Monday, October 23, 2017

San Diego reader: Kosovo untouristic country, but with lots to see

Kosovo maybe is not a typical tourist country, but is perfectly safe to visit — with lots to see for the intrepid traveler. The San Diego Reader, a large newspaper in San Diego has dedicated an article about the small country of Kosovo. Alice Diamond, the author writes a long article titled “What brings you to Kosovo?
Kosovo Monument of Independence
Photo: Arton Krasniqi 
"Just a hundred years ago, Pristina was a multicultural and vibrant trading city, with a huge bazaar in its center, an urban elite who spoke Turkish, a Serbian population with strong ties to the Orthodox church, a strong Jewish community which was even in charge of its own schools, as well as the large Albanian population, most of whom were Muslim, but with a small percentage who were Catholic. Today, aside from all the expats, it is nearly all Albanian Muslims.

Two words about Pristina, the capital city

Despite having a well-developed café society, Pristina is rather hard to fall in love with. Aside from a brief stint with the distinction of being the “World’s Newest Capital City” from 2008 to 2011, there are few Guinness Records it is likely to beat.
Being “wet behind the ears” as a nation is almost a point of pride. One would not expect to see this freshness illustrated in a nine-ton, ten-foot-high by eighty-foot-long monument, but this is just the kind of quirky thing you find in Kosovo. Basically the monument consists of seven block letters spelling out NEWBORN. It was initially painted yellow, one of the colors in the Kosovo flag, and was unveiled on the day the country declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.
While there may be only a few sights in Pristina, what they have is unique. The most notable building is the National Library on the campus of the university. The building was intended to include both Ottoman and Albanian elements, but there is little consensus on which aspect is which. The prevailing view is that the domes are an Ottoman influence — and the roofline does look like the Topkapi palace.
The symbolism of the metal work woven around the concrete exterior denotes is also up for grabs. Perhaps a harem screen for the Turkish part of the fusion? But others seem to think differently. Apparently, the official cutting the ribbon thought it was just a mistake and chastised the builders for failing to remove the scaffolding before the ceremony. And then we overheard one student saying he thought that it was to remind you to “Study hard and finish school, lest you be imprisoned here.”

Church in Prizren
Photo source: San Diego Readers
Prizren

If Prishtina is the modern face of Kosovo, Prizren is a glimpse into its past with a history of the city dating at least to the 2nd century AD.
This museum city did not undergo heavy-handed demolition by Yugoslav Communists, as Pristina did; instead, ample evidence of its Ottoman past is extant. With upper stories of houses jutting forth into the street and delicious Turkish food predominating, it is the only place in Kosovo where Turkish remains an official language.
This becomes particularly handy for the hoards of Turkish visitors who descend on the town to purchase their very expensive, gold-embroidered wedding outfits.

The preserved city center delights with multiple fountains, bridges spanning the fast-flowing Bistrica River, ancient churches, and mosques from the 16th century. There is even a medieval fortress on the hilltop, protecting the city below.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Kosovo: Your next adventure tourism destination

Kosovo is blessed with so many beautiful nature destinations, where you can experience a lot of adventure activities. Medium.com, an online publishing platform, has recently published the article “10 Reasons to Make Kosovo Your Next Adventure Tourism Destination”, by PPSE Swisscontact.

Bike Tours
Photo credits: Dini Begolli 

“A landlocked country where you can explore outdoors all year round, while peppering your stay with a unique culinary experience and enriching your spirit at diverse cultural heritage sites, Kosovo is a destination that will speak to your adventure-seeking soul. You can challenge yourself with rock-climbing, caving, mountain biking, ziplining or swinging at nearly 900 meters above sea level.” 

Via Ferrata in Peja
Photo credits: Dini Begolli 
Here is the top 10 reasons to make Kosovo your next adventure tourism destination

1. Two Via Ferrata Lines: Peja and Zubin Potok
2. Bike tours in Peja, Prishtina, Junik and Gračanica
3. Hiking, Camping and Yoga
4. Kayaking in Badovc Lake
5. Zip-Line in Peja
6. Caving in Radavc
7. Adventure Park & Giant Swing
8. Snowshoeing in Rugova and Brezovica
9. Night-Skiing in Boge Slopes
10. Via Dinarica Trail
Giant swing in Peja Adventure Park
Photo credits: Dini Begolli



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lufthansa Magazine: Why should spend holidays in Kosovo

