5 days in Kosovo
Updated: Jan 23, 2020
When I was in Sixth Form, there was a boy called Ed who was a refugee from Kosovo. Ed didn’t speak much about his home country but he did tell us about walking down the streets and seeing dead bodies just lying around. He said this with such apathy that I recall being utterly shocked.
Thus, I admit that the memory of Ed’s stories, coupled with my minimal knowledge of the Yugoslav Wars, made me a bit anxious about visiting this area of Europe. The War officially ended in 1999 but 20 years doesn’t that long to rebuild and move on with your life...
Kosovo is the 5th Balkan State that we’ve visited on our travels so far and I can say, unreservedly, that the people are quite remarkable in their friendliness and openness to foreigners. It is well-known of the Kosovan respect for American after Clinton supported them in their bid for freedom but I was not expecting to be so welcomed as a Brit.
5 top tips to enjoying Kosovo
PEOPLE: The café culture is big in Kosovo so be prepared to be regularly caffeined & sugared up. There isn’t a ‘tourist top 10 to-do list’ per se here, so drink lots of (cheap) coffee and walk up and down the main stretch whilst people-watching.
TAXIS – From Pristina bus station you can pick up a taxi but make sure you negotiate. A taxi to town should be around €2.50 - €3 but they may try for €7 at first! Alternatively, BlueTaxi or Taxi Beki are metered taxis but you need to book these - ask a local to call, unless you speak Albanian. It is €12 to the Bear Sanctuary and the staff there will call a cab for you back to town.
CASH: Nowhere seemed to accept card so have lots of small cash ready. There is a €5 fee to withdraw any amount so try and take money out before arriving in Kosovo.
ONLINE TICKETS: Go to the bus station to get tickets as, unsurprisingly, local transport is not all online yet.
*BOOKING.COM: It may be best to go for a registered hostel/hotel with reviews from booking.com as there are chancers who just put up a room to rent (banes me qera means ‘room for rent’).
The Boyfriend and I spent 2 days in Pec/Peja (Serbian/Albanian translation) and 3 days in Pristina, the capital city. During this time, we had many lovely encounters from the teenagers on a bus who helped us with directions to the ladies in a clothes shop who helped us try and locate our phantom apartment*.
On two occasions, kind locals called taxis for us using their own phones. We also met a guard at the Museum of Kosovo who lovingly told us all about the national football team. Most memorable was the waiter in a Pec café who spoke with an American accent having learnt English through gaming, and who wanted nothing more than to discuss corruption in his local government and Brexit.
2 days in Peja
In Peja, we visited the peaceful 13th century Monastery which was a nice break from the hustle of the town: beautifully kept grounds, a traditional Serbian Orthodox Church and smiling nuns who don’t seem to mind you wandering around their home.
Peja is also home to a slightly disappointing bazaar and a river littered with plastic bottles. However, I guess in a country which is still recovering from war trauma, recycling is probably the least of their current concerns.
The central Plaza / piazza is well-sourced with cute cafes and well-located for watching life pass by in a haze of barking dogs, manic helmetless scooter drivers and posing youngsters.
A lovely place for dinner is Art Design, quite romantic in fact: it has an outside area above the river, decorated with fairy lights and hanging plants; inside is charmingly decorated with a central wood burning fire. The food was exceptionally good. We ate grilled trout, and a beef casserole with a carafe of wine and a bottle of local Peja beer.
3 days in Pristina
The main ‘touristy’ sites of Pristina can be visited in a day (if you're in a rush like know-it-all-Neville):
-The Bill Clinton Monument
- A visit to the National Library of Kosovo – it is up to you to decide whether the design is a hideous monstrosity of steel cages or an architectural delight
- See the Newborn Monument
-Climb the golden stairs and look over the town (I didn't actually make it to the top but The Boyfriend said there was a great view...)
- Wander through the bazaar which sells a lot of fruits and veg. And wood, socks and anything else anyone in the world needs.
I was rather disappointed that we didn’t get to visit the Musuem of Kosovo or the Ethnography Museum - they were both shut as it was a Monday.
However, on that same Monday, Kosovo were playing Montenegro in the qualifiers for the European Championship. The town was ablaze with flags and singing, with people in the high-rise flats watching the game live out of their windows.
We got a good seat in a café along with the rest of Pristina and we cheered when Kosovo first scored. Soon after, we wandered up to the stadium and basked in the noise and enjoyment of the crowds outside standing on walls trying to peer into the grounds as they hadn’t managed to get tickets.
Best of all: I thoroughly enjoyed our few hours at the Bear Sanctuary located 20km outside of Pristina.
The rest of our time was spent walking up and down Mother Teresa Boulevard, stopping in various patisseries for cakes and mint tea.
Next post (An unexpected lunch guest in Tirana)