I lived in Pristina, Kosovo for around 10 months and spent every spare minute visiting the country and surrounding area. It’s a fascinating place for a variety of reasons which I’ll cover in the pages that follow, but include economics, culture, geographic location, politics and history. The war that gripped the country in the 1990s was still evident everywhere and I went on many tours of battle sites on my own and with groups.
Depending on who you ask and what interest they may have in the area, Kosovo occupies a unique place. Surrounded and landlocked by divergent cultures, religions and geography it’s still gripped by the remnants of war and a processes set in place by Western European forces to set it up as an independent nation. The results of these processes remain to be seen, but during my time in the country I found the people to be generally friendly, accommodating and willing to share and inform you of their country and culture.
There is much to see in Kosovo as it has a rich history due to its location and has been controlled, governed or overrun by outside forces for centuries. The breakup of what was Yugoslavia thrust the entire region into economic and political chaos that eventually deteriorated into war. The area eventually broke up into its constituent parts along with their linguisitic and cultural boundaries as best they could as you can see while traveling. But, human nature, greed, politics the general myopic tendencies of humans have create borders that are or will be disputed depending on which side of the cultural line you stand. These issues make the entire region a fascinating place to visit as each area struggles to define itself, safeguard what it sees as its domain and attempts to build an economy.
I had quite a good time learning about the country, its people and cultures. What a fascinating place I learned quickly. As a whole it’s quite conservative and although friendly I found it a challenge to walk up and start a conversation with a female. Seems that although it’s possible depending on where you are, say a public place it’s possible to ask questions but quite often there are language barriers as English doesn’t seem to be as prevalent as elsewhere, although there are pockets within the population where this is possible.
Like I said earlier, the people are generally friendly and accommodating the location and surrounding activity will influence whether or how helpful they area. Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed my attempts to communicate and except for a few exceptions, the people would at least point to someone who could help me.
I spent time, from several hours to a day or more in many of the cities within Kosovo like Ivanijica, Ferizaj, Leposavic, Skenkeraj, Mitrovice, Prizren and Peje to name a few of the major ones. Each city was somewhat unique in the level of activity and diversity of cultures (Albanian and Serbian) and I found the whole experience unique and quite interesting. Many of the little villages are suspicious of outsiders but welcoming of Americans or Westerners if you’re in an Albanian area. If you find yourself in a Serbian controlled area they were generally distant and not all that interested in helping although they would sell me things when I was shopping.
I saw mosques, churches, museums, cathedrals, wineries and liquor production facilities that seem to be popular, the one that I ran into the most was I think Rakia which is a fruit brandy popular in the Balkans. There were a variety of types made out of everything from honey to prunes or basically whatever was locally available.
I visited a few of the battle sites from the events that took place during the 1990s making sure I was sensitive to all the sites and didn’t disrespect the locals as I felt I should. The entire country still bears the scars of war and I found quite a number of buildings and houses that had been destroyed.
As the country continues to develop and loosen the grip of outsiders it will be fascinating to see what transpires and this landlocked country evolves into independence.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and if given the chance I would spend more time touring the area and becoming more acquainted with the people and their cultures.
Battle of Pristina – Known as The Battle of Kosovo, also known as the Battle of Kosovo Field or the Battle of Blackbird’s Field
My room in Pristina – Here is a room I lived in while in Kosovo
Kosovo Flight – A flight I took over Kosovo
Kosovo East – my tour of eastern Kosovo
North Kosovo – my tour of historical sites and cities in the northern part of Kosovo
Peć or Pejë – my trip to Peć or Pejë
Prizrin – My trip to Prizrin
Pristina – the city I lived in while I was in the Balkans
Balkans Road Trip – One of my more memorable trips
Pristina to Munich to London – My flight to London via Munich
And it goes on – More information and pictures from my travels in Kosovo
If you want to browse the pictures I took while in Kosovo, they are here: