I’ve just spent the afternoon walking through the town that was my home for the past year. Seeing as the 2nd most common way my blog is found on Google is through someone typing, ‘Living in Kosovo’ I figure I should write a little something for those who may be living here in the future or who would may holiday in this part of the world.
Kosovo is a great base for exploring the Balkans. As you can see from the informative map below it has a useful location in the region for travellers. Just €5 and a 2 hour bus ride will have you in Skopje, Albania’s capital Tirana is 5 hours away (and €15), Sofia is just 5 hours from Skopje. The only place we can’t get to easily is Serbia as there are issues with entry stamps and registration cards.
Living in between so many countries is also great for your geographical knowledge and makes you occasionally useful at table quizzes.
We're the blue one
Not one of the things I like about Kosovo, as I have a passionate dislike of all things coffee flavoured, but anyone who has ever tasted Kosovo coffee has said it’s the best in the world. I once had a local coffee-lover here corner me and slightly aggressively ask, “You like gay coffee? Gay coffee is the best, isn’t it??” I didn’t want to disagree with this guy so I said that yes, of course homosexual coffee tastes better than the straight variety. After about 10 minutes of this he pulls out a packet of ‘G Coffee’, pronounced ‘gay coffee’ in Albanian.
8. The Kosovar Pepper
I don’t know what these things are really called, but they are damn tasty. They go with everything, and seem to come with everything as well. I’ve never seem them outside of Kosovo (but they’re probably as common as rice everywhere but Ireland). In the photo they are the slightly green ones. I have to figure out how to import these fellas into my garden in Ireland:
These people are vocal, and not afraid to take to the streets to make a point. Coming from a country where we hand over billions of Euros to toxic banks with a smile, it’s nice to live somewhere where the people will stand up for what they believe in in peaceful way (just last night I waved to some lads camping on the main street in protest). The most memorable in the past year has been the campaign in the photo below, where 1837 pairs of shoes were left on the main pedestrian street, one pair for each person still unaccounted for since the war.
Shoes for the missing people
There aren’t many cities the size of Prishtina (2011 census suggest 200,000 people live here) that you can eat out in regularly and not get bored. Fellow Kosovo blogger, known as MT Cowgirl, has a Restaurant Guide that we often refer to before stepping out. The large ex-pat community here is the main reason the capital city has Indian, Chinese, Italian, Nepali and Thai restaurants. My personal favourites are any that comply with the lax anti-smoking laws; Amelie, the Nepali restaurant, downstairs in Central Lounge, DeRada… Although all forget the laws if someone important looking wants to light up.
5. Little Towns
Kosovo has many little cities/towns that we like to escape to for a day in the countryside. Among them are Prizren, Peja/Pec, Gjakova. All are easy to reach from Prishtina and have a completely different feel from the capital (mostly owing to the lack of internationals with their hamburgers and baseball caps and the different ethnicities that live in these towns). Below is a hotel near one little town, Brezovica (the site of my ski trip earlier this year:
Sharr Hotel in the mountains
And that brings me to…..
Kosovo does nature quite well. There is an active hiking club in Prishtina that goes all over Rogova Valley and Dragash, two popular hiking spots. An easy way to see this nature is by joining one of the many sporting endeavours that are organized throughout the year like the swimming marathon and the Tour de Culture Cycle. That way you find pretty restaurants like these you may not otherwise come across:
Not a bad spot for some ice-cream
I think pictures will do a better job of explaining this section:
Little bits of meat swimming in melted cheese
Vegetarians should just keep on driving until the reach Greece, you might find something for yourself there...
This next one, flie (pronouced flee-yah – well I pronouce it flee-yah, it might not be said like that at all….) can fill you up for up to 7 hours with one serving. Very often new people arrive in town and we invite them out for dinner. A common response is, “Sorry guys, I ate something called flie for lunch, and I don’t think I can eat again until tomorrow”. This is also what we were given before our 43km cycle over the hills of Kosovo to keep us going.
I looked pretty nuts in the restaurant stripping it with my left hand so my right hand could take a photo
I checked, they don't taste like stale cigarettes and bad aftershave...
The next, the famous burek, deserves a better picture – but this is the best my phone could manage. It comes in 3 flavours - spinach, cheese and meat and they’re wrapped in pastry. One of my happiest days in Kosovo was when I discovered you could order a mix and get all three and so not have to chose between them.
More burek, just a different shape.
2. The People
Before writing this I asked a few people what their favourite thing about Kosovo is, and quite a number of them said “the people”. It has be to said; they’re friendly (and quite good looking!). For me, there are two sets of people here – who unfortunately stay separate a lot of the time – the locals and the ex-pats. Both are great; the local people for always being up for a chat and not minding that we are so terrible at their language. They educate us on what has happened in these parts for the last 20 years, and don’t seem to hold it against us that we arrive ready to save the planet but not knowing exactly where Kosovo might be on a map….
The ex-pats are equally fun. Age, nationality nor hair-colour matter, we all hang out together with a sort of ‘in this together’ attitude. People are always available as we don’t have distractions like partners, children or hobbies (save for the odd Albanian lesson or Pilates class). For anyone new to the place, check out a group on Facebook called ‘Network Prishtina’, anyone doing anything, going anywhere or giving away puppies announces it on that.
And now for my favourite thing about Kosovo……
1. The Constant Festival Feel
This could be numbers 1 through to 5. The single best thing about this place is the fact that there is always something happening on Mother Teresa Boulevard. As I type this on a Sunday evening in June, there are the aforementioned people camping on the street, popcorn sellers, balloons, flags from various countries draped across the road, photos hanging from clothes lines (again in protest, but still…), people handing out badges, men selling toys with plastic dogs barking at their heels, ice cream stands, teenagers walking up and down and up again all evening (and there are lots of teenagers in this youngest-population-in-Europe place).
When I arrived back here on Saturday evening I first thought I had stumbled across some mid-summer festival, til I remembered it’s just Prishtina being it’s normal celebratory self:
Some lovely (protesting) pictures
Another festival day sometime last year...
If I’ve left anything out feel free to let me know in the comments below. Or if you disagree with any of mine (just don’t insult my Kosovo Pepper….).