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.