Kosovo is a country I have wanted to go to for a very long time. In particular, I wanted to visit the old Ottoman town of Prizren and to experience the youth and vitality of Prishtina. Another important reason is because one of my veritable obsessions is Albanian music and some of the best Albanian music artists are Kosovars. As well as some you might not have heard of, Rita Ora, Dua Lipa and Era Istrefi all originate from Kosovo. Another reason was that I wanted to practice my Albanian (a language that is really fun to speak) and there was also Albanian food I needed to try, already having had a great experience in Tirana a few years before. Sadly I only had a few days, due to take a bus to Skopje, Macedonia on the third day, but I crammed in as much as I could. Here’s what I got up to:
Day One – Prizren – Prizren is a well preserved Ottoman market town that’s an easy and cheap coach journey from Prishtina. Prizren is located near the pointy Sothern end of the country and is home to a mix of different minority groups including Bosniaks, Turks and Gorani. The bazaar area in the centre is much as it would have been hundreds of years ago and is a really interesting area to walk around. By the river, Te Syla is an excellent restaurant who produce local meatballs, burgers or fried Kashkaval cheese. The fortress above the town, known as Kalaja, gives excellent views over Prizren and towards the hills and mountains of the Gora region. It is well worth the walk up there and the route passes a ruined Orthodox Church and a sweet tea house with excellent views from their balconies. It’s also worth finding the League of Prizren buildings and the Sinan Pasha Mosque. It’s easy to spend a day in Prizren and I definitely want to return, not least because from here you can travel further south to the hilly Gora region.
Day Two – Prishtina – Prishtina still feels a bit like a work in progress but one area it has definitely got right already is its culinary scene. There are a multitude of restaurants in Prishtina and many of them are very good, if you want something traditional that’s fine, if you want something modern you’ll find that as well. The vast majority of restaurants are Albanian cuisine but you can find Greek, Italian and Nepalese restaurants and even a place that does Thai ice cream rolls. I really have to single out Trosha though. This company own a couple of bright and stylish cafés across the city specialising in bakery products and ice cream. They have a massive range, whether you’re looking for traditional pastries, like byrek, or Turkish simit rolls, but whatever you opt for it is great quality and incredibly cheap. I’ve also read great things about Liburnia Restaurant which I’ll definitely be visiting when I return.
I was staying in a hotel in the hills above Prishtina, in an area that actually felt much more like a village, but the walk into the city was pleasant and varied. Prishtina certainly has interesting architecture, not necessarily the most attractive but you’ll see quite daring designs from the Yugoslav period you won’t have seen anywhere else, especially the Pallati i Rinise and the Biblioteka Kombëtare e Kosovës. In amongst all this modernism, you can still find remnants of the Ottoman period: a number of mosques recently refurbished by the Turkish Government and the old fountain that used to stand at the middle of the bazaar. The semi-mountainous Gërmia Park was also on my list but the torrential rain put an end to that.
I will definitely be returning to Kosovo, I still need to go to the town of Gjakova and up into the highlands of Gora where the Gorani people live. I was also really disappointed not to find a flija (thin pancake-like layers of pastry covered in sour cream or kaymak, traditionally cooked under embers) but will make it my mission when I come back.
P.S. I would like to congratulate Kosovo on participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics that are just starting, this is Kosovo’s first appearance since independence. Paç fat!