The final shard in former Yugoslavia’s demise wasn’t given up without a fight. For Serbians, Kosovo was, and presumably still is, associated with their nation’s struggle and birth. Unfortunately times have a changed, and what once was majority Serb is now majority Albanian. And the Albanians were no longer content to live under Serb rule. Thus the struggle ensued, atrocities were committed, international intervention followed, and Kosovo gained its independence, though this is not recognized by everybody.
Peace has returned and some sort of understanding with Serbia has been reached allowing the two governments to, at least, be on speaking terms. While majority Albanian, there is still a vocal Serbian minority, especially in the north.
Politics aside, there are plenty of sites to lure in the tourists, with UNESCO heritage Serbian monasteries, Albanian mosques, rugged mountains, and even more rugged rivers, and of course the diverse intermix of cultures that caused so much heartache and pain, but is also the mother of beauty. The population is generally young, interested and very hospitable.
Not a lot of travellers make it out here, so make the most of it while it lasts, because this is bound to change in the future. For now it is for you to discover this little jewel in the Balkans.
Highlights from Kosovo
- Walk around Pristina (aka Prishtina, Prishtinë, and Приштина), make sure not to miss the Ethnographic Museum, perhaps wander past Jashar Pasha Mosque and by all means do as the locals, drink coffee in one of the numerous cafés!
- Visit UNESCO designated Gračanica Monastery, in Gračanica (aka Graçanicë, or Грачаница), it is only 17 km’s from Pristina
- Go to Peč (aka Пећ, Peja, Pejë) to see two UNESCO sites, first is the Patriarchate of Peč, the second is Dečani Monastery in the town of the same name just south of Peč. The town itself is also beautiful, with Ottoman houses and mosques
- While you are in Peč you might as well discover the Rugova (aka Ругова) Region, hike the canyon, or cycle around the mountain, go spelunking in the many unexplored caves, raft the rivers, rock climb, and in winter ski
- Got off-the-beaten track in off-the-beaten track Kosovo and find your way to the spectacular village of Brod (aka Брод)
- See the Derviş-Paşa Mosque sitting side by side with the Orthodox church of Saint Emperor Uroš in Ferizaj (aka Uroševac, or Урошевац)
- More UNESCO monasteries greet you in Prizren (aka Призрен), as well as an old fortress and many old mosques, a hammam and more
- Go skiing in Brezovica (aka Брезовица, and Brezovicë)
- Try some wine in the old village of Velika Hoča (aka Велика Хоча, and Hoçë e Madhe)
- Witness ethnic fault lines in divided Mitrovica (aka Mitrovicë, Kosovska Mitrovica, and Косовска Митровица)
Hints and Tips for Kosovo
- Though most land mines have been cleared, you should always exercise caution, and if hiking somewhere new, ask the locals.
- Best not to speak Serbian with the Albanians, or Albanian with the Serbians, they are not on good terms with each other.
- English and German is spoken by quite a few of the younger generation.