A Stopover in Lovely Prizren, Kosovo

Kosovo is another area that was recently under major conflict and that has negative connotations overseas. It is also a disputed territory in that while it declared its independence in 2008 and is recognised as a nation by many, it is seen as still part of Serbia by Serbia, Russia, and others. I wanted to travel here to see what it’s like and how it differs from Serbia, but I did not want it to be another “conflict tour.”

I picked Prizren, a small and ancient town that is considered an underrated gem, because it is en route between Kotor and Skopje and also because a day here would be sufficient. So today was all about enjoying the sites and sounds of Prizren without delving into any bloody history. There aren’t any museums to speak of or many attractions besides many mosques and a fortress high above the city. So what a perfect place to spend a day after a very, very late night. 🙂

I was up by about 9:30 this morning, tired but thankfully not hung over. I went down to the lobby area hoping to get a map of town or at least some basic directions and pointers, but there was no one at the desk. I chose to wait a bit since there was a nice book about Prizren for me to leaf through.

One of the staff came in after a few minutes and asked if I wanted breakfast. Yes, breakfast was included. OMG! He brought me a coffee, a basket of lightly toasted bread, and a plate with a lutenitsa-type spicy red pepper spread, a small dish of sour cream, a wedge of cheese, a few slices of sausage, and a dish of a hazelnut-chocolate spread (not like Nutella, the two flavours are separate). It might not sound like much, but it was quite the spread! I loved the pepper spread mixed with the sour cream.

When I was done, he had me settle up my bill (13 euro per night!) and then pulled out a map with all the highlights on it. I decided to start by going up to the fortress so I could walk off some of my breakfast.

Prizen’s touristy core is small and is divided by a river. You can see the fortress in the background at the top of the shorter mountain.

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Like Sarajevo, this is a city of mosques.

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This is where we had dinner last night. The TripAdvisor reviews are pretty negative, but I had a great time and good meal. I think it’s because I ate what the local people eat.

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I found the road up to the fortress and was amused that someone had graffitied some directional signage.

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It was a very steep climb! This man didn’t seem to break a sweat, just taking tiny steps until he got there.

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This was the first really sunny day I’ve had since my first morning in Sarajevo and I was so happy to pull out my sunglasses!

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It was so much fun to poke around the old ruins! There were workers on site doing restoration, so I suspect that there will be a lot more to this place in a few years.

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It was a very steep walk back down!

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Someone had a fire recently.

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This is the ubiquitous skip you see all over the Balkans, but this was the first time I’ve seen one painted!

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This is what I mean about Albanian obviously having some Romance language roots. In Mexico, this sign would read Restaurante Familiar Verona…

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This is what Google Translate has to say about this: “I am here for you are free struggled and sacrificed to live among you at the forefront of the freedom of the motherland!”

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I stopped for a coffee by the river at a place with no English speakers or menu for me to point to. Do I know how to pick ’em or what? I guessed, correctly, that coffee would be “kah-fay” in Albanian and the server said, “Espresso?” Yay for Italian, the universal language of coffee. 🙂

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I then walked across the river and found a little temporary artisan market. Lots of pretty things! Thank goodness I’m committed to traveling light.

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I continued walking and met Mr. Zanzi, a shoeshiner who wanted me to tell you about him! He spoke very good English and knows many other languages, including Spanish! He told me to put a foot up onto his shoeshine stand. I was wearing my Keens and so curious as to what he wanted to do with them. Well…

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Over the course of about 15 minutes, he talked my ear off about the people he’s met over the years (including a Mountie who came to have his shoes shined daily!), and how he lost everything in the war and now has to shine shoes to support his diabetic wife. While he was telling me all this, he was brushing my shoes and applying what I’m assuming is polish to the rubber part before spraying a sealant over everything.

I could not believe what he did to my sandals! Look at how new they look!

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I’ve covered a lot of miles in these and so the rubber was dulled and the fabric was dingy. I am absurdly pleased with Mr. Zanzi’s ministration to my Keens. The price was what I was willing to pay. I had 3 Euro in change and I know that was a lot based on how grateful he was and what 3 Euro can buy here, but that’s what his work was worth to me and I was happy to pass on some of the generosity I have received.

I then wandered into the non-touristy part of town and was fascinated by the mix of new and old construction and the narrow streets. Like Sarajevo, the size of Prizren makes it very walkable, but there are few sidewalks.

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The license plates here have RKS on them, further separating Kosovo from Serbia, which has SRB on the plate.

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My host keeps referring to this one as the Stone Bridge.

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Turns out that is its name, not just a description.

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This church is a UNESCO protected site and appears to be undergoing renovations.

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This is a clocktower.

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The amount of overheard wiring in the Balkans astounds me.

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Look at the odd little bubbles on the domes.

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I made my way back to the area of the Stone Bridge to find a light lunch, ideally a burger.

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This is the bar where we went out last night. And I didn’t notice when I took this picture that the guy in the background, right at the window, is one of the guys I met there!

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I don’t think I’ve ever caught two minarets in one shot before.

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I found a burger joint! It wasn’t a fantastic burger like I had in Belgrade, but it hit the spot. I liked that it had sweet bread and butter pickles in it, a flavour I’ve missed! The cost was only 1.80 Euro (2.75CAD).