A church in a suburb of Prizren © Meiko Herrmann
Lufthansa Magazine has published a long article about Kosovo, giving some good reasons to spend holidays in this landlocked country. 
Florian Sanktjohanser is the author of the article, where he presents the most impressive things about Kosovo’s nature, culture, attractions and people. 
“A holiday in Kosovo? Yes, please! Pristine nature, cultural traditions and a vibrant urban scene are just some of the young nation’s charms. Best of all: the people and the warm welcome they offer you.”
First he starts with DokuFest, a music and film festival, and a magnet for creative minds and culture fans from all over the country. The festival attracts 30 000 people, and locals rent out their spare rooms to make up for the lack of hotel beds.

What’s about Pristina?

The city’s patriotic heart beats here, and statues of the national saints stand proud: Skanderbeg, Ibrahim Rugova and Mother Teresa. It’s a strange boulevard, seamed as it is with an eclectic mix of glass bank tower, luxury hotel and swathes of socialist concrete. Only a handful of Ottoman mosques remain, and there’s no intact historic center. It takes true determination to admire the other landmarks: the national library with its veil of steel bars and 99 domes, and the Palace of Youth and Sports, a masterpiece of brutalism. Everyone loves the monument in front of it, though: the word “NEWBORN,” spelled out in three-meter steel letters. Unveiled on February 17, 2008, it celebrates independence. Each year since 2013, the letters have been presented in a special way to mark the anniversary. This time, the letters N and W were laid flat and connected with white paint to read “NO WALLS” as a reminder of the limited freedom of movement Kosovars have.

Mirusha Waterfalls

Mirusha Waterfalls © Meiko Herrmann
The Mirusha Waterfalls, widely considered a natural spectacle, seem disappointing, as a blue pipe connecting two kiosks spoils the lowest fall. At the fourth fall, the banks narrow to form a dramatic gorge, and only a threadbare, partly broken rope hooked to the wall provides support. 

Sacred Sites in Kosovo
Two of the most sacred sites of the Serbian Orthodox Church are in the west of the country; both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites protected by high walls and KFOR soldiers at the gate. The Visoki Dečani Monastery is a place of pilgrimage; King Stefan Uroš III Dečanski lies buried here, “uncorrupted after 700 years,” as the young guide earnestly explains. We are the only visitors crossing the immaculately kept courtyard to the marble church. The only other place even more sacred is the Patriarchate of Peć, the medieval spiritual seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church. It is also silent and deserted. A Japanese tourist skulks around the 800-year-old mulberry tree; a stern-looking nun ensures no photos are taken.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The best destinations that you shouldn’t miss in Kosovo

Kosovo is a landlocked country, but there are a lot of spots where you can have a great experience. Kosovo provides troubled ancient and modern history, rich culture, stunning nature, numerous religions monuments and friendly people.
If you are more into ancient cities then you should definitely head to Prizren city and Gjakova:

Prizren City
Prizren is a charming town which gives the impression of flowing along the banks of a shallow stretch of Bistrica river which slices it in half. In addition nestled in between towering green mountains and a city constructed over many centuries with a mixture of architectures but clearly dominated by the ottoman influence Prizren is definitely one of the most attractive town of Kosovo. Prizren’s delightful city centre is the best-preserved and most picturesque in Kosovo, with a good collection of religious and profane buildings and quaint residential quarters, all within close range of each other. The city’s long tradition of religious and ethnic tolerance is apparent in the close proximity of Catholic and Orthodox churches, mosques and tekkes, many of them hundreds of years old.


Gjakova City
The city of Gjakova has its roots way back in the Dardanian period of history. Known in previous times as Patkova, Reka and Altin, the name Gjakova, first appeared in historical Ottoman records in 1485. Pride of place in the centre of the city was the Çarshia e Madhe, or Grand Bazaar, a large marketplace attracting traders from all over the region that was seriously damaged during the 1999 war but that’s now almost completely renovated. Hotspots to visit in Gjakova: Bektashi Tekke (Teqja e Bektashive), Hadum Mosque, Tailors’ Bridge (Ura e Terzive), Sacred bridge (Ura e Shenjte).


