Dangerous Balkan?


Where are you from? This question guided me every day during my Kosovo trip. It would not be strange, it happens often when it comes to travelling. But in this country this question means - Aren't you Serbian?

We are in Europe - roughly 1000 kilometers away from Slovakia where you will find out that old sins are not forgotten yet. Kosovo is beautiful country with nice people and great perspective. As the youngest European state faces many challenges. I am curious how this country manages it.

I am walking through night Pristina with three men. I met Mentor, Kusha and Aret during my search for music shop. We get on with each other very well since beginning. It's Saturday night, there is no need to work, why not to get to know each other better? We enter the café - Aret wants to show me the girl he likes. She is the waitress in this café. As we were entering the café, it was obvious that she became nervous when she saw him. She does not like him - he makes her angry. Aret is laughing about that - her resistance attracts him. Just for safety reasons, the other waitress came to us. It seems obvious that she is surprised with stranger and she often looks at me. Well, what is exotic for us is also exotic for them.

After hanging out for few hours, Aret accompanies me to my place at the late night - he lives nearby. His singing can be heard on the abandoned street. Aret often trains his voice on weddings and he wants to prove this to me. Very successfully.

Near to me hostel there is Jewish graveyard. Abandoned and empty, same as the most of the Jewish graveyards in Europe. Not very attractive place for tourist, but very important sight for me.

We can find Germia Park few kilometers from the graveyard. It is popular vacation place for Kosovar. Whoever wants to ride a bike or go hiking - it is ideal place for him. During the weekends (in case that there is good weather), it is possible to rent a bike - I took advantage of that immediately. The route is quite difficult, it is important to keep yourself on the track. In some areas you can see warnings before mines which were left there from the war. Woods are beautifully illuminated by autumn sun. I enjoy this route until I get to mountainous areas. I did not meet many tourist there, but I am sure I will remember this one - not special by activity. He climbed the hill by car and he was smoking cigarette at the top. Why to strain yourself?

Everyone who wants to see unusual places (at least in Europe) should go to Kosovska Mitrovica. The bus will take you there from Pristina just for 2 euros. But be careful about where are you and how do you act. Serbian and Kosovar Albanians try to live separately as much as possible. On the north side of the river Iber, you will find mostly Serbians and on the south side, you will find mostly Kosovar Albanians. Passage through the bridge is guarded and part of the bridge closer to the Serbian part is barricaded with stone. I do not need to write why. Despite this fact, people are often walking from one part to other.

Mine main goal are not the most popular touristic places, but I am interested in inconspicuous places at the first glance.

Towns Gjilan and Gjakove can be visited in one day (even less). The most pleasant places in Kosovo I have ever seen. That is why I came back there. Not only you are not in the center of tourism, you are little bit like outside of the known world. I did not need guide there, I just hanged around the streets, sun goes down and I enjoy sweet wandering.

There is going to be very important event in Prizren. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is visiting the city. There are Turkish and Albanian flags everywhere. Except of him, there will also be people like Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. I cannot go to the center of city because of these men. Police will not let you pass through the bridges so I decided to take a look at this event.

After roughly 90 minutes I got bored and started to wander around again. I ended up at the edge of the city where I discovered cool traditional tea house with Turkish tea in little glasses. I drank 2 of them and paid. 40 cents for both of them. What a great deal!

I cannot forget to mention one thing. I enforced my sport soul again. In the city called Peje you can rent a bike. I did not expect it here despite of many possibilities for mountain cycling. I made a deal with the owner that I will come next morning and I will rent a bike for a whole day. I did not know what will happen to me. Through the valley Rugova to village Boge leads narrow road for motor vehicles. Really good experience, when you are meeting trucks on the road while you are cycling. It takes me about 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach the starting point of cycling track. I am exhausted - after one thousand meters of steep road. Whatever, I keep going further, mountainous road is even steeper. I am walking more than cycling. I am tired. I am hearing some shooting in the woods - that motivates me to go down. Downhill is great - sometimes it is quite dangerous, mostly because of the trucks.

You can find Péc Patriarchách nearby the city. There are only women there. It seems obvious that they are not happy about my visit - I guess I am too big temptation for them. I am complaining to police officer that these ladies are strange. Police officer asks me about average earning of police officer in Slovakia. I was shocked by this question. I answered him that average police officer in Slovakia earns about 600-700 euros per month (correct me if I am wrong). I was surprised when he said that he earns about 400 euros per month. It is good earning in Kosovo, most of the people earn about 200 euros per month there.

If you are not tired at the evenings and you would like to go out and meet new people, do not hesitate. It is easy to do in Kosovo. I am just walking around the city and waiting for someone to talk to me or I will be brave enough to talk to someone else. Mostly, it is a good experience, people are open-minded - in the end we end up in some pub.

For example, I put away my camera to my bag and elderly man with ponytail came to me. We started a conversation and ended up in a bar. It seems that this guy is happy to talk to someone. After one hour I have enough, I cannot get rid of him, he starts to be annoying. He went to the shop with me and gave me advice what to buy! And when I tried to tell him that he starts to be annoying, he is asking me for money for diapers for his kids. This is how you can end up if you try to socialize too much.

As I was writing this article, I completely forgot to mention very important place in Kosovo - Kosovo Pole, few kilometers from Pristina. In this place that seems unattractive (also because of presence of factories), the famous battle took place. Thanks to this battle, Osmans strengthened their position in Balkan. I was lucky with weather and I managed to take some nice pictures including Gazimestan.

To conclude, visit of Kosovo was great experience for me. I was lucky that I found more time during 10 days and I got to know this place as well as possible. On the other hand, local pop music was really annoying. 

Date of trip: october 2013

Author: Peter Gregor

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