This is a traditional house style:

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I went back to the hostel for the rest of the afternoon to rest, work on the blog post for yesterday, and find my accommodation in Skopje. Around 5:00, I went downstairs to get a recommendation for dinner and then headed out again.

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This is the hammam (Turkish baths), but they are not functioning.

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I loved this display of rubber stamps in a shop literally attached to the hammam.

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My host recommended the Fish House restaurant, especially the trout, which sounded good. I love trout, but rarely have occasion to have it.

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They only had a half litre of wine, not just a glass. It was very good!

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I ordered the Greek salad because I knew that the trout would be just trout. I wish they had crumbled the cheese over it, but otherwise, yum! I am going to miss the produce out here so much.

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And here’s dinner. I bet Croft and Contessa are drooling. 🙂 It was so good! I haven’t yet mastered how to eat a whole fish, though, and how to deal with the bones so I must have looked like a savage. I had a bite of the potatoes, but they were cold and not to my liking (I’m really starting to give up on potatoes in my advancing age) and instead had some of that bread. I actually ate some of the fish skin, something I’ve never done before!

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As I was finishing up, I heard, “Hello, my friend from Canada!” I looked up and it was Mr. Zanzi waving at me as he walked by!

Now the bill. Y’all might want to sit down for this one.

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Yeah. That’s just under 11CAD!!!

I was initially put off by the price of accommodation in Prizren (there wasn’t a single hotel that was less than what I’d pay in Canada, hence why I went with the hostel) and almost didn’t come because I thought everything would be expensive. Nope!

I have to be out the door early tomorrow for a 9:00 AM bus, so I decided to call it a night, pausing to listen to the adhan from this minaret and to watch the sunset.

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14 thoughts on “A Stopover in Lovely Prizren, Kosovo

  1. Very nice post. Thank you. Didn’t you get a photo of the shoe shine guy? I’ll bet he would have been tickled to let you take one. It would be good for business. 😉

    • The first “real” Mexican I interacted with was a shoeshine guy in Alamos (north of Mazatlan). A very interesting guy, a retired school teacher anxious to practice his English.

  2. Lots to comment on! 1) another beautiful city of which you have found so many in the Balkans. 2) Have you been in a Mosque? In Canada and the US they are very open and welcoming to “non believers”. I think it would be a valuable experience for you, specially if you found someone who speaks one of your home languages. Please, if you never have, go in one while you have the opportunity! 3) Delicious looking trout! My last two experiences ordering it have been unfortunate, they were both farmed and very lacking in flavor. It looks like you did a good job but my method is to slit them right down the backbone, use your knife and fork to flip the top half off exposing the backbone. You then grasp the tail lifting the backbone away from the bottom half. Continue pulling until the head separates. Discard the tail, backbone and head in one piece. The remaining two halves should be almost bone free. If the fish has been fried, the skin is the best part and contains much of the healthy omega 3.

    A great post. My mouth is watering, I must give trout another try soon!

    • 1) I’m so glad I’m discovering the beauty of the Balkans before the inevitable tourist crunch!

      2) I have been in many mosques! My style of dressing lends itself to being able to pop into one easily without a lot of forethought.

      3) Please do a fish filleting video for your blog. 🙂 I ate the meat from that side and then pulled the backbone off in one big piece, which sounds sort of similar to what you do.

  3. Wow Rae!
    Just getting to your last two posts, today was my travel day & I looked at the post several times but just… well, I was pooped.
    What a beautiful area, I loved all your pictures. The last city looks very interesting & I liked the fortress & walls.
    Your fish dinner was less than my cheeseburger, soup & ice tea. The food sounds & looks good there.
    Yes, Croft is correct, that is the best & easiest way to de-bone a whole cooked fish served at the table. Clean as a whistle if done correctly. Try it in Mexico. Crispy skin is the best.
    OMGosh all the high wires, what a mish mash.
    Sounds like the boys were very nice taking the Canadian girl out on the town.
    Safe travels.
    Hugs <3

    • Looks like you’re landed now?

      I will never get tired of fortresses. Fortresses AND palm trees (like in Kotor) is the crème de la crème! 😀

      I need you and Croft to make me a fish deboning video! 😉

      The guys were very sweet. I’m just glad I called it a night when I did or I would have completely lost my one day in Prizren!

  4. What a beautiful town/city, this is just the type of place that Kevin and I love to stay at. From the views at the fortress I can see that there would be lots of hiking in the area with such gorgeous view. I will put this place on our list of must visit places and one day we will hopefully make it there.

    Glad that you enjoyed your stay there and had sunny skies to boot!

    Ruth

    • Prizren is one of those stops that would be really welcome after a lot of big city hopping in that you get most of the amenities, but at a slower pace. Lots of hiking and other outdoor activities in the area as well.

      It’s overcast and going to rain in Skopje, so I’m really glad I got that bit of sun in Prizren!

  5. I would guess that the “bubbles” on the dome of the mosque are skylights, round instead of square. I’ve seen them referred to as “sun tubes” and they’re quite popular in B.C., where the winter rains make for gloomy days.

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