This’ll be a short post as I barely spent any time in Kosovo. I did fulfill my basic requirements for having been to a country though: step foot in the country, have some sort of experience there, spend at least a few hours, consume coffee. Since at home I think Kosovo isn’t very well known, I thought it might be interesting as an intro to the country to actually write a post for it.
From Podgorica, I was trying to get to Skopje, Macedonia without spending a night on a bus. There seemed to be only one way to do this by land, and that was spending the day bussing through Kosovo.
Kosovo is a country in Europe recognised by 111 UN members, none of which are Serbia, which still claims Kosovo as its own autonomous province.
The NATO intervention in the Kosovo War from 1998 – 1999 is still controversial. As I mentioned in my Serbia post, some targets in the city may not have been justified and resulted in civilian casualties. When I arrived in Prizren, Kosovo however, I saw a monument to NATO in appreciation of the intervention. As always, there are two sides of the story and it’s complicated.
Anyways, Kosovo is an interesting country for many reasons. It’s one of the three Muslim majority countries in Europe, and despite being claimed by Serbia, it is ethnically about 92% Albanian. This became extremely obvious as the Albanian flag was even more common than the Kosovo flag.
Crossing into Kosovo was marked in a special way. As the bus began its descent from the mountain we were navigating, we suddenly had to slow down for cows. We were way up, not even at the border check yet, and some cows were blocking the road!
Further along was the border crossing, and I now have a Kosovo stamp on my passport, which looks way better than most European stamps. The long and winding road down the mountain afforded some excellent views.
I was nervous all day because as far as I knew there was only one way to get from Podgorica to Skopje in a day and I needed to make every connection.
After about 6 hours we arrived in Prizrin, which is the second largest city in Kosovo.
I was sorry I didn’t have more time here, as there seemed to be a lot to see. I did get a view of the Old Stone Bridge though.
At the station I immediately went into the main building to try and figure out my connection to Pristina. When I got inside I was greeted by completely empty counters, and a room full of locals looking at me. Seems the blond hair and giant backpack make me a little conspicuous. I went back out to the buses and started looking for any that said Pristina, found one, and 5 minutes later the bus was moving.
I found out later how absolutely necessary it was that I got this bus.
The bus ride to Pristina was packed and took about an hour, and I think I was the only traveler on it. There was a TV at the front of the bus that played nonstop music videos, so I spent this ride across Kosovo listening to Ed Sheeran, James Blunt, and Nelly Furtado. It also took me 3 or 4 videos to realise that the TV itself was a black and white TV, and not the artists being creative. Here’s an example of the common flags – Albania and Kosovo.
I was slightly alarmed when the bus stopped and everybody got off before reaching the central bus station, which I thought was the final stop. I don’t know if the bus would have gone there anyways, but I asked the attendant on the bus about it and he asked me where I’m going. He was very nice, gave me information about my next bus, and I miraculously arrived at the bus station I needed. Everybody I encountered was very nice, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I learned that it wasn’t a stop and they brought me there anyways.
At the Pristina bus station I was able to get a ticket for the final bus of the day to Skopje at 7. My first bus of the day was at 9:30, and it was a little after 6, and I needed coffee.
I went to a coffee shop in the station and a waitress came over to help me. I asked for a macchiato, and she said I should have a latte because she likes it better. “It’s nice.” Alright, fine by me. Then she asked if I wanted a pastry, so I pointed and asked if I could get that one. She pointed to the one next to it and said “this one is nice, you should have that.” Thus I was successfully guided away from what I’m sure were terrible decisions on my part, and happily had my latte and mystery dessert. She asked me about my impressions of Kosovo and welcomed me to her country, and gave me a very positive impression of the people there.
I made it to my van to Macedonia on time, and arrived without any issues in the capital, Skopje.
My time in Kosovo was brief, but the impression was good. It’s clearly a poorer country affected by its uncertain country status internationally, but like every other Balkan country I’ve been to so far, the people were kind and it was worth visiting.