

    Prizren is reputedly Kosovo's prettiest town, and with a well preserved ottoman town centre, nestled on the bend of a river and overlooked by an imposing fortress, it's not hard to see why. It also has more mosques than I have ever seen in one place, counting 16 minarets from the top of the fortress. However, at this point of the trip I'm definitely mosques, churches and fortresses out and have lost count of the pretty Ottoman towns I have been too, so I spent most of my time there hanging out at the hostel with the resident 4 month old catdog, T-Rex and chilling in the river side cafes deciding where to go next.

    Looking for somewhere a bit different, I found what sounded exactly what I was looking for after finding a solitary description of the village of Brod in the southern Albanian mountains.
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  • Day82

    Pristina, and Kosovo more broadly, was fascinating, not so much for the sights, but in watching the newest country in Europe in its early postwar transformation from a communist backwater to a modern secular state under the intensely watchful yes of the international community. KFOR is still a very visible presence throughout the country, providing a reassuring, if alien, presence, and an opportunity to 'collect' the full compliment of international GI Joes as you make your way around the country. However, taking away the continuing presence of KFOR, there's a surprisingly limited number of reminders that a war was fought here less than 20 years ago. There are many monuments to martyrs, but compared to somewhere like Bosnia, which is still so battle scarred you would be hard pressed to find any obvious reminders. For this reason, on one of my days in Pristina I went on a day trip to Mitrovica to get a better sense of the ongoing tensions that still simmer just below the surface.

    Mitrovica is a town in northern Kosovo, divided by a river and ethnicity. After the Kosovo war, all the Serbs fled north of the river and all the Albanians fled south, leaving behind a fascinating monument to Balkan ethnic tension. Today the main bridge across the river remains closed to vehicle traffic and is guarded by KFOR soldiers keeping the peace. The bridge is one of the nicer modern bridges in the country, but as you get closer you'll notice the Italian soldiers standing next to their jeeps with machine guns, a Kosovo police car blocking the road on the south and the ripped up road and concrete bollards on the north side, for instead of connecting two neighbourhoods, this bridge separates them. Mitrovica is literally and city divided. Despite being well within Kosovo territory, the bridge also represents an unofficial border between Kosovo and Serbia. South of the river, you are in Kosovo, with Albanian and Kosovo flags flying prominently, mosques being built and everything in EURO's, but as soon as you walk across the bridge you are in Serbia, with Serbian flags and nationalistic graffiti everywhere, signs in Serbian, orthodox churches and shops only accepting Serbian Dinar. Also as soon as you cross the river you are all of a sudden struck by the lack of number plates on cars, due to everyone removing Kosovo number plates due to nationalistic pride and/or fear of vandalism. Mitrovica is a tense and present example of the passion and beliefs that still simmer at the heart of the Balkans and going there was essential to getting even a basic appreciation and understanding of the past and the present.

    Pristina on the other hand feels like most other post communist cities in a poor country, trying to reinvent itself. Much of its history has been destroyed under the heavy handed communist brutalist and roughshod modern construction, yet it definitely has an edge to it and scratching the surface present many weird and wonderful places to see. The main pedestrian street is buzzing with energy day and night and the monumental communist buildings of the Youth Centre, who's cavernous interior is now largely empty, bar for the car park in what was once the basketball court, and a perfect location for the urban explorer, and the public library, which is often regarded as one of the ugliest buildings in the world, provide for a fascinating juxtaposition. Other weird and wonderful places include the slightly abstract statue to the father of the nation, Bill Clinton, which stoically keeps watch over the womens wear store 'Hillary', which I'm sure does a roaring trade in pantsuits.

