The weather was windy, gloomy and very wet and I had just passed through the border between Albania, and my next destination, which was the nation of Kosovo.
Historically this nation had been part of the Ottoman Empire for almost five centuries but then following their defeat in the ‘Balkan Wars’, Kosovo then became part of Serbia & Montenegro which then in turn all became part of the Yugoslavian Republic. With myself being a child of the 90s, my early memories of Kosovo were that of a war-torn region of Yugoslavia, always being shown on the BBC News for some kind of atrocity or an unfortunate incident.
This led me to develop some-kind of confused melancholic excitement for my visit to the capital and about how this place would now be upon my arrival in comparison to what I may have expected. Would this now be a place of promise, hope and transformation, or a country still struggling to make moves forward following the ‘Kosovo War’. Kosovo is now a nation that has become the youngest nation in Europe and a nation that has not now been at war for almost two decades.
By the time I arrived into the Capital, Priština, the day had now moved into the late hours and into the darkness of night, and the rain was still persisting to continue to fall from the heavy clouds above. Annoyingly, but as usual with buses between cities, they always stop miles out from the centre. So from were I disembarked the bus, it was now a lengthy walk towards the centre of the city along Bill Clinton Boulevard to find the hostel where I would be residing for the next days.
An important monument that I came across (see photo below) and feel I should make a mention to in this blog, is the statue of Zahir Pajaziti. He was declared a ‘Hero of Kosovo’ by the President of this Nation, Fatmir Sejdiu, when the statue was erected in 2008 to commemorate this gentleman who commanded the Kosovo Liberation Army but sadly was shot dead in conflict against the Yugoslav Army in 1997 at the age of just 35.
The hostel that would be accommodating me, which I can highly recommend, was named ‘The White Tree Hostel’ and my stay there cost me as little as £5 a night!! Unbelievable value, even for a hostel. For the booking of this hostel, I actually came across it via the Trivago website, but it also has its own impressive website (for a hostel anyway) and also shows how nice the outdoor area would be in the summer months.
When I eventually arrived at the hostel, wet as an otter’s pocket, I was offered a welcome drink in the bar that existed below the rooms of the hostel, and it was a very nicely decorated and cool drinking establishment. For my free drink I went for a pint of Kosovan Lager named ‘Birra Peja’ which was brewed local to Prishtina, and it was a decent standard of beer too.
I then checked out the room I would be staying in, and it was furnished with a table, a chair and three bunk beds, but despite the amount of beds, the first night sleeping it was just me and Mo the Egyptian, and the second night, me and a Kosovan cat! So all in all, pretty much a room to myself anyway.
The following morning, the ground was saturated with rain water, but the weather had cleared up despite the gloomy grey sky. The temperature was certainly colder than it had been previously in Albania. This possibly could be something to do with the difference in altitude? One thing I came to notice in Priština, was how youthful the population was, and there seemed to be so many students! It was making me feel old! A young generation though would certainly help the future of this nation, but as long as they can hold on to this youthful population, without them all leaving for work in other countries.
As I wandered into the centre and approached the beginning of Mother Teresa Boulevard, I could now see the ‘Grand Hotel Prishtina’ which I had seen under the darkness of night, the evening before. This 13-storey hotel dominates the skyline in this area, but from the outside now it looks as though it is in a state of disrepair. In the 1980s and 1990s under the ownership of the Yugoslav government this was the place to be socially, but it now appears the standards of the once ‘Grand’ hotel, has gone in the same direction as socialism did in this nation.
Seeing this kind of historical architecture just made my cultural hunger increase and encouraged me to explore more of Priština’s history, architecture, socialist background and also the nightlife and how the people of Kosovo enjoy themselves now in a time of peace in Europe’s youngest nation….