Out and About in Kosovo

Trip Start Aug 31, 2007
Trip End Apr 19, 2008

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Flag of Serbia and Montenegro  ,
Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kosovo is back to looking like Romania, as I discovered from my bus rides around the region. Rolling farmland and huge mountians, acutally more impressive than Romania's. My first day out of Prishtina, I travel to Peja, on the way to Montenegro. On the bus, as seems to be becoming a habit of mine, I befriend the ticket guy. Fortunately, this one speaks good English. He offers to give me a ride to the monastery outside of Peja and getting no psycho vibes, I accept. However, before visiting the monastery, he insists on giving me a tour of the gorge stretching out behind it. We drive alongside the river at the bottom, mountains covered in four to six inches of snow shooting into the sky around us. The scenery is fantastic and his car nice and warm. I had wondered how he could afford a car (I don't imagine bus ticketing pays well) but his revelation that his father runs a driving school explains everything, especailly the extra pedals by my feet. I manage to refrain from accelerating us off a cliff during our journey.

At the end of the gorge, we pull into a restaurant for lunch. The conversation is a little strained, but I had to find something I could buy to pay him back for his hospitality, and the food is delicious. Unfortunately for my karma, when the cheque comes, it is clear there's no way he's letting me pay. Well, I can't really complain about free food. We drive back towards the monastery. He wants me to stay the night in Peja with him. This is where my relationships, if you will, with the men I meet get sticky. I have had similar inviations in Saranda, Tirana, and Prishtina. Language is so important when discussing such things, and when English is the second language of one of the parties, you never know which nuances get across. Staying with him and his parents and unmarried sister could be cool. Staying with him in a bachelor pad, not so much. There's a quagmire of awkwardness tha I can't get around to figure out what his intentions are. I say no and spend the next twenty minutes coming up with every reason I can think of that I must return to Prishtina. Men over here don't take refusal well. They just keep asking. Maybe on the sisteenth try, she'll change her mind! By the time we get to the monastery, I am beyond ready to be out of the car. It was a really lovely experience, and it's too bad the last twenty minutes of continual refusal had to taint it.

The Patrijarsija monastery is guarded against crazed Albanian attack by KFOR. Now, with my Ayrian looks, I'm about as far from crazed Albanian as you can get, but the Italian guards want to see my passport. I had to leave it as a deposit on the room in Prishtina. Photocopies of my passport, birth certificate, and driver's license will not suffice. I am politely turned away. Bummer. I return the next day with documents in order, but they say it is not possible to visit then, either. Why, I do not know. It's a good thing I got an impromptu tour of the gorge then, otherwise my whole trip out would have seemed a waste.

Also during my stay in Kosovo, I visit Prizren on the way back towards Albania. It takes me so long to find the center from the bus station that I nearly regret coming, but once located, the town doesn't disappoint. Like Skopje, there are cobblestone streets lined with a variety of stores and a center square and fountain. There is also a lovely river, corssed by a collection of modern and middle age bridges. As I hike up to the runined fortifications above town, the clock strikes noon and calls to prayer burst forth from the city's mosques. A cacophonous mess at first, they evenutally take on a new timbre, becoming almost pretty, intermingled with the tolling of local church bells. Who is ringing the bells, I am unsure. All the churches I see in town are surrounded by barbed-wire and guarded by KFOR. One has even been fortified and turned into a base, no pictures allowed. Apparently, several churches, many dating back hundred of years, were destroyed in the 2004 fighting.

The fortifications are nothing more than ruins, but offer a good wander and a solid view of town if it weren't so hazy. Nonetheless, I manage to count fifteen minarets poking into the sky. No wonder the call to prayer was so complexly beautiful.

Satisfied with my ventures around Kosovo, I return to Prishtina to catch the night bus for my next destination: Montenegro!
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