March 5-7, 2016
The bus dropped us off on the side of a street in the city of Prizren, Kosovo. Turns out we were in luck as we were standing right in front of a phone store and I could finally get my broken screen fixed. Several men were standing around the store and seemed a bit surprised when I walked in. I showed them my screen and asked if they could fix it. They all spoke Turkish but the older man spoke a little english. We were able to come to and understanding.
As we waited their incredible hospitality was exposed. We were treated like guests in their home. The son of the owner made us coffee and offered us cigarettes (neither of us smoke but it almost seemed rude to decline the offer.) We stood outside smoking and trying to communicate. The owner told us he moved from Turkey 6 years ago. The son gave us a gift of free phone charging bracelets and then insistently offered us more cigarettes- he himself smoked about 3 in ten minutes. We used the translator on our phone to ask the son about fun bars to visit on a Saturday night. He then called an english speaking friend on his phone and had Scott talk with him. Through the broken english we were essentially invited to go out with them at 11. We took the sons number before leaving the shop with my good as new phone.
We walked through the town to reach our hostel. We noticed many mosques and many people out and about. The streets were full of people, music from bars, and a bustling energy. The owner of our hostel said that many people come from the capital, Pristina to hang out in Prizren on the weekends. Looking around at the crowd, we noticed that the majority were men. Men in groups, men in pairs, men strolling the street, men sitting on bars. There were a lot less women and when we saw women they were in their own groups or pairs of just women. The majority of the people out in the city were young, under 30.
Turkish Pizza With a Side of Smoke
We found a place for dinner and shared pide- Turkish pizza and salads. Everyone but us was smoking in the restaurant. That seems to be the norm in Eastern Europe.
We had breakfast at the hostel, which wasn’t anything special. We met a couple of travelers. One was a German guy who has been traveling for quite a while another was a Bulgarian girl who was on a short 2-month stint. All of the travelers were on the same bus that we’d also taken form Skopje. They too were only staying one night in Prizren.
We walked up to the fortress with the others from the hostel and took photos before we caught a bus to Pristina
Finding our Apartment
3 hours later we arrived at the Pristina bus station. We had no clue where our apartment or the city center was. We were not able to download a map of any city in Kosovo. We ended up taking a cab just to save some time. We also had trouble finding the address of our hostel once in the city. After calling the owner we were able to finally check in our room. We splurged for a nicer place, 35 euro (about $39), and it was amazing! There was a kitchen, large bedroom, desk, large living room, and two balconies.
We tried to find the Bazaar but walked around back and forth without success. I actually think we found it but it was so dinky and unimpressive that we just walked past it. There isn’t much to see or do in Pristina other than walk around and drink coffee (small ones at that)! We did up our ice-cream cone count to 94 though!
Meeting Some Locals
Sylvie had been feeling a little sick with headache and wanted to stay in for the evening so I went out to get us dinner. While waiting for our food I talked with two of the employees at the restaurant. They insisted that I ‘take a seat’. I was also offered a cigarette. I kindly declined 3 times but he was persistent and I ended up having no choice but to accept the offer. Their English was better than some, but I had to simplify and slow my speech. I asked if they had been to Serbia and they looked at me and gave a flat, “No, why would we?” I have since read on a variety of national consulate websites that one should avoid discussing politics while in Kosovo. I think avoiding interesting topics like this is a horrible suggestion and one really misses out! I did, however, use discretion.
The two went on to tell me how Serbia killed 20,000 innocent civilians and how Kosovo is now an independent nation. At its surface it seems like a positive thing that independent nations have been created (e.g. Bosnia, Kosovo, etc.), but I’m starting to think that the opposite is true. I have done a little reading and it seems that nationalism in the Balkans dates back to WWI, when the Ottoman Empire broke up. The couple that we had hitchhiked with in Macedonia told us that they were Albanians. The two people at this restaurant told me that they were ‘true Albanians’ because of their bloodline. People in Bosnia describe themselves as Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks. I think that as these countries get older and develop their own unique culture that the younger generations will start to consider themselves ‘Kosovniaks’. Also, as their education gets better they should loose this blind Patriotism.
It’s interesting to compare the nationalist Germany party, the NAZIs, to the German culture as it is today. Germany accepts more immigrants than any other country in Europe (probably the world) and has moved past its nationalist roots. I think the only way for most Americans to get past this antiquated view of the world is to travel more! Interestingly enough Germans are among the most traveled people in the world.
The two ‘Albanian’ men were extremely kind and friendly. I told them about our experience with the very nice guys at the phone store in Prizren and I was told that the city is largely Turkish. The two men said that the Turkish are also very friendly. They just didn’t like Serbs. I am very excited to experience Serbia in the coming days.
We enjoyed a nice breakfast across the street from our apartment and then did practiced yoga for an hour. We were planning on catching a 3:30pm bus to Nis, Serbia. We killed our afternoon but surfing the web at a nearby café.
At the bus station I asked about the bus to Nis and I was told that there is only one bus to Serbia and it’s to Belgrade at 10pm. I wasn’t too surprised because the online bus schedules fucked with our plans back in Skopje. Also the guy had told us that unless we arrived from Serbia we wouldn’t be permitted to buy a bus ticket. So we took the next minibus to Skopje, Macedonia, which left in just 10 minutes (at 3pm).
We decided to skip Nis and take the overnight bus from Skopje to Belgrade. We leave at midnight and should arrive sometime after 6am. Today was spent mostly on the internet wasting time.