My introduction to Kosovo was in Pristina.
And what a warm and kind welcome it was!
I reconnected to a family that our church had sponsored as war refugees in 1999 when Albanian Muslims were being ‘eliminated’ by the Serbians.
They only stayed about four months in Canada until the UN-NATO intervention and protection allowed them to return home.
But they have wonderful memories of our hospitality, and I have been treated as royalty as a thank you.
Luljeta was only 17 when I saw her last. Now she has her own family!
I arrived the last days of Ramadan, and treated to fantastic Iftar meals that break their day’s fast. Luljeta, her mother and mother-in-law went all out to cook the best dishes.
Roast marinated chicken, paprika potatoes, salad, soup, pita
Flija, a labour of love that requires hours of baking each layer of yogurt based dough. Delicious and fun to eat as it peels away in strips.
Baked chicken and pilaf, small burek, salad, soup
Shemsije’s homemade baklava!
Tave me gjize is a traditional breakfast on Bajram, the day Ramadan ends. It is tender yogurt cheese custard with chicken.
And always tea!
After Ramadan we also went out for lunch at Gërmia Park. Festim had been the five year old baby brother but is now the tallest sibling!
Shopska salad, peppers in cheese cream sauce , Kosovo doughnuts
With all the delicious food, I needed to do a lot of walking!
The city was very, very quiet the first days as there were national days for Europe Day and people were also fasting. About 92% of the population are Albanian Muslims.
Then it was quite a shock to see the streets busy and every coffee shop and restaurant humming!
This statue is on one end of Mother Theresa Boulevard by the Kosovo government building.
Skanderbeg was a Balkan hero, with a cool helmet, who fought off the Ottomans in the 15th century.
In Tirana, Albania there was a huge Skanderbeg Square. And in every Balkan town there seems to be a major artery named after him.
The Ethnological Museum shows urban life at the beginning of the 19th century.
Përmendorja was inaugurated in 1961. It takes its name from the main slogan of socialist Yugoslavia. It consists of a 20 m obelisk with three columns representing Albanian, Montenegrin and Serbian partisans who died in 1941-1945.
There is also a bronze sculpture depicting the brotherhood of eight partisans, though they are now painted with the flags of countries that supported Kosovo’s fight for freedom.
NEWBORN was first unveiled in 2008 to celebrate the newfound independence from Serbia. First unveiled as yellow, but given a different blaze of colour for the annual Independence Day ceremony.
Sultan Mehmet Fatih Mosque (1461)
Mother Theresa Cathedral (2007)
Museum of Kosovo
Dardanian goddess sculpted in marble from mid 2nd to beginning of 3rd century.
Uniform of the UCK, Kosovo Liberation Army which was an ethnic Albanian separatist militia from the 1990’s.
Wall of cigarettes at the market.
Lots of great cafes
The Turkish ice cream guy uses a very long paddle and passes the cone out to the customer while it’s glued to the paddle (it’s very sticky). Then he gives it a flip away from their hands just as they reach for it. And again the other way. Pretty funny to watch teenage boys getting the same trick.
Prizren was just a bus ride away. But a very different feel. Very pedestrian friendly. It has a compact old town by the river.
Old Stone Bridge restored to 15th century glory.
Sinan Pasha Mosque dates from 1615.
From my hotel balcony.
Can you see the Fort on the hill? It is also called the Prizren Castle but it’s main function was defence.
The secret tunnel allowed supplies and communication.
It was hard on the heart going up and hard on the knees coming down. But a great view.
Muzeu i Hamamit is a historic Turkish bath that unfortunately wasn’t open to visitors when I was there.
Qyfte with salad, bread and spreads.
Then on to Gjakova (gah-cove-ah).
When I arrived late Sunday morning this very long street of coffee shops was packed.
But the old bazaar, which the town is known for, was shuttered.
Monday it was the opposite, though it seems many of the 500 shops are no longer in business.
Gjakova was a huge trading centre in the Ottoman period. Though the bazaar burned in the 1999 war, it has been rebuilt and remains a site for a few jewelry, leather and woodworking artisans as well as a mix of commercial tenants.
Hadum Mosque dates from the 15th century.
The original Clock Tower from 1597 was destroyed during the Balkan Wars (1912).
Tave Gjakovane is the local specialty of roast veal and vegetables. It came lava hot in its clay ‘tave’ and I didn’t get a photo before the waiter served it.
I was eating in my hotel’s restaurant as it was recommended for traditional foods.
The price of eating out is very low by western standards, but the local wages are very low.
This dish was €5.50 ($7.50 CDN) but it is easy to find a meal for €2-3.
I still thought this was cute, even after I saw it was the car for a pest control company!
Then another 1.5 hour bus ride to Peje (pay-ah). The buses leave every 30 minutes and pick up anyone who flags them down. Same with drop offs. So a great service for locals.
I was there in time for lunch in the Old Bazaar.
I had ‘1 Samsun 5 Qebapa’ (kepabi) for €1.50 that comes with cabbage salad and a cheese spread.
Samun is a most delicious pillowy bread that manages to be moist, chewy and crusty. I carry a ziplock for the second half!
The bazaar was rebuilt after being destroyed in 1999, and has butchers, tailors and shoemakers. And it is full of shops that sell everything from jewelry to underwear. And some dubious children’s toys!
Bayrakli Mosque from the 15th century is the main mosque in Peja.
Not always easy to get a good photo!
There is also a ‘Toni Bleri’ street. Pristina had a Bill Clinton statue snd Madeleine Albright bust. All part of the thanks and recognition for world leaders that were involved in decreeing NATO bombings of Serbia which forced Serbia to stop attacking Kosovo for ‘ethnic cleansing’.
€3 lunch with a stuffed pepper and rolled chicken breast at a side street cafeteria where I was a novelty but treated well.
‘Patriarchate of Pec’ is the Serbian Orthodox Church of Peja (Peć is the Serbian spelling).
The church and nunnery have existed here on the outskirts of Peja since the late 13th century, and is a UNESCO world heritage site
Anti-Serbian sentiment is high so there is strong security at all Serbian sites with police and passport checks.
The Lumbardhi River also flows through Peja.
I’ve loved my two weeks in Kosovo. Everyone has been so friendly and helpful. It started with friends in Pristina but all I have felt is kindness.
And appreciation of the help of UN, NATO and international community for help in creating the newest country in Europe.
Tomorrow I’m off on a 7.5 hour bus trip to Montenegro. It’s on the other side of the Accursed Mountains. Real name!