Visiting Pristina & Prizren, Kosovo from Skopje
Greetings ladies and gentlemen,
Writing this from the beautiful and historic city of Prizren, Kosovo. When I told people I was going to Kosovo, I was warned of this and that as though the year was 199X, so far the people and this place have been nothing but pleasant. Also can’t get over how beautiful this part of the world is, it’s stunning actually and NOTHING like I thought based on what the media has shared about this region.
Woke up on a couch next to a small dog in Skopje, Macedonia and waited for my S. African friend to get ready before heading to the bus station. The bus from Skopje, Macedonia to Pristina, Kosovo will cost you slightly over 5€ and will take anywhere from 1.5-3 hours depending on the driver and how slow such said driver was. The bus drivers in Kosovo are almost too slow and cautious, a stark contrast from those in other parts of the world. The border isn’t far from Skopje and once you hit Kosovo, you’ll be thinking “Wow, this place is beautiful with endless potential”.
You’ll roll through hills and see some small villages where people appear to be living quite simply. Sort of reminded me of Moldova slightly but less depressed. The scenery is stunning, must mention that again. You will note however that there are incredibly nice cars everywhere. Mercedes, Audi, BMW and even saw a Bentley and a Lambo, for real. In fact I’ve never seen a higher concentration of quality cars anywhere in my life, it’s shocking.
Pristina is the capital and most famous news wise as the city that really “took a beating” during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990′s. Was picturing a destroyed city with bullet holes and lots of remnants from an intense war. The fact of the matter is, they’ve done an incredible job of moving forward. Can’t really see anything that would make me even think there was a war here if it had not been all over the international newswires roughly two decades ago. Furthermore, they have done a wonderful job of landscaping the city, once everything matures, this city will be beautiful, mark my words.
I found many things in the city to be extremely affordable while many imported things and say tinned goods to be double the price of Skopje, Macedonia. I’m easily sold on places as I’m very open minded and take things at face value, was even asking a lady on the bus how much apartments are to rent. The city interests me but from a tourist point of view who wants snap shots in front of landmarks etc… There isn’t a whole lot to offer. That said it does have something that one found particularly interesting…
There is a whole street dedicated to Bill Clinton and a large statue. Behind the statue there is a large banner on the side of a building welcoming Bill Clinton when he came to visit. When I first heard about this, couldn’t believe it. Sure enough visited the statue and took some random photos for keepsake. Another attraction that I found quite interesting was the university library, it’s a really unique building and in a large well put together park that also houses an old church that is worth a look. Most of the churches have barbwire around them and are closed down. I’m not sure why but it could be part of a cultural program to rebuild them, to be frank, not sure.
Afterwards we made our way back to the bus station. The last bus to Skopje was at 5PM. We were indecisive. The lady is equally indecisive so it wasn’t a great match in that regard. Finally decided to juts “go for it” and catch a bus to Prizren which is considered the “old city” of Kosovo as a day trip to any country is asinine if time permits. The bus will cost you 4€ and you can pay on the bus, it leaves frequently from Pristina. It took another while to get there as once again, the bus driver drove more cautiously than my father used to on road trips to visit family in Boston. The ride is very scenic and you’ll see things that make you wish your camera wasn’t in your pocket, of that, I assure you. At this time, will note that we saw some people hitch-hiking from Pristina to Prizren, more on that later…
Upon arriving near dusk we wandered around and looked for accommodation. Again, a very friendly vibe here. I’ve concluded that every country on the planet will tell you to “watch your back” about their neighbors. If you follow that logic, someone is telling someone to “watch their back” in your neighborhood, how does that make you feel? All digressions aside we talked to a local gent who referred us to a family run hotel near the center of town with a reputation for being a good hotel with accommodating staff. Turns out the gent was totally right.
We arrive and they are booked full, like the rest of the city, ergh! However they have this large room with a few beds that they sometimes use for miscellaneous stuff and said if we didn’t mind sleeping in it, they would work us a very fair deal. The deal was more than fair and we really appreciated it. At this time the lady informed us that there was the DOKUFEST International Film Festival taking place… Naturally we left our bags and headed into the old part of town to see what was happening.
As it happens, there are thousands of people from all over the world here to attend this film festival which is the largest in this part of the world. The streets were packed with locals and foreigners alike, it was unreal that we had no idea, decided randomly to show up in this city and we’re seeing it at full tilt. We wander around, get lost in the crowds and finally settle in front of this large outdoor theater over the river that runs through the city with a stunning view. It was called “Symphony of a Great City, Berlin” or something of that nature. It was based on pre WWII Berlin, brilliant film.
Upon arriving at that film, looked around and saw the bearded gentleman who was hitchhiking. Naturally I went up to him and inquired about his journey and we started chatting. Turns out, he is from Poland and is roughly my age. A year ago he quit his job because it was making him depressed about life and has since begun working for newspapers and was here on a press trip. He showed me his old ID card where he looked like a shell of the human being he was now, then showed his new press trip card. He said, what a difference life is when you’re happy!? I couldn’t agree more, haven’t been this “happy” in my entire adult life.
Midway through the movie it began getting chilly for someone with walking pneumonia who hasn’t been resting and instead country hopping like a mad man in an episode of mania. Retired and well, that was the end of a brilliant day. Can’t get over how picturesque or lively this city is. I’d never heard of Prizren before arriving, now it’s up there on places I’d recommend people to visit on a trip through the area, very pleasant and historical city.
There was no wifi last night, as a result another update will be coming today or tomorrow morning. Besides hanging out and resting up, will be spending more time at the film festival. It’s fascinating and so are the people you run into there. Just wish I had brought an extra change of clothes, I have nothing with me but my laptop bag and the clothes on my back. I have what most would consider “nothing” for a trip this long and I assure you, its still way too much… Something drastic is in the air… Before I left, my father offered me a small gym bag and I laughed like he was nuts, he was right.
P.S: At the time of writing this, there is a traditional wedding taking place. I’ve never been so inclined to get married, especially when you see the guests…