Kosovo - a flying visit

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June 25th 2018
Published: June 26th 2018
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When we hear the word Kosovo, we think of war reports. But we find Prizren to be a small, quiet town set on a small river. It has a village feel. After our early morning coach journey from Albania, we find a small coffee shop and sit outside in the sun with very good cappuccinos.

We climb up to the ruined fortress that overlooks the town. The view is stunning and we count the slim minarets. There are 40 mosques in Prizren and at noon those minarets burst into life, calling the faithful to prayer. In Albania we were seldom aware that it was a predominantly Muslim country. Kosovo is 95% Muslim and it is much more apparent. We had expected Kosovo to be Albania in miniature but it is not. If Albania feels close to Italy then Kosovo feels closer to, perhaps, Turkey or Bosnia.

There are also churches in Prizren but these tell a sad tale. In 2004 there was a Muslim uprising and many churches were damaged or destroyed. Some have been restored but many are still burnt out shells. Most are guarded by police and have fences, even barbed wire, around them.

Albania had few Western tourists, Kosovo seems to have none except us! This means we attract attention, usually friendly, often bemused. Both museums we try to visit are closed. Due to lack of visitors, we wonder?

Our wander around the interesting streets and alleys of Prizren for a day includes visiting the Sinan Pasha Mosque. Its interior is quite beautiful. Indeed, much of the old architecture is lovely, with an unexpected Japanese feel.

We then travel on to Kosovo's capital, Pristina. Our bus climbs through a range of hills before we descend to the inland plain. The bus stops frequently to allow local passengers on and off. They help us understand where to get off – at a random roundabout rather than at Pristina's bus station! It is strange to think that most of these Kosovans have lived through a war here.

Pristina is busy, like most cities its streets cannot cope with today's traffic. We wander its boulevards to find the Bill Clinton statue, amusingly in front of a dress shop called Hillary! Both Clinton and Bush have streets named after them, both presidents helped Kosovo get established and then recognised as an independent country.

There is less sense of the Kosovo war here. The infrastructure is less damaged – there are still generators everywhere but, unlike in Prizren, they are not running. There is a large new cathedral but there is also a large, quite lovely, half built church in the centre of town. Construction started before the war but the church was never finished.

This is the youngest country that we have ever visited, just 10 years old. Its situation feels a little fragile but, with world support, we can only hope that it remains peaceful and prospers.

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