I realized recently that I hadn’t posted about some weekend trips this summer, so three fun travel posts, coming right up.
First in line, Kosovo.
I visited Macedonia’s northern neighbor in June with my two sitemates, Iris and Rachel. (Anyone in the same region where you live counts as a sitemate.) I can get to either of them in a 10-15 minute walk followed by a 10-15 minute bus ride, so we’re practically neighbors.
Kosovo brought me one passport stamp closer to visiting all of Macedonia’s neighbors during service, and the kombi ride from Skopje to capital city Pristina was shorter than the bus ride from my village to Skopje. (A kombi is what we call oversized vans and mini-buses.)
On the recommendation of fellow PCVs, we stayed at Han Hostel, which was easy to find, in a great location near the center, and offered a slight Peace Corps discount. (Every little bit helps on that Peace Corps budget.)
The weather was crazy hot, which sounds delightful while I can see my breath inside, huddled next to my wood stove in all the layers. It was also during the World Cup, so there were giant screens and stands set up all over the center for anyone in the city to enjoy the matches. It was the first year Albania was playing, which several people told me was quite exciting.
Kosovo has some complicated history, but for our purposes you need to know that the main language is Albanian and most Kosovars are ethnically Albanian. (Also, a word of caution traveling: You can’t enter Serbia from Kosovo. A few fellow PCVs got kicked off the bus at the border and made this discovery. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s Independence. So like I said, complicated.)
We spent a day taking in the main sites Pristina had to offer, including a building famed for how ugly it is, statues and art meant to be graffitied, and the first Mexican restaurant we’d seen since arriving in Macedonia. (Give me all the guac!) Oh and of course we high-fived the Bill Clinton statue as we passed by.
We tried to track down a falafel restaurant, but it was closed when we were hungry. Alas.
We took our hostel host’s advice and found some great hidden gem restaurants and tried some new flavors of rakija we haven’t sampled in Macedonia. We also ate lots of gelato, because vacation.
We were pretty satisfied with our exploration of Pristina after a full day, so we spent our second day in Prizren, which was a little less than two hours one way on the bus.
Prizren was cute, but as it was crazy hot, and the middle of Ramadan, there were moments I felt a little out of place in my sweaty tank top. Rachel decided to take a short hike up to a fortress that overlooked the city, but Iris and I succumbed to the weather and went for a shorter walk to a coffee shop along the river. (A choice I stand by. Wading in the river was divine.)
The kombi ride home was probably the most uncomfortable I’ve felt on public transportation in two years. We overfilled the kombi, so we were packed in with people standing in between the seats, sweating all over everyone, kids on laps, and not a whisper of air moving anywhere. At least it was less than three hours, right?
I really enjoyed our quick visit to Kosovo, despite all the sweating, because where I live in Macedonia, I don’t see a lot of the Albanian culture. A weekend was enough, well, except for the gelato. There is never enough gelato.