Rugova Valley
Rugova Valley located in the heart of Dukagjini, in north-western Kosovo, it is a perfect place for people who love to explore nature and wander through this breathtaking valley. It covers an area of 32.000 hectares. Its highest peak is Coursed Mountain, with an altitude of 2560 meters. Among several characteristics that distinguish this valley, following are the most important ones -Bistrica River, which passes throughout 12 kilometers of the valley -Waterfalls that fall from a height of 30 meters -Two lakes at an altitude of 1 800 meters above sea level and -A number of caves Rugova Valley is considered as an ideal place to spend a day or a couple of days, when you need to relax and get away from the daily routine and dynamic life in the city. It is a quiet preserved and unexplored region, and this offers a unique entertainment opportunity for the lovers of eco and rural tourism.


Mirusha Waterfalls
Mirusha Waterfalls is a chain of waterfalls found in the Mirusha River, situated on the south of the Gremnik Mountains; on the way to Gjakova at an altitude of 572 meters. Its distance from the capital city is approximately one hour. Mirusha River engraved a 10 km long canyon and created 13 river lakes with 12 waterfalls between them. The waterfall with the biggest height is the one between the sixth and seventh lake, and it is 22 meters high. Those waterfalls between the lakes, together with the stunning landscape, and rocks and caves around the waterfalls, form an overwhelming sight and present a special tourism attraction. Although the water temperature is usually quite cold, throughout summer when the temperature is high, swimming there can be incredibly pleasant.


Decan Monastery
Decan Monastery located in Decan 2 Km from the town. The monastic catholicon is the largest medieval church in the Balkans containing the most extensive preserved fresco decoration. The monastery was established in a chestnut grove by Serbian King Stefan Uros in 1327. The following year the king died and was buried at the monastery. The monastic church, and built from blocks of red-purple, light-yellow and onyx marble, was constructed by builders working under a Franciscan monk, Vitus of Kotor. The church is distinguished by its imposing size and Romanesque and Early Gothic structure and design. In 2004, UNESCO listed the monastery on the World heritage list citing its frescoes as "one of the most valued examples of the so-called Palaeologan renaissance in Byzantine painting" and "a valuable record of the life in the 14th century".


Park of Bears in Pristina
The Bear Sanctuary Prishtina is a national park in Kosovo in close proximity to the city of Prishtina. The sanctuary is built on an area of fifteen hectares. Everyone who visits Pristina shouldn’t go without seeing this park with dozens of bears.
Photo: Bear Sanctuary Prishtina



Thursday, January 19, 2017

6 Reasons to Visit Kosovo- Top Backpacker Destination



A couple traveling from Melbourne, Australia, enjoyed a lot their trip to Kosovo and decides to highlight “6 Reasons to Visit Kosovo” on their website, “Goats on the road”.

They admitted first that they didn’t know much about Kosovo, but after they visited this place, their opinion changed a lot. And here are some reasons to visit Kosovo listed by Goats on the Road:
The reason number one is that Kosovo is Tourist Free Zone. “Kosovo is probably one of the last truly off-the-beaten-path destinations in Europe.”

The 2nd reason is that the country of Kosovo is a beautiful place, with the amazing city of Prizren, and Old Bazaar of Gjakova.

The 3d reason is: Kosovo is Possibly the Cheapest Country in Europe. Accommodation costs are on par with the rest of eastern Europe, with a highly rated hostel costing around 10 euro per night. A beer should cost no more than 1.50 euro. You can usually find a meal for less than 5 euro per person (and that’s at a ‘fancy’ restaurant). A burek or cevapcici sandwich will only cost a couple of euros. Plus, most attractions are free of charge!


The 4th reason to visit the country is people and food. Kosovars are wonderful people according to Goats on The Road. What about a Macchiato in Kosovo? Kosovo Makes the Best Macchiatos in Europe (and perhaps the world?)

Reason5. The cobble stoned streets of Prizren are a great place to sit in the sun with a tiny cup of deliciousness, and watch the world go by. You will be joined by plenty of locals, especially on weekends. Coffee is a way of life here!

Reason6. Last but not least, is the fascinating history of Kosovo.
By visiting Kosovo, you have the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts about one of the most significant conflicts of recent times. It brings history out of the text books, and into real life.

