Lady in Kosovo

Not many people travel to Kosovo. The capital, Pristina, isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when people think of visiting the Balkans. But then again, neither is Sarajevo or Skopje. And certainly not Tirana. Given that my Balkans trip had covered so many unlikely capital cities already, I didn’t hesitate to add Pristina to the list. And so I traveled to Kosovo, the 78th country on my 90 under 30 Travel Project list.

Man selling flutes at a market in Pristina Kosovo

My bus left Skopje at 9am. It took a surprisingly short 25 minutes to get to the border of Macedonia and Kosovo, where the driver accidentally left our passports with the Kosovo border authorities. After turning back to collect them, I recovered from my near heart attack at being bereft of my identity documentation and we continued on our way.

Fountain and flowers in central Pristina Kosovo

The remaining two hours took us through beautiful forested mountains, flat stretches of farmland, and more large construction plants and home improvement stores than I’ve ever seen. Like Skopje, Kosovo was building and rebuilding.

Kosovo countryside with a historic church

When I arrived in Kosovo, I met the only other English speaker on the bus. We set off to explore Pristina together for the afternoon. My map was terrible and my new friend’s map was non-existent, so we relied on the locals for directions. That meant meandering through a maze of communist-era apartment blocks and around several new buildings to get to a large street with no signs.

Green apartment block in Pristina Kosovo

There we took a detour into a fruit and vegetable market selling bright blue plums, juicy peaches, and ripe bananas. It reminded me of the markets I had seen in Ohrid and Skopje.

Plums for sale in a market in Pristina Kosovo

After visiting, we asked for more directions and headed up the busy road. Soon we found ourselves in another market. This one was on a wide pedestrianized street and featured everything from traditional clothing to regional foods. At the end there was an entire section dedicated to honey.

Traditional clothing for sale in Pristina Kosovo

A bit further up the street, we came across a fence full of photos of people that had died in the violence in Kosovo in the late 1990′s. It was a haunting reminder of Pristina’s past, and one of the only signs we saw that day that made us feel like we were in anything but a city that had been at peace for centuries.

Photo memorial in Pristina Kosovo

Another reminder was the EU vehicles cruising the streets. Bright blue and painted with the signature yellow stars, they could be seen driving up and down the busy roads as we walked by.

Broken sidewalk in Kosovo

Speaking of walking, when we came to the end of the street we were on, we were once again lost. We stopped a passer-by to ask for directions, and ended up having a long conversation with him. He was French, and married to a woman from Kosovo. He had just returned to Pristina after a year’s absence, and he couldn’t get over the fact that we were just visiting the city for fun. Not many people travel to Kosovo for leisure.

Mosque in Pristina Kosovo

The guy was helpful in telling us where we were (apparently we had just walked down Boulevard Nena Tereze, one of the city’s main streets). He suggested that we walk around the nearby historic area and have an espresso macchiato. According to him, even the Italians admit that Kosovo has the best coffee in the world.

Espresso at a cafe in Pristina Kosovo

We took his advice, and settled into an outdoor table near two historic mosques on Zenel Salihu. The coffee was as good as our unofficial guide had said it would be, and gave us energy to explore another huge fruit and vegetable market in the vicinity. In addition to produce, this market was full of everything from watches to washers and everything in between.

Peppers at a market in Pristina Kosovo

Back on Boulevard Nena Tereze, we took our guide’s advice again and tracked down a bohemian cafe called Tingle Tangle with the help of a mother-daughter team that we asked for directions. The cafe was located on a hidden back street behind the main pedestrian area, and was packed with the artsy crowd.

Tingle Tangle cafe in Pristina Kosovo

We took a table outside and ordered raki, a spirit that is a must-try in the region. The server said that he had just gotten a new kind of raki in stock, and brought a shot glass of it to the table. He didn’t know the English word for the fruit that flavored it, but I think it was peach. Either way, it was good.

Clock tower in Pristina Kosovo

After enjoying the drinks and atmosphere at Tingle Tangle, we headed down to a street called Bil Klinton. Yes, it was named after the former American president.

Building in Pristina

In fact, it wasn’t the only thing in Pristina that was named after an American institution. On the way to Bil Klinton, we passed Capitol Cafe, complete with a picture of the American capitol building in Washington, D.C. Elsewhere in Pristina we saw Hotel Victory, with its giant replica of the Statue of Liberty on top. It was nice to know that there was still a place in the world where people liked America.

Sign for the Capitol Cafe in Pristina Kosovo

In fact, they really liked America. Not far from the corner of Nena Tereze and Bil Klinton sat a giant statue of Bill Clinton. It was surreal.

Bill Clinton statue in Pristina Kosovo

After posing for photos with the former president, my new friend and I walked back to the bus station to catch the 3pm bus from Pristina to Skopje. While our time in Kosovo was short, I was really glad I decided to visit. Not many people travel to Kosovo, but more people should.

6 Comments on Lady in Kosovo

  1. Leon
    October 3, 2011 at 6:48 am (3 years ago)

    Really good choice of locations, especially tingle tangle coffee house

    Reply
    • aladyinlondon
      October 3, 2011 at 11:19 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks Leon! I really enjoyed Tingle Tangle!

      Reply
  2. Mathilda
    April 1, 2012 at 11:46 pm (2 years ago)

    The photos that you saw actually belong to the missing persons during the 1998-9 conflict in Kosovo. The relatives belong to the missing persons often leave candles and flowes in front of the photos as the bodies of thousands of people are still not (and likely to be) found.

    It is a shame that you missed the infamous “Newborn” monument on the police avenue.

    Lastly, the majority of Kosovars show particular respect to US and its citizens. You may be surprised to see the posters on and memorial days designated to 9/11 victims.

    In your next journet, try going out of Pristina – Ottoman cultural and religious sites in Prizren, hiking in Brod village of Dragash as well as in Rugova Vallet of Peja, and the Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Decan (on Thursday starting at 7pm, they have special service where you can actually listen to the monks’ lovely singing).

    For maps, check the Dukagini bookstore on Nene Tereza walking area. The new online in-city bus routes website could also be of help.

    Reply
    • aladyinlondon
      April 3, 2012 at 1:49 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks Mathilda! I would love to go back to Kosovo someday and see more of the country.

      Reply
  3. bruno
    October 3, 2013 at 9:47 pm (6 months ago)

    thank you lady in kosovo, l m black british . speack french and english. l went to kosovo last april for 5 days for visiting , l was very surprised, the city pristina is very clean ,nice building .in front to pristina hotel ,they are very good pub selling good pizza . on my way to the boulevard newborn monument on the police AVENUE people was loocked at me ,and want to take picture with me , and ask me to many questions. l love to go back. l m alredy bought a tiket, l going back there for 5 days on october. l love kosovo. thanks lady

    Reply

Leave a Reply