West to East Micronesia China Mongolia Russia Baltic Region Visegrad Region Balkan Penninsula East to West Ancient Civilizations Straddling the Straight Southern Africa Eastern Africa Ethiopia United Arab Emirates South Asia Crossing Photo Album Trip Logistics Itinerary Transport Logs Route Maps About Us
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Prishtine, Kosovo
COUNTRY FACTS Pop: 2,100,000 Area: 10,912 km2 Gov't: UN Administered (UNMIK) Religion: Mostly Albanian Muslims, Serbian Orthodox Minority View Map
Prishtine, Kosovo, November 18, 2003  

Kosovo-Albanian Flag KOSOVO


November 18. LAKE OHRID - PRISHTINE  We weren't sure what to expect in Kosovo or what kind of bus connections we would find in Skopje so we wanted to get an early start. That meant a 5:30 bus leaving Lake Ohrid and getting up while it is still dark is always painful.  I did a good amount of napping on our way to Skopje. When we arrived in Skopje we found that we had a couple of hours to kill before our connection to Prishtine so we headed back to our Irish Pub for breakfast.  Getting a good hearty breakfast was always a treat and Lesley was keen to kick back some Guinness with hers (what living in Dublin can do to a person!).  

Our bus left at about a quarter after eleven and it was pretty empty.  The border with Kosovo wasn't very far away and it wasn't long before we starting seeing military sand bag barricades along side the road and men in uniforms.  We anticipated a long and grueling border check but it was surprisingly easy.  The officials appeared to mostly be Americans, which we deduced from their accents and North Face attire.  They reviewed all of the passports but weren't issuing any stamps.  Rob asked for one so the border guard took our passports off the bus and they came back with a stamp that read UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo).  Lesley didn't bother with the stamp but did ask if she should have with one if she were going to travel north through Serbia.  A whole team of people emerged from the border post to consult before they told her a stamp wasn't necessary. (But, she emailed us weeks later and said that the Serbian border officials at the Hungarian border had asked why she didn't have a stamp. They let her go but she had to hassle with them over it.)  The customs check was a non-event.

We all felt the anticipation as we entered Kosovo.  There was small feeling of adventure in traveling to a place that had undergone so much in recent years and about which very little travel info was written.  It was not exciting to see a country that was undergoing so much reconstruction but it was interesting and it was exciting to have to figure things out for ourselves.  The towns that we passed on our way to Prishtine were a bit rough in places but the people were out and about living their lives, mostly well dressed and looking self assured.  The countryside was actually quite beautiful but there were scars of war here and there and we passed one Serbian church that was being actively guarded.  The speed limit signs had limits for both cars and tanks.  

Our bus arrived in Prishtine in early afternoon.  The bus station was just on the edge of town and as we pulled into Prishtine we were greeted by the facade of the Hotel Liberty, its roof adorned with a huge replica of the state of liberty.  It was a small bus station and pretty quiet but buses were coming and going regularly.  I had found a hostel recommendation on the Internet for a place called Pension Professor.  It sounded like a rather informal hostel in someone's house but it was the only affordable option we had found in a city that is dominated by hotels catering to UN employees, aid workers, and academic people.  We knew that a taxi should cost about 3 euros but naturally the taxis new we couldn't get to where we wanted to go without them so they wanted 5 euros.  We held out for a few minutes and went inside the station to look at bus schedules until one driver came in to offer us 4 euros. We gave in and were off to the other side of Prishtine, into one of its nicest neighborhoods, just one block from the President's home, to Pension Professor.  It has been given a proper name, the Valeria Guesthouse, and we were greeted by a jovial older man with a stocky build.  This was the professor.  But, as luck would have it he was expecting a full house the following day and could only guarantee us one night.  Apparently he had a group of Dutch professors coming to stay with him.  But, he offered to check with his sister to see if he could put us up at her house.   

Our rooms were on the ground floor of his large home.  We took our shoes off at the door as we entered and stored them in the closet next to the entryway.  Rob and I took a narrow room with a double bed and twin bed while Lesley took the room next door. We were the only people in that part of the house so we had a bathroom to ourselves and they had set up a microwave and tea bags in the hallway so we could make ourselves tea.  The professor gave us a map he had made of the area and pointed out some things nearby and helped us get started with our exploring. 

We didn't waste any time getting out to look around.  That was in part because we had to investigate some other hotel options in the event that we couldn't stay at the Valeria Guesthouse.  A block from the guesthouse we found a small hotel but the cheapest room they had was $60 for a double room and $50 for a single.  Ouch!  The sun was starting to set so we walked up the hilly street past the hotel to look out over Prishtine.  It was obvious that many places had been rebuilt or refurbished and while the conflict there had been more recent than Sarajevo this city had been more quickly restored to normal.  Of course, the conflict in Prishtine did not last nearly as long either.  None of the buildings were very tall and the soft hills of the city were covered with red rooftops and homes painted in whites, beiges, or brick.  Nearly every family had a satellite TV making the small apartment buildings look disfigured with all of the satellite dishes hanging off them in every direction.  The setting sun gave the city a warm glow and tiny minarets could be seen protruding from the all corners.

