10 Things I Like about Kosovo

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.

10. Location

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

We’re the blue one

9. Coffee

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:

A-mazing

A-mazing

7. Activism

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

Shoes for the missing

6. Restaurants

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

Sharr Hotel in the mountains

And that brings me to…..

4. Nature

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 bad for an ice cream place

Not bad for an ice cream place

3. Food

I think pictures will do a better job of explaining this section:

Little bits of meat swimming in melted cheese

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...

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 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...

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.

Burek!!

Burek!!

Pie shaped burek

Pie shaped burek

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:

Party time!

Party time!

Popcorn!

Popcorn!

Some lovely (protesting) pictures

Some lovely (protesting) pictures

Another festival day some time last year

Another festival day some time 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….).

52 Comments

  1. It’s Central Room not Lounge :) And you forgot to mention the fries! But othet than that you nailed it.

    Reply
  2. Really? All this time I thought it was Central Lounge.
    Have you anything to add? (Or did I plagiarise all your ideas already?!?)

    Reply
  3. Heh, don’t worry. It’s nice that you promote little-K. I also really recommend people this part of the world for a visit because it’s a place close by that tourists still haven’t discovered (or ruined) and it’s still possible to see the country as it is with it’s own culture still quite intact. It’s a good writing, I enjoyed :)

    Reply
  4. I didn´t know you could mix the different bureks! Great list :)

    Reply
  5. Burek mixing is great! Only cheese and meat though, I’m not a big fan of spinach…

    Reply
  6. Dear Claire,

    Thank you very much for trying to put the positive things about Kosovo on an article. As Kosovar I am quite happy to hear that there are some internationals that like Kosovo and believe that we have what to offer.

    I am Kosovar-Albanian and even if I wanted to write a good article about my country I could not put it in such good presentation.

    Thanks once and again and please keep writing about Kosovo.

    Reply
  7. Thanks Linda! Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you like it. A lot of internationals like Kosovo, it’s a great place to live.

    Reply
  8. Great article Claire. The shoes in the street for the people unaccounted for since the war is really moving. All in all seems like a very vibrant place! You’ll miss it!

    Reply
    • Thanks Ciara. Yea, I’ll miss the little spot alright. May be a weekend getaway place for me in the future (once they get a few more low cost airlines flying there).

      Reply
  9. Thanks a lot Claire,

    Thanks a lot making me happy this friday.
    I’m from Kosova and now living and working in Slovenija.
    Exellent way to describy my proud country.

    Once again thanks a lot :-)
    Fatos

    Reply
  10. Fatos, I’m happy you like the post! Thanks for dropping by.

    Reply
  11. Loving this post! Makes me want to visit Kosovo. Think the activism stuff is pretty inspiring, and love their creativity around it too.

    Onwards to your next adventure, eh?

    Reply
  12. Yea, their activism is outstanding. I don’t think I even did enough justice to it in this post.

    Next adventure is imminent. Right now I’m recovering from surgery, getting double glazed windows, stocking up on Malaria pills and leaving for India next Monday! Hope to see you there.

    Reply
  13. You forgot to mention the bureks in front of the munincipal building, orgasm through tasting.

    dough people, happy people

    Reply
  14. Darren, I had no idea that place was so good! And I worked right by there. I’ll be back in August and will definitely check it out.

    Reply
  15. ooh..real good description. really nice place for living..I was there 2008-09 and I’m back here..now for 8 months.. beautiful country ,delicious food , attractive people..everything’s lively..I can’t even imagine running away from here…thanks Claire

    Reply
  16. WOOOWW this is an excellent way to describe Kosovo…as someone already said “i wouldnt be able write it this way” ..this is wonderful, makes me so proud of Kosovo, knowing that foreigners have such a positive opinion about it. Thank you!!!

    Reply
  17. Try visiting in the facebook “hiking njeri kosova” group or page…whatever, and everyone will see how beautiful Kosova is. Pictures are posted by a guy name Arben Islami who I think is the biggest ambassador of Kosova by representing his country by the photo’s he shots around.
    Great article though Claire, brilliant. Thnx.

    Reply
  18. Bardh, I heard about Hiking Njeri. Unfortunately they 2011 hiking trips started just as my time in Kosovo was coming to an end. But I will definitely check out those photos. I’ve liked the Hiking Njeri page on Facebook, looks like great fun.

    Reply
  19. Pepper with cheese and Pogaqe (bread), my absolute favour too…..Love your article, the best that I read in many years about us. Thank you very much…..

    Reply
  20. You forgot to mention that it is very affordable, i mean you can get enough food for a day just for 2 euros, everything is cheaper ..
    other than that , very nice description .

    Reply
  21. Dear Clair..I’m glad that you liked our country
    YOU ARE WELCOME!
    Kosova has such a lot of beautiful things to see

    Reply
  22. I liked your article a lot ! It describes Kosovo as I know it, also being a foreigner.. I agree, the peppers are great! But you forgot suxhuk ( I think it’s written this way )and the pizza.. But of course, fli and burek are my favourites too :))
    I hope tourism will develope here in the next years to come. Keep writing ! :)

    Reply
  23. Dear Claire !!

    I liked the way you described my country. You described the best way !! And it make me feel special knowing that foreigners like my country.

    Reply
  24. Klodeta, I love Ajvar with cheese!! Must try it with Suxhuk next time…

    Reply
  25. I’m delighted you like how Idescribed it!
    And Marita, I never heard of Suxhux, but I will hunt in down on my next trip to Kosovo in August.
    Claire

    Reply
  26. Dear all,

    I highly appreciate the initiative for writing this beautiful article and bringing onto surface the beautiful aspects of Kosovo.

    To learn even more please visit as well the portal of information http://www.beinkosovo.com.

