You can’t hear mention of Kosovo without it evoking memories of its suffering in the late 1990’s during the Balkans War. The atrocities throughout the Balkans during this time have been well documented, and we weren’t sure what to expect during our visit. Had Kosovo been able to move on from it’s recent troubled past?
Celebration of independence and a country newborn.
On the 17th February 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia and is now recoginsed as an independent country by most (but not all) of the other EU member states. On that day in 2008, the Newborn monument was unveiled, and each year on the 17th February it’s repainted with a new design.
To us the monument felt like reminder that that the country is still young with its adolescence ahead.
As we were only here for a short visit, I can’t say we feel in love with Pristina. But I’m glad that we took the time to visit and learn a bit more about Kosovo in person.
Visiting Mother Teresa Cathedral.
Did you know Mother Teresa was an ethnic Albanian, who was born in Skopje and lived her childhood years in Kosovo? I’d always assumed she was Indian. Mother Teresa herself said ‘By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
There isn’t much to see inside the cathedral itself, but the views from the bell tower across the city are stunning. From high above you can see in all directions, giving you clear views of the city of Pristina.
There are minarets from the local mosques poking through the maze of buildings. You can see the local flats and houses, office buildings and the roads leading into and out of the city.
But the building that stands out the most, is the bizarre-looking National Library.
Is this the ugliest building in the world?
Search ‘ugliest buildings in the world’ and almost always the National Library of Kosovo appears on the list. What do you think?
The alien-looking golf ball domed roof and outside walls of chain-metal mesh are incredibly strange and bizarre, but I wouldn’t have called it ugly. I’ve seen much worse.
It’s certainly one of the strangest looking buildings we have seen on the trip so far. Perhaps when it was built in the early 1980’s by Croatian Andrija Mutnjakovic, he thought this was what the future would look like, as we arrived at the library on our hoverboards.
Pristina’s (Farmers) Market.
Our favouite part of any town is always the local markets. We love seeing what’s in season, buying some fresh produce, and it’s always the best place to see the locals go about their day-to-day lives.
There’s no imported fruit and vegetables here. Slow-food, in-season and organic produce is the norm, without the hiked up prices. Just farmers selling what they have harvested that week.
We were so glad to be visiting the region in summer. We ate so many amazing watermelons, nectarines, peaches and tomatoes – all in season and so juicy and flavoursome.
The Albanian Connection
One of the most interesting aspects of Kosovo is the large Albanian connection. 93% of the population are Albanian and Albanian is also the official language in Kosovo.
When looking up whether to not you call people from the region ‘Kosovan’ or ‘Kosovar’, I came across a comment stating there is no such thing. That you should describe the region itself as Kosovo, but the ethnicity of the people in the region will always be either Albanian or Serbian. But as time goes on, this seems to be changing with Kosovars seeing themselves as exactly that, Kosovars. Or Kosovans.
Our time in this part of the world has come to an end. Our next stop is Istanbul where we are picking up a rental car and starting our road trip around East & South-East Anatolia.
When to visit Pristina: We visited Pristina in mid August 2014.
How to get to Pristina: We took a 4 hour bus from Skopje (Macedonia).
Food & Drink recommendations for Pristina: Eating out in Pristina was a lot more expensive compared to Albania and Macedonia. We did find a great place for dinner in town that was also reasonable priced. Pishat restaurant – one of the best meals we’d eaten in a long time. Make sure you check it out.
Where to stay in Pristina: Value for money accommodation in Pristina is limited, so for the first time on this trip we decided to stay in a dorm room at Hostel Han. It did what we needed it do for the night, but confirmed what we already knew – we are WAY too old to stay in dorm rooms anymore.