We continued walking around the small newly repaved streets in the neighborhood, getting lost as we looked for a way to continue in to the down town area.  A group of children were playing ball in the street and seemed delighted to have us come along.   We had their undivided attention with smiles and "hellos".  Defeated in our attempt to find a through street we backtracked towards our guesthouse and used the professors map to make our way towards the commercial part of Prishtine.  We came upon a long spacious park, under restoration with funds from Italy, and took a detour through the park until it dumped us out in front of the Park Hotel.  That turned out to be our next best lodging option at $60 for a three person room.  We were just paying $10/person at the guesthouse so that was still quite a bit more but the cheapest hotel we found.   They kindly provided us with a map of the city as well.

Looking at our new map we had a hard time pinpointing our location.  For years there had not been any formal street names on many streets of Prishtine and this map had names that matched some streets but not others.  By checking out some of the busier streets we made out more or less where we were.  We were starting to get hungry and we spotted a small kebab restaurant nearby with smoke coming out of its chimney.  When we sat down the place was empty but as the sun set it swelled with hungry people who had been fasting all day.  We were coming up to the end of Ramadan.  We opted for just a drink and went out to see what else was available while the masses filled their hollow stomaches.

We came to a busy thoroughfare that ran across the length of downtown Kosovo.  It had a row of restaurants and diners that were buzzing with people.  Getting really hungry we stopped into a cafe that served a great selection of cakes and pastries.  There we had some coffee and desert.  It was decorated much in the style of an American Marie Callendar's.  Once the eating frenzy died down we chose a fast-food restaurant nearby and ate some kebab sandwiches. It wasn't a McDonald's but they had somehow gotten hold of an official McDonald's menu and it was probably the closest we would come to the golden arches in Kosovo.  The sandwiches weren't spectacular but they filled us up.

It was dark but we still had energy for more exploring We could see a large building that was brightly lit just down from the road and decided to go check it out.  It had a roof made of several glass domes through which light was shining making us wondered if it were a mosque.  We had to weave our way through some dark pathways to get to the access road but as we got closer the building began to look more futuristic than spiritual and it turned out to be Kosovo university, with a trickle of students still coming and going.  It sat on a gradual slope between the busy street we had come from and another busy boulevard that bisected the city and was named after Mother Theresa.  It struck us odd that a Muslim community had named one of their main streets after a Catholic.  But she had been an Albanian Catholic nun, now saint, so maybe it made some sense.  

We continued on Nena Teresa Street until we reached its intersection with Bill Clinton Street.   Prishtine wasn't exactly a pretty city but it wasn't ugly either.  It didn't have any historical charm and the shops and restaurants that line the major streets were a mish mash of pragmatic modernism but it felt lively and new.  One small street was full of vendors selling music and DVDs alongside carts selling food but the predominantly grid-like layout of the city was modern and straightforward.  We headed down Bill Clinton Street past shops, fast-food restaurants, Internet cafes, bars, pharmacies, and clothing stores until we came to a small sort of hip-looking Italian restaurant, Spaghetteria Tony.  In the back wall there was a long padded bench seat behind a metal dining table.  There were few people in the restaurant so we grabbed the couch and asked the waiter to bring a bottle of Kosovo wine.   

The wine was only $5 for the bottle and it wouldn't win any awards but it was novel to drink a local wine.  MTV was playing on a TV that was suspended from the ceiling but the sound was muted so they restaurant could play their own music.  We sat there for a long time until we finally decided that we ought to start heading back to the hostel.  It was mostly an uphill walk but the weather was chilly so it just helped us keep warm.  When we returned we found that Lesley's door was opened and it looked like someone had gone through her bag.  She didn't notice anything missing but it was concerning.  Our room looked fine and our bags had been locked.  The professor and his wife, a lawyer, were very disturbed by the incident when we told them and asked if we were certain that Lesley had locked her door.  She was confident that she had and, in any event, the maid had clearly come in to clean our rooms.  They suspected another maid that had recently been fired but might have still had a key.  It was just lucky that nothing got taken.

SLOVENIA Ljubljana Oct 7-8 Piran Oct 9-12

CROATIA Istra Peninsula Oct 13 Split Oct 14-15 Hvar Oct 16-18 Korcula Oct 19 Dubrovnik Oct 20-29


BOSNIA Sarajevo Oct 30 Oct 30 Nov 1

SERBIA Belgrade Nov 2-3

ROMANIA Bucharest Nov 4 Suceava Nov 5 Nov 6 Cluj Napoca Nov 7 Sighisoara Nov 8-9 Brasov Nov 10 Nov 11

BULGARIA Sofia Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14

MACEDONIA Lake Ohrid Nov 15 Nov 16-17

KOSOVO Prishtine Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21

GREECE Thessaloniki Nov 22 Athens Nov 23 Nov 24