    Also in facebook “Be In Kosovo”

    Reply
  27. hahahahaha I lovee this. I am truly happy that you have enjoyed literally some of the” best things’ about Kosovo. Even an Albanian them selves wouldn’t be able to describe these as great as you have.
    I come from New Zealand and my boy friend is a New Zealander, I find my self mumbling lots of times to describe to him how ‘Flee-yah’ should be pronounced, and I have told him many times that capsicums, no matter what size or shape, are part of our life, and something that we cannot do without. I will direct him to your site, so he is prepared for all these experiences when we visit Kosovo soon.
    I want some burek and fli and capsicum nowwwww, those photos are irresistible.
    Thanks again fir this post, this has highlighted my morning.

    Reply
  28. Thank you for taking the time and making all of us Kosovars feel proud to be so in these times when we are struggling with a very dark-negative public opinion in the international arena, and a presentation of Kosova as a hostile environment for the rest of the world which you with your article proved to be wrong.

    p.s. You HAVE to try Suxhuk , Ajvar and a little white cheese ….. mmmmmm the best

    Reply
  29. you shouldve visited hasan the crazy

    Reply
  30. Nice description! I wouldn’t agree on coffee – my relatives from Kosovo always want coffee from Slovenia when I visit :)

    And the beer – Peja beer is awesome!

    Reply
  31. Claire, Suxhuk is sausage, and I bet you have tried. Coffee? It’s a very good but not the best :)
    Great article. Well done!

    Reply
  32. I think I tried it. If it’s on that big plate of meat up there then I definitely have! And as I said, I don’t drink coffee so I can’t be sure of that one. I was just going on things people had said to me (for that – the rest are my own).

    Reply
  33. Even the Bradt travel book on Kosovo marks Kosovo coffee to be best in the world, after Italia.

    Reply
  34. I really wish I’d extended my trip to visit!

    Reply
  35. Next time Conor, next time. :)

    Reply
  36. This seriously just made my evening when I read it.
    You took some great pictures and explained everything so nice. :)
    Hope you go again and have a great time..
    Because I sure can’t wait to go next summer :)

    Reply
  37. Great decription Claire! The coffey, definitely one of the best worldwide. But don’t forget Elbasan Tava, you can have it on Tiffany restaurant, everybody in Prishtina knows where it is.

    Reply
  38. Ah yea! How could I forget Elbasan Tava. I’ll definitely be going to Tiffany’s when I’m back in August.

    Reply
  39. Thank you very much for this wonderful guide. Its teally make me proud for Kosova. I think you have to add some links to your article as:
    Beinkosovo.com
    Kosovothanksyou.com
    Visit Kosova page in Facebook
    Wikipedia.org/kosovo
    Etc.
    There are much international people who dont even know it exists.

    Anyway thank you very much.

    Reply
  40. since you love our peppers so much :-), next time when you are here ask for homemade AJVAR :-) ….

    Reply
  41. ‘ It’s nice to see that article from you Claire, It make me much prouder, but you forgot something about the people there, even that we have the best geographic position in ballkan, we’ve the youngest people too!!..

    ‘ Thank you for the great work that you did!!..

    Reply
  42. Very nice post Claire, this will help Kosovo shape its rightful place among the nations of the world, where it belongs, as normal place to be and especially to visit.

    Here is a web site you can visit also
    http://visitkosovo.org/?page=2,1

    You might mention more about people and more so young people, and more about their looks and smarts, it might be interesting, especially since I think we have the most beautiful and smart women and men.

    You might want to put some more photos of the scenery of the country side, and visit Rugova Gorge, Mirusha waterfalls, Batllava and Badovc great lakes, Thousand year old Gadime Cave, and more.
    Thanks again.
    Luan

    Reply
  43. Dear Claire,I just read your article,and all the coments for your article.I whas born in Kosova,and I love that place,?but?looks like you only screched the top layear of Kosova that I love and miss.Reality is (All,of us Albanians that gave everything and fight for the FREEDOM that they engoy now_did NOT teach them a leson.)
    They are 458 differant peppers on world,yes I love does peppers.coffey is good but its just coffey.Maybe next time you go there should have article off 10 things off worst kind that Kosova have,and if you dont know witch once,All of us outside Kosova(KOSOVARS)will help you.
    Some time whe should think about Rose in spring,how good it smells,but if you try to take one,you better have gloves.
    P.s. You missed the best thing in Kosova QEBAPA,and quiet people of Ferizaj together with Malet e Jezercit,and possibalety off BIG FOOT living there.
    But you could not know that people that advise you are little bit selfish and one sided.

    Reply
  44. Naim, I did not know Big Foot may possibly live there! I was there for one year and no one told me. Next time I will look into this.

    Reply
  45. I haven’t read for long time such a nice article that has nothing to do with politics and on top of that, by someone who is not from Kosova. Very nice description of people, nature and food. Thanks claire and keep up with the good work.

    Reply
  46. Thanks Agron, glad you liked it!

    Reply
  47. Hi Claire. I really enjoyed your blog. I am moving out to Kosovo mid July and, being new to Prishtina, want to meet people. Is there a forum/website I can visit in order to start getting in touch people?

    Reply
  48. Hey Andrew! Thanks for visiting the blog. I’ll drop you an email there. The best thing to do to meet people is look up a group called Netwok Prishtina on Facebook. Lots of internationals and people from Kosovo on there.

    Reply
  49. Claire, you are wonderful! Reading your blog about Kosovo brought tears in my eyes, Kosovo it’s a great place Claire and having people like you visiting our small country makes it even better! Kosove loves you Claire and needs you to promote it the way it is! Enjoy your future trips to Kosovo! God bless our great friend!

    Reply

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