When in Kosovo Enjoy Pristina and Nearby Prizren

The atmosphere is effervescent! Families are out enjoying a sunny Sunday. Small cafes are filled to capacity. The scent of roasting chestnuts wafts from charcoal burners on every corner. A visit to Kosovo shows that tourism is on its way up, and rightfully so! And, When in Kosovo Enjoy Pristina and Nearby Prizren.

Mother Teresa Boulevard

A stroll along Mother Teresa Boulevard in Pristina

We absorb the scope of light-hearted activity as we walk along Mother Teresa Boulevard in Pristina, the country’s capital. A statue of this great humanitarian stands mid-way along this lengthy pedestrian boulevard. At the upper end snuggled up against a skyscraper is an equestrian Skanderbeg, the hero who fought off the Ottoman in the 15th century.

The Skanderbeg Statue in Pristina, Kosovo

The Skanderbeg Statue pays homage to the hero who fought the Ottomans in the 15th Century

Testaments of the country’s newfound independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008 abound. My husband Rick and I seek out the “NEWBORN” monument; the three-meter-high letters sport a military camouflage of browns and greens speckled with hearts and flowers. We learn that when first unveiled in 2008 the monument was brilliant yellow, and every year since has been given a different blaze of colors for the annual Independence Day ceremony.

Pristina's Newborn Monument

Pristina’s Newborn Monument, a testament to the country’s independence from Serbia

A large painting of Ibrahim Rugova sides a building in a central square. A nearby statue also honors this past-president of Kosovo, who died in 2006. Rugova is known as “Father of the Nation” for his role in the country’s struggle for independence.

Past President Ibrahim Rugova statue

Past President Ibrahim Rugova is considered the Father of the Nation

Some city streets are named after diplomats highly esteemed by the country’s citizens. Bill Klinton Boulevard (spelled with a “K” on the street sign) is a busy thoroughfare. On one corner we find a larger-than-life statue of this former US President; this signage begins his last name with a “C”. President Clinton is recognized as being instrumental in decreeing NATO bombings of Serbia, which put an end to Serbia’s “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo. There is also an Albright Street named for former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright; which try as we might, we did not find the location.

A statue of President Bill Clinton

A statue of President Bill Clinton stands on Klinton Avenue in Pristina

It is not surprising to find a massive cathedral under construction dedicated to Mother Teresa. Other than the brilliantly colored stained glass windows, the cavernous area now open for services is in total whiteness, striking a sensation of rising above the mundane and into the ether.

Mother Teresa Cathedral

The newly constructed Mother Teresa Cathedral in Pristina

The National Library is mesmerizing with a strange exterior that has been likened to glutinous eggs wearing armor. As we check it out from various angles an image of a brain expanding with knowledge from the wealth of books (and computer generated information) within – this knowledge forever sealed within the steel bands of memory.

Kosovo National Library

The architectural design of the National Library in Pristina has created quite a controversy

Our Pristina excursions always involve food, and there is no shortage of places to nosh-out. In a small café I zero in on a humungous plate of palm-sized-pillow-shaped treats being delivered to a family at the next table. What can one do? We soon have our own plate of Albanian doughnuts, and they are heavenly – steaming hot…golden brown on the outside…white-fluffy-goodness inside – and when spread with salty cheese and thick fruity jam….absolutely scrumptious!

Albanian doughnuts

Albanian doughnuts are a treat in Pristina

When we ask around as to the most traditional dishes, we are told Pristina cuisine is the same as in Albania, which makes sense since the population of Kosovo is 92% Albanian. We also note similar items as in other Balkan countries we have visited – burek, kebabs, stuffed peppers – but am stumped hearing of “flija”. We stayed at the Hotel Pllaza Pristina, and our hotel owner says, “A good flija is a test of patience; the many layers are baked separately in special pans, then stacked with a creamy cheese between.” At the next breakfast in our hotel are wedges of this delicious crepe-like dish – a delightful surprise!

A jaunt to the historic town of Prizren is a fine way to spend a day. It rests on the slopes of the Sharr (Šar) Mountains and is overlooked by Kalaja, a medieval fortress first erected by the Byzantines, then for over four centuries under Ottoman control.

 Prizen's Kalaja Fortess

Once under Ottoman control, the Kalaja Fortess (in the distance) overlooks Prizren

Across the 15th century Old Stone Bridge (superbly restored), we find ourselves in a picturesque haven of brightly colored shops along cobblestone streets. I am drawn to shops and side-walk vendors selling “filigree” jewelry and ornaments; this ancient valley craft involves fashioning silver and gold threads into lace-like works of art. Embroidery is another traditional art-form and there is no shortage of crafts and knick-knacks to purchase being Wednesday, the weekly market day when merchants come in from the surrounding villages.

Old Stone Bridge in Prizren, Kosovo

The beautifully restored Old Stone Bridge in Prizren, Kosovo

Landmarks dot the town. Sinan Pasha Mosque was completed in 1615 by Sofi Sinan Pasha, bey (commander) of Budim. This important Ottoman edifice underwent major renovations in 2000. St. Maria Levishka Church is one of the oldest standing churches in Prizren, the denomination first Catholic then Eastern Orthodox. The tantalizing odors wafting out of a line of cafes and restaurants has us choosing one for a fine lunch before heading back to Pristina.

The Sinan Pasha Mosque in Prizren

The Sinan Pasha Mosque in Prizren was completed in 1615

It is a great time to visit Kosovo. The citizens have come through a difficult time in their fight for independence, and a spirit of freedom prevails. Buildings are being restored and new construction is all around. Tourism is in its infancy, an enticement for us to find its flavor and essence on our own. A Balkan country not to be missed!

If you go:

Kosovo Tourism
Kosovo Population: 1.824 million (2013) sources incl. World Bank
Pristina (also spelled Prishtina) 198,000 (2011) Census
Visas – Passports are stamped for a 90-day stay on entry; check www.mfa-ks.net for charges.
Currency – Euro
Official Languages – Albanian and Serbian
Buses – Pristine to Prizren – leaves regularly www.balkanviator.com
Hotel Pllaza Pristina – (the “ll” is not a typo) this newly decorated, spotless hotel has comfy rooms, exceptional staff, good breakfast (no elevator) – highly recommended.

Written by Irene Butler and photos by Rick Butler for EuropeUpClose.com

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Comments

  1. Selena says

    My boyfriend is Turkish but he hated Prishtina, especially when he heard the story of four Serbian old women, Prizren natives, who refused to leave the city and have been regularly attacked, beaten and tortured by Albanians. You have also forgotten to present Serbian monasteries from the 11th century and part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage, most of which were destroyed
    by the Albanuans after the
    bombing in 1999. Too many holes in the story.

  2. Donald Guthmiller says

    I lived in Kosovo for 4 1/2 years and while the country was still under UN and NATO control the people were friendly and believed in their future. They are very friendly toward Americans and always went out of their way to be helpful. It’s worth a visit.

  3. says

    Hi Selena,
    Thanks for your comment. We were in Kosovo only for a short time and alas, did not get to see the famous monasteries and therefore could not write about them. A good reason to go back someday!

  4. says

    Hi Donald,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. How great to have spent years in Kosovo! We absolutely loved our visit, and received a warm welcome by locals.

  5. Darren Moen says

    Hello. After reading your book “TREKKING THE GLOBE WITH mostly GENTLE FOOTSTEPS” I have been an avid follower and reader of your adventures wherever the world’s travels have found you. As always this article left me feeling as if I was travelling along with you guys. As if I was in one of you backpacks :)) Thanks again. I really enjoyed the read and photographs.

  6. Ardonis says

    Yes, I also visited Kosovo and i haven’t seen any monastery burned or destroyed, i visited them all. People were very friendly there and they all live in harmony. What I could say is that it is a country worth to visit, smth different. And, nice food too. 🙂

  7. says

    Hi Ardonis,
    Thanks for your comment, and how great that you got to see the monasteries! The vibes of the country left us with a good feeling with the hospitality shown us….and we feel like you, it is for sure worth a visit.

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