    The love for all things American is on display everywhere, from the street and building names, to the countless American flags and the referential tone that even young Kosovo people speak about the country. In many ways it was so recent, I remember the Kosovo war clearly and remember being impassioned as an idealistic 17 year old cheering on the NATO intervention in spite of the UN inaction, yet it's also so foreign now. The idea that the USA would spearhead a bombing campaign on behalf of a Muslim population against a Christian nations aggression with public support seems so far from where we now find ourselves. It makes you realise how quickly and fundamentally politics and sentiments can change.
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  • Day77

    After so much trouble and dead ends the final trip into Kosovo couldn't have been smoother, immediately getting a lift from a policeman to Burma Curri and a Furgon across the quiet border crossing. I was intending to head straight to Prizrin, but as we passed through Gjakova I liked what saw out the window so jumped off for a closer look and ended up staying the night in a fantastic boutique hotel (one of only two hotels I could see in town) in a restored old building right off the grand bazaar, which is what had grabbed my attention from the bus.

    It turns out the bazaar is the largest in the balkan's and is unique in it's form being a single 1km long street lined by wood fronted single story shops. Gjakova was one of the worst towns hit during the Kosovo war of 1998-99, with over 75% of the population driven out and most of the more prominent buildings destroyed. However, while many buildings remain gutted and empty, the grand bazaar has, mostly, been rebuilt in its original style and is refreshingly full of life and actual craftsman. The top end is being transformed into bars and restaurants in a very hipster fashion and is packed and lively in the evenings, but as you walk down the street further it becomes incredibly atmospheric and timeless with crafts of all types, including tailors, cabinet makers, knife makers, metal workers and jewellers, making the bazaar one of the most authentic I have been to. I stopped in a barber for a trim and ended up spending hours there drinking macchiatos and talking to other customers, many of who are part of the Kosovo diaspora home for the summer and keen to welcome me to Kosovo, explain to me the history of the town and find out how and why I ended up there.

    Having got strict instructions on where to go and eat, I ended up having a great day eating a fantastic lunch in a restaurant in an old restored Han, and the oldest building in town, walking up the hill behind the town to see the bizarre and ruined communist WWII modernist memorial and views over the old town and feeling incredibly underdressed having dinner in the nicest restaurant in town where I ate an amazing 3 course meal, beer and wine for the princely sum of $20.

    All in all Gjakova was exactly what I needed to unwind and recharge after my previous few days of sickness and exertion and a great, and unexpected, introduction to Kosovo.
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  • Day11

    We decided to leave for Prizren and made our way to the only hostel there. The town itself was quite nice and we took a look around and climbed up to the castle. Unfortunately the hostel had a bed bug problem which the staff didn't seem to care about so we decided to only stay here for 1 night as well.
    We also did the city tour with the hostel. It was horrible! the guy had no clue at all and was really unfriendly.Read more

  • Day10

    We were really hungover the next day but it was time to head on to Kosovo. When we arrived in Pristina though the hostel had given our beds away (we had confirmed our booking 2 hours earlier) cuz they were too stoned to know what they were doing.
    We made our way to Buffalo backpackers, which was a bit further from the city center. Still we were able to walk through the entire city.
    Overall it was quite cool to see the sights but none of us were fans of Pristina. It seemed to lack a soulRead more

  • Day14

    Der Kosovo hat die freundlichsten und positvsten Menschen, die ich je kennengelernt habe! Ein Grenzbeamter hat mir gleich seine Telefonnummer gegeben und gemeint, dass ich mich bei Fragen oder Problemen bei ihm melden soll...und gemeint, dass wir uns unbedingt Prizren anschauen müssen! Tolle Stadt...von den Festungsmauern haben die Rufe aus den unzähligen Moscheen etwas mystisches...

  • Day3

    Direkt hinter meinem Hotel Gracanica, liegen die römischen Ruinenen von Ulpiana. Die Stadt wurde vom römischen Kaiser Trajan, anfangs des zweiten Jahrhunderds gegründet. Die Stadt umfasst innerhalb ihrer Mauern 35 ha. Sie war einer der schönsten dardanischen Städte. Und wurde deshalb auch, Ulpiana Slendidissima genannt. Sie lag an der wichtigen Strasse, Amselfeld Skopie.

You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Kosovo, Kosovo, كوسوفو, Республіка Косава, Κόσοβο, קוסובו, कोसोवो, Koszovó, Kosóvó, Cossovo, コソボ, კოსოვო, 코소보 공화국, Kosovas, Kosowo, Косово, Republika e Kosovës, Република Косово, คอซอวอ, Kosova, 科索沃

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