I ended up bumping into a friend that was connected somehow to a city in Eastern Kosovo, I believe it was called Gjilan. The net result was a drive around the area with a stop here for dinner at a restaurant my friend was familiar with. Although we started in Pristina and headed east, we sort of started the tour from northeast of Gjilan along the Serbian border not to far from the checkpoint. I think I’ve indicated that between the war, perhaps some political instability, economics and geography to name a few reasons, the per capita income is quite low. This is not necessarily the fault of the population as they are almost certainly as much the victim of circumstances as anything else but they seem to take it all in stride.
As we traveled throughout the east the landscape appeared quite similar to the other areas I visited and was dotted with partially built houses and commercial structures. The low per capita income is evident throughout the country but the continuing attempts to progress are also evident. You have to give them credit in that the people have not given up and continue to struggle to make a better life for themselves and their families. In virtually all of the larger cities and to a lesser degree or scale the smaller cities and villages you see some sort of bazaar. It may be stand alone or along the sidewalks throughout the city, open air or in buildings but they seem to be omnipresent with vendors hawking essentially the same items or whatever they can lay their hands on to sell. I’m not sure where everything comes from, probably China but I’m not sure.
I stopped in a few of their version of party stores to check out what was available and it appeared to be similar to what we see in the states although in a more compact area. They use the Euro so it wasn’t a problem purchasing whatever I wanted without any hassle regarding exchange rates. One of the other things I noticed is the country doesn’t have the elaborate infrastructure we take for granted in the west. There is some effort to upgrade in some areas being attempted by the country and aid organizations which you can see in various places. It will not doubt take decades to move forward but at least they’re trying.
So, we stopped in a restaurant in Gjilan and the owner of the place was on the upper floor and noticed my friend immediately. He sat us down and asked what we wanted to eat and drink.The conversation was in Albanian with my friend keeping me posted on the events. We ended up eating some locally made food but I can’t recall what the name of it was. I think there was some lamb involved though. We followed up the meal with some sweets and tea which I loved. We were seated by a window and as we ate I watched the locals going about their day as people do everywhere I’ve been. Sidewalk vendors selling or attempting to sell to passersby, vehicles pulling in to shop at the local grocery store it was basically life as usual.
After our meal we hopped in the car and headed back to Pristina making our way on what seemed to be secondary roads so I could get a feel for the real culture of the country. The villages are quite interesting by themselves as they’re relatively isolated and straddle the old and the new. They cling to culture and habits they have for centuries while at the same time reaching out for new things from the city. One thing I did notice is due to their closer connection to the land they are less dependent or influenced by the global economic picture. I suppose that this is a good thing from one standpoint as they aren’t affected to the same degree as the rest of us by the economic swings that can plague westerners which I suppose is a good thing.
We ended up arriving back in Pristina later in the evening and I wrote down a few notes, downloaded pictures and discussed my trip with friends back at home.