As I awoke on the first morning of my visit to Priština, the Kosovan capital, I could hear the rain battering against the window, but it did sound a lot friendlier than the previous evening when I arrived into the city. To my surprise then, the rain actually had almost started to bait off, especially by the time I had got up, showered and completed the other rituals that we humans do on a daily basis. So at least I could start the dry and not as wet as a James Blunt love song.
Following my morning routine, I then departed from my place of accommodation ‘The White Tree Hostel’, and wandered off down the Rruga (street), which was named after Robert Doll, or better known as Bob Dole, who was a US Senator that came over to Kosovo to work as an emissary in time of war, and proceeded down towards the ‘Bulevardi Bill Klinton’, of which I knew there was a café positioned on the corner at the end of the avenue I was on.
The café, named ‘Sach Caffe’ was on a very similar level to that of a Starbucks or a Costa Coffee shop, and was extremely clean, organised, modern and all this was maintained by a very friendly set of staff. One of the staff members, who tried speaking a little bit of English to me, shook my hand as I headed on my way out following my very good morning Cappuccino!
So some of you, maybe the younger readers could be wondering, why has this nation in the middle of the Balkans, got a statue of a former President of the USA on a ‘Bulevardi’ that is also named after him?! This is because the former President in question, Bill Clinton, is seen in this nation as a modern-day hero, especially by the Kosovo-Albanians, who laud him for the carrying out of the order for the NATO offensive against the Serbians, which took place in 1999.
Behind the statue, you will see some text painted up on the building behind the bronze statue (see photo above) which reads “Jo Negociata, Vetëvendosje!” which when translated from Albanian, means “No Negotiations, Self-Determination!” There was no sign of Monica….
If you head central, and then eventually reach the ‘Grand Hotel Prishtina’ which was mentioned in the previous post “Balkan Adventure Part IV”, you are now situated at the beginning of ‘Bulevardi Nënë Tereza’ named after well-known missionary and superhero nun, Mother Teresa (I will talk about her in more detail in a future blog post.
This boulevard is a pedestrianised strip that is now bordered by cafés, restaurants and bars, as well as shops and stores, and runs northwards up to a square, once again like in Tirana, named ‘Sheshi Skënderbu’. This square is home to a small smattering of graffiti (pictured above) as well as the modern skyscraper of the ‘Government of The Republic of Kosovo’ (pictured below). This tall glass facaded building resides at this square along with another statue of the legendary Skanderbeg, and of course his trusty horse.
So with the café, the street names, the statue of Bill Clinton, and the tower of the National Government, it all seemed rather Western orientated, more than I thought it would be. The nation seems to have moved on and away from the much more functional looking buildings of the socialist era and especially away from their more architecturally brutalist structures, which are synonymous with the Eastern European communist era.
Now I must say, that if anyone is from the North West of England, and I’m sure from many other towns in the UK or even Europe, you will have seen many buildings that have adopted the architectural style of ‘Brutalism’. I see these buildings and structures as ‘Brutalist’ thanks to their characteristics of being fortress-like concrete buildings, and for having been built in the mid-70s.
A perfect example of this style of architecture here in Pristina, is the ‘Palace of Youth and Sports’ (see photo below), which looks like a giant version of something that you would find on a circuitboard on the inside of a transistor radio.
‘The Great Arena’, of which lives inside of the palace, still lays there in disrepair following the huge blazing fire that had ravaged through the building in the year 2000 and in turn destroyed the 10,000 seater arena. 18 years on and you must wonder whether or not they will ever restore it?
Also whilst on the subject of buildings that are long overdue restoration or reconstruction, I want to mention a place of religion that I came across on my tour of this city, that in my mind at the time, I believed was an ancient ruin (see picture below).
The ‘Church of Christ the Saviour’ is not actually an ancient ruin, but an unfinished Serbian Orthodox Christian church that had began construction in 1995, meaning that it is actually 8 years younger than me! Due to the nation being mostly Islamic, the construction was not particularly popular in the first place, and still up for discussion is the future of this church and as to whether it should even be demolished…
As night drew in once more, it was time to go off and do some drinking and see some of the night life that this city has to offer….