See full article: http://www.goatsontheroad.com/6-reasons-visit-kosovo-top-backpacker-destination/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=socialnetwork

Monday, December 19, 2016

Prizren in Kosovo is among 6 Top Balkan Destinations for 2017- by Vogue.com

Vogue: Prizren stands as the country’s beacon of creativity
City of Prizren attracts a lot of traveler writers because of its rich Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Prizren has made it to be on the Vogue’s list “6 Non-Touristy Balkans Destinations That Should Top Your 2017 Travel Lists by Vogue.” The travel writer and photographer Michaela Trimble describes the city of Prizren as the country’s beacon of creativity. There’s no perfect time to visit Prizren, but during August you can enjoy more time while the city hosts DokuFest, the largest film festival in all of Kosovo, featuring live music sets, photo exhibitions, and screenings of more than 200 films from around the world.

Prizren, old houses 
 “In Kosovo, Prizren stands as the country’s beacon of creativity, set at the base of the Sharr Mountains along the river Bistrica and host to rich Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. Visit during August when the city hosts DokuFest, the largest film festival in all of Kosovo, featuring live music sets, photo exhibitions, and screenings of more than 200 films from around the world. Stay at Hotel Kacinari or Hotel Centrum Prizren, and to get the most of both city and country life, tour the area with Butterfly Outdoor Adventure and Airtour: Begin with an interactive workshop at a local filigree factory, dine on kebabs near Prizren’s Stone Bridge at Te Syla, and venture uphill to the Prizren Fortress, which offers the perfect view of bustling Prizren from above. Head into nature on a hike to Struzha, where you can stay at a traditional guesthouse and enjoy a campfire and local meal before completing a cross-country hike from Kosovo to Macedonia, summiting Scarpa Peak and passing Kara Nikolla Lake along the way.”


Prizren, view from above

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Kosovo Holidays, a reputable and efficient English-speaking tour operator

Kosovo Holidays, is a reputable and efficient English-speaking tour operator offering group and custom trips for activities from outdoor adventures and Bosnian village lunches to cultural city and wine-tasting visits throughout Kosovo, Margo Pleiff wrote for San Francisco Chronicle.
She had an adventurous experience in Kosovo and shared her impressions of this trip with others in the article tittled: "Europe’s youngest nation, Kosovo is full of surprises"

"It is hard to believe that Kosovo is the youngest nation in Europe, of 8 years old, and the numbers of visitors who come to Kosovo are increasing every year. We explored this beautiful country together with Kosovo Holidays tour guide, Arsim Rexhepi", she said.

Margo finds Kosovo full of surprises as she gets to know the wild beauty of the mountains and the old city of Prizren. She has seen a lot of fascinating sites of Kosovo and definitely says a lot of things in her article.


Find out the adventure experience of Margo Pleiff in Kosovo:
“For all the highly visible strife of the 1990s, Kosovo turns out to be a safe, diverse, wildly beautiful and inexpensive English-speaking destination with good roads, hotels and restaurants. National parks make up 11 percent of the land area with scenic, accessible mountain terrain.
There are traditional mountain villages and UNESCO cultural icons, including 13th century monasteries. Rarely visited even by Western Europeans who flock to nearby Croatia, it’s also still charmingly unpretentious and welcoming. And, as I said, they love Americans like no other place I’ve ever been. The landmark 16th century Old Stone Bridge arches elegantly over the Bistrica River. I visit the 1615 Sinan Pasha Mosque and Kosovo’s grand UNESCO-protected 14th century Our Lady of Ljeviš Orthodox Church. In the well-preserved Ottoman quarter, Turkish is spoken by one of the country’s many minorities that also include Bosniaks, Serbs, Roma and Ashkalia. Walking up a steep pathway to the castle encircling a hilltop overlooking Prizren, there are great views of the city, with its more than 20 mosque spires pointing heavenward. Spinning around, I watch pink sunset rays lighting up the snow-capped peaks of the Sharr mountain range. In the morning, hiking guide Edis Krusha drives us up a canyon road, zigzagging through forest and past hilltop castle ruins toward those mountains. After 90 minutes, we arrive at Prevalla, in winter a small ski center at 5,000 feet, and lace up our boots as a young shepherd urges a herd of sheep past us toward summer pastures.

Hiking up the flank of one of the Sharr’s highest peaks, 8,559-foot Bistra, we cross alpine meadows blazing with wild orange crocuses and set up a picnic alongside a bubbling spring with views of valleys and snowy peaks. Bistra is on the Via Dinarica route, a 1,200-mile hiking trail crossing eight Western Balkan countries. It was named Outside magazine’s best new trail for 2014.

See full article: http://www.sfchronicle.com/travel/article/Europe-s-youngest-nation-Kosovo-is-full-of-9442814.php?cmpid=twitter-premium#photo-10958190