Kosovo has a bad reputation, which is understandable. We arrived not knowing what to expect. People had said it is a terrible place to stay and should only be visited on a day trip, if at all. We opted to give it the benefit of the the doubt and booked a room at Hostel Han. As we drove in we noticed quite a few industrial plants as well as new highways complete with over/underpasses so it looked like there is being some investment made. We got off the bus and, as per previous advice, took a taxi from outside the station as they are cheaper. There appeared to be no particular order to the taxi stop, as some were parked with two wheels on the curb and one with three wheels on the roundabout. We decided upon one with four wheels on the road, but unfortunately, it seemed it wasn’t the fist cab “in line”. As we started putting our bags in the boot another driver started yelling at our driver who was ignoring him. He came over still yelling pointing at his car, pointing at the driver. It was getting heated so we left with him yelling through my window at either our driver or me.
We pulled up as directed at the only 5 Star Hotel in Pristina as the well dressed porters arrived to carry our bags. It took a bit of convincing that we were not staying there but across the road in a residential building but when they noticed our bags, the way we looked or the way we smelt, they left us alone to find our way to the hostel. We dropped off our bags before being given some places of interest from the balcony and headed up Mother Theresa Boulevard to a supermarket to cook our first red meat meal to date – nachos! You won’t find any old El Paso packets in Kosovo, so when we saw a small packet of paprika/garlic/onion seasoning we thought we would give it a go. Out of Doritos, we grabbed a packet of Mexicos, some vegetables and some mince via the international mince measurement of a fistful. We headed home to begin cooking amongst the envious looks of fellow guests. We put in the equivalent of a sachet of taco mix we are used to and let it slowly simmer down to the desired texture. A touch of salt and a sprinkling of pepper, we sat down to enjoy it. Turns out the sachet mix was flavoured salt and Mexicos were heavily salted so the touch of salt was definitely not needed. Thankfully we had a few Preja Beers to wash it all down with.
We were building up to head out for a few beers, but as we walked towards the Main Street, we saw the calibre of clothing that Kosovoians were wearing. We compared the stilettos to our dirty feet in our dirtier Havanas, smelt our pits and decided to garb some beers and drink at home. We heard, that while Kosovo is the poorest country (we call it a country) in Europe and the citizens cannot afford to go out drinking, they instead dress well and walk the boulevard up and down, socialising with friends and admirers, make the best of a bad situation.
The following morning we were invited to the hostels first ever city tour free of charge, so we couldn’t refuse. Our guide, Edona, picked us up at 11am and walked us down to the old town. To get there, we walked on the the brand new boulevard but we were shown what it used to look like during the 50’s as well as what was there, before it was destroyed in the late 90’s. We walked past the Kosovo Museum and into the garden of the old mosque next the old Turkish baths. We did not have covered knees so were very politely asked to leave, not before admiring the amazing artwork outside the building. We then wandered into the “Bizarre Bazaar”. Fresh fruit was being sold next to a car boots of cigarettes, next to row upon row of traditional wedding dress makers. It was busy with cars pushing through while all the old men sat and watched life go by as they slowly sipped their drinks outside tea houses. We left there to wander further up towards the new town and into the campus grounds of the University. Smack bang in the middle is the National Library, a completely bizarre building that the locals said must have come from aliens. Next to it, was a reminder of Slobodan Milosevic.
Nationally recognised as a country of no religion, Kosovo is happily made up of many religious groups that live side by side. Although there was one religion that was not in Kosovo, particularly Pristina; Eastern Orthodox. Yet right there, in the middle of the campus is an unfinished deralict Orthodox Church. No windows and overgrown with weeds and trees, it is now home to many things but lets just say, not very religious. We wandered from there up towards the city park before stopping for lunch with our guide in Taverna. It was great way to finish the tour as she relaxed after her first day at work and we could speak about everyday things in life, as well as Steve Irwin.
We had to run to make the 3 o’clock bus to take us to Skopje, Macedonia.