Cruising around Kosovo
Trip Start Aug 27, 2009
17Trip End Sep 17, 2009
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Where I stayed
We started the day with a "whistle stop" walking tour of Pristina. Compared to where we've been, Pristina is hardly an attractive city. However, the pulse of a city emerging from years of conflict is evident and it was truly exciting and an eye-opening experience to witness a country in its infancy.
We first grabbed a taxi to take us to the nearby Gracanica Monastery. Although only about 10km away, it was truly a different world,. Gracanica is a Serbian enclave where the Serb minority lives. Our taxi driver wasn't thrilled about taking us there, and upon arrival it was clear we entered a different zone as all the signs are in Cyrillic and the Serbian flag (as opposed to the Albanian, US, or Kosovo flags) waive in the breeze.
We entered the monastery and were very impressed with this Serbian landmark. Before entering, we had to check in with the Swedish KFOR troops who guard the monastery to prevent any possible conflicts between the majority Albanian Kosovars and the local Serbs. The monastery has incredible frescos in good condition, and the architecture alone makes it worth the trip. In a few years after some restoration, it will really be a gem.
As we walked around the monastery taking pictures, Craig must have disturbed one of the nuns as she started yelling at him. Efren, who was on the other side, came running over to see what the commotion was about. Nothing serious -- Craig just walked too far towards the nun's quarters.
We jumped on a local bus back to Pristina. It dropped us off on the outskirts of town. We were going to find a cab back to the hotel, but realized this was a good opportunity to see some of the sights before our 11am check out. We saw the famous "Newborn" sculpture commemorating the new country that is located outside the impressive Palace of Sports building. We checked out the main square and couldn't believe the amount of new buildings going up. Should be very interesting to see what this city looks like in 5 years
After check out we headed to the bus station for our 1.5 hour bus to Gjakova. Gjakova is near the Albanian border and is known for its market and mosques. The bus ride was very comfortable (although the bus driver chain smoked), and upon arrival in Gjakova we walked from the bus station to our hotel, the Hotel Pastriku. This hotel is quite a landmark in this small town -- a pyramid shaped product of 1960's communist architecture.
We checked in and started wandering around the town. We had to be the ONLY tourists in this place -- we saw no one with cameras, maps or guidebooks. We checked out the Turkish market and stopped for lunch at Te Jupave. We once again had teve, this time Gjakova style with more tomatoes. The bathroom in this place has to be the most luxurious one we've seen in all our travels!
The sites in this small town are limited, but we kept busy checking out the shops (we bought some souvenirs) and mosques. We took a taxi to the hill overlooking the town and enjoyed a refreshing Peja beer. The cab driver was excited to learn we were from America, and explained how everyone in Kosovo loves America. We could also tell because of the American flags flying everywhere and the fact that streets are named after Bill Clinton and Wesley Clark
We drank several macchiatos. We switched away from our usual cappucinos as we learned that here, cappucinos come served with a heavy dose of whipped cream and chocolate. Tasty, but given the number of drinks we have per day, it would seriously start to impact our waistlines. The macchiatos are basically like the cappucinos we are used to.
Tomorrow we head off to the Jewel of Kosovo -- the town of Prizren.