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.
