Kosovo - Europe's newest country

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April 20th 2015
Published: April 26th 2015
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Imagine a place where the streets are named after Tony Blair and George Bush, where the main roads have speed signs for tanks and where the inviting looking mountains can't be hiked owing to land mines. You're probably not thinking of Europe, but Europe it is. These oddities are all part of the experience of visiting Europe's newest country, Kosovo.

Starting from Skopje in Macedonia, my wife, I and our 11 month old daughter crossed the border into Kosovo for a couple of days to explore what is perhaps Europe's least known country. We turned off the main Skopje to Pristina road (look out for another signs thanking NATO and the EU) and drive across the Sharri mountains int he direction of Prizren, Kosovo's second city.

The Sharri mountains looked great but some of the paths are, unfortunately, still covered in land mines, a legacy of the wars in the 1990s. The scenery here is spectacular so we're looking forward to returning one day when the paths are cleared. Just short of Prizren we stopped at a fantastic restaurant called Park Villa for an excellent value lunch by the river - this was a great introduction to Kosovan food.

Prizren is a fantastic little town, with great cafes, a buzzing atmosphere, and a scenic location on the river with the mountains as backdrop. The evidence of Kosovo's troubles is still visible, even in a beautiful town lie Prizren. Many once beautiful churches have been destroyed or burned down, and those still open have military protection. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city and learning a little more about Kosovo's history.

Kosovo's independence is still not recognised by many countries, most notably Serbia which claims it as a Serbian province. The town hall in Prizren has an interesting mural thanking the 60 or so countries who recognise it - it was good to see Ireland in there. Kosovo gained its independence in 2008, and probably has enough supporters to remain an independent country.

On our second day we travelled to the capital, Pristina, a much bigger but less attractive city than Prizren. Pristina doesn't have too many specific tourist attractions but it was a pleasant enough place to wander around for an afternoon. Keep an eye out for the streets named after George Bush, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. I expect Tony Blair will be waiting a long time for a similar endowment in the UK.

We saw very few tourists in Kosovo during our brief visit - I suspect for most people it doesn't simply register as worth the visit. If you're in the area it's certainly worth the trip, especially Prizren. Kosovo is small enough to visit in a weekend, which is roughly what we did though I'm sure there's plenty to keep you here longer. We didn't have a guidebook for Kosovo so instead used the "In your pocket IYP" free pdf guides, which were incredibly helpful.

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