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Published: September 28th 2016
Pjeter Bogdani Library
Voted one of the world's ugliest buildings in 2009.
Although I had already been there, I had to go back to Skopje from Ohrid on order to catch a connecting bus to Pristina, Kosovo. On the bus to Skopje, an local man seemed to be annoying everyone by talking to them. From the looks on the faces of the people he was talking to, it seems he was talking sh*t or ranting - one dude in particular looked on the verge of punching the guy in the face. Stuck in traffic, I prayed that the dude wouldn't come over and start ranting at me - the bus ride seemed to last forever.
And I still had another bus to catch - and it left early! Good thing I generally get to the platform about fifteen minutes early these days.
In the bus station, I managed to spend all of my Macedonian denars
- the last 10MKD coin that I had saved for my foreign coin collection had to be spent on using the toilet at the bus station. So I have no Macedonian coin for my collection, which was a little gutting.
On the way to Kosovo, it seems like you can hail down a bus anywhere in the
Representing the modern birth of a nation still struggling for recognition.
Balkans - even for international buses. Who needs bus stops?
Once over the border, there seems to be just one main road in the whole of Kosovo that leads from the southern border to Pristina, with all other roads leading off it. As a result, the road is flanked almost all the way by businesses of all types selling everything from gravestones to chandeliers. It reminded me of the highways I drove on in the US
where it seemed like you never got out of the city and into the next one; as if the highway was part of a massive urban sprawl.
Speaking of the US, if you thought that Albanians loved the US, then Kosovans REALLY like them after the role they played in liberating Kosovo from ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Serbs in 1999. There is a road named after George Bush, a statue of Bill Clinton and US flags everywhere...as well as Albanian ones. In fact there are more Albanian flags than Kosovan ones. It's almost as if Kosovo wants to be part of a Greater Albania...which is unsurprisingly the case in some quarters with 92%!o(MISSING)f the population here made up of ethnic Albanians.
And it was actually
Jashar Pasha Mosque
One of three old mosques in the 'old quarter'.
nice seeing Albanian signs again - for a start, I could actually read them aloud which I couldn't do with the Cyrillic in Macedonia, and I appreciated the familiarity of almost being back in Albania again - it reminded me of the good times I had in the country
There seemed to be two types of buildings in Kosovo; drab, Communist-era ones or brand-spanking new glass monstrosities. The city itself seemed lively on a Friday night - complete with giro
- and it felt like I was back in a proper, modern city again. In was in stark contrast to the cabins in the wood I was in by Lake Ohrid
the previous day.
And naturally with a big city, there is decent nightlife and I immediately got chummy with by fellow hostellers and went on another Hostel Night Out (TM).
After a customary game of Circle Of Death / Ring Of Fire / King's Cup, we started off at a rather chic bar with relatively cheap beer (1.50€ for a half-litre). Most people were dressed to impress and the 70s/80s soundtrack got a few of us boogying. We then moved on to Zone, a big club in an old warehouse in the industrial part of the city where it was hip-hop night. It was
Sheshi Zahir Pajaziti
One of a couple of wide-open squares in Pristina.
good fun after convincing the bouncers to let us in for 5€ rather than the rip-off 10€ we weren't prepared to pay. The place was huge and it was packed leading to a good atmosphere despite the Balkan obsession of trying to look as cool as possible, VIP area and all. Eventually the drinks and DJ got the locals to let their hair down a bit and they were dancing as hard as we were.
Things didn't start as late the next day as one might've imagined they would've - but the heat from the sun did ensure I waited until 3pm before embarking on a self-guided tour of the city, with Londoner Jamie, and Aussies Dani and Rachel in tow.
And there really isn't much to see here.
Our first stop was the "Newborn" monument, representing the birth of a nation still struggling for recognition. It is an issue that has divided the world and only 109 of 193 UN member states recognise Kosovo as a sovereign state; Kosovo is itself not
a UN member state. Otherwise in terms of other sights, there are three mosques in the "old quarter" (which isn't really much of an old quarter
in comparison to say, Carsija in Skopje
or Bacarsija in Sarajevo
) of which the Jashar Pasha mosque had an impressively colourful interior, there is the spooky abandoned Christ the Saviour Cathedral, and then there is the Pjeter Bogdani Library which in 2009 was voted one of the world's ugliest buildings. I wouldn't necessarily go along with that - but it is unique for sure and charming in its own way.
It was a real shame that the Kosovo Museum was closed for renovations because I am really interested in learning more about the history here and the war. With the absence of any sort of walking tour too, fact finding is unfortunately limited to online reading.
The territorial history of the Balkans is extremely complicated and I won't get into details here; but basically after WWI, Kosovo was basically Yugoslavian and then Serbian territory and tensions between the mainly ethnic Albanian population and the Serbs living in the area saw the Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic take away Kosovo's autonomy in 1989 under the pretence of protecting Kosovan Serbs and their rights in the area. This eventually became the repression of the rights of ethnic Albanians and the subsequent formation of the Kosovo Liberation
Chic restaurant where we enjoyed some Middle Eastern cuisine.
Army and their attacks against Yugoslav (Serbian & Montenegrin) government targets led to the 1998-1999 Kosovo War in which the Yugoslav offensive descended into the ethnic cleansing of ethnic Albanians. NATO intervened and the rest became history - but it was a shame that I had to read all this rather than hear it directly from the horse's mouth like I had in say, Bosnia
. There seemed to be few visitor attractions linked to the war like there was in Bosnia - perhaps the wounds are still raw to have such things, but there seemed to be no memorials and little obvious outward recognition of what happened.
After enjoying a very nice but relatively expensive, Middle Eastern falafel and hummus based dinner, we joined in the birthday party of one of the volunteers at the hostel where Giant Jenga, beer pong and flip cups were all in order for the night.
I don't know what it is, but ever since I got sick in Tirana
, me and alcohol have not mixed well. My limit seems of have decreased much since the days of partying on Hvar
. I was tired too, and combined with my diminished drinking ability this got me fairly frustrated and annoying characters at the party
Looking up at the VIP area in the fairly-banging nightclub I visited on my first night in Pristina.
saw me become more and more belligerent and at times, hostile with my behaviour. It should've acted as a sign that I needed to stay home that night - but I went out with the whole group anyway as we hit a couple of electro-trance clubs (including one in an old railway station), shots of raki keeping me going. I was really discovering Pristina's nightlife! The clubs were both cool but they weren't really my thing and with my lack of ability to really drink I decided to call it belatedly and finally got in at around 4am. Maybe...just maybe, I might be getting too old for this shit.
Perhaps it might've been the weather? I know that I definitely drink more in hot weather and here in Pristina it was rather chilly at night! That night, I had worn trousers and a jacket for the first time in two months.
Anyway, it all left me in a bad mood the next day and I refused to leave my bed until the late afternoon - I wasn't really keen on talking to anyone. There wasn't really anything left in Pristina to do either.
And that was pretty much it.
Some of the many modern buildings that dot Pristina.
I do have to say that I was a little disappointed in Pristina; perhaps it was too much to expect to have similar experiences to the ones I had in Bosnia, which has had a similar history. But history apart, there still really isn't much to see and do in Pristina and I was done with the city after a couple of hours, although the nightlife is decent I suppose.
I'm now continuing my journey further east - into Bulgaria!
Shihemi me vone,
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