Sunday, October 16, 2011

Prishtina, Kosovo

Prishtina is Kosovo's capital and it has around 200,000 people. A lot of construction has taken place since the war. I've never been here before so I can't tell if things are getting better or if they are getting worse. There are lots of brand new, very modern, government office buildings. But at the same time there are statues, less than 12 years old, which are already crumbling.

I'm not quite sure what I expected from Prishtina. Granted, I did arrive on a Sunday and most everything was closed. But I still managed to walk around and see most of the city. This isn't difficult to do because there's not a whole lot to see.

I think that the best-known landmark is on Bill Clinton Boulevard. There is a large billboard of President Clinton and a three meter (nine foot) bronze statue which was unveiled in 2009. The statue shows him holding the 1999 agreement that permitted U.S. troops to enter Kosovo.

The "Newborn" obelisk, in front of the Palace of Youth and Sports, was inaugurated for Kosovo's independence in 2008. For some reason, Kosovo's president and prime minister signed the thing. Then others started signing it and now it's just covered in graffiti. I can't stand tagging.

At the end of the city center are several government buildings. On one of the fences are the Photos of the Missing. There are nearly 1,900 people who are still missing from the Kosovo conflict with Serbia in the 90s.

The Skanderberg monument is for the Albanian king who, in the 15th century, fought off the Ottomans for decades. The statue was designed in 2001.

Zahir Pajaziti was a commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). He was killed in action in 1997. In 2008, he was declared a Hero of Kosovo.

Mother Teresa was born in Skopje but she was an ethnic Albanian. I guess the Mother Teresa statue makes sense because around 88% of Kosovo is Albanian.

Down the road there is the new Mother Teresa Cathedral. It was consecrated in September 2010 and is still under construction. Albanians abroad raised €1 million for the construction. Since the majority of the population is Muslim I'm surprised that there's really a huge need for a full on Catholic cathedral.

The National Library was unveiled in 1982. It is covered in a metal "fishing net" which makes it pretty groovy looking. I was told that it once held a huge amount of Albanian literature but that a lot of it was destroyed in the early 1990s by ethnic Serbs under Slobodan Milošović.

The bus from Skopje to Prishtina is only €5 ($6.75). It only takes about 20 minutes to get to the Kosovo border and then another couple of hours to get to Prishtina. This was the easy part. The difficult part was getting to where I was spending the night.

There are no hostels in Prishtina. At least not yet. There are plenty of hotels but you can find a couple of guest houses in town that are much cheaper. Through Hostelworld I found a couple of students with a private room for €10. The apartment is at a block of flats between the Bill Clinton statue and the Mother Teresa Cathedral. The address written on the building in pen was a nice touch. Do you know how difficult it is to find a place when the address is only written on the building in pen!?!? Yes, the building did look a bit run down, and the elevators don't work at all, but inside the flat was fine.

I wanted to visit Prizren on my way to Albania. The problem is that there is no luggage storage at the bus station there and I really don't feel like walking around town for several hours as I drag along my suitcase. So instead I'll just skip Prizren and go directly to Tirana. I'm off to bed now because my 6 hour-long bus leaves at 5 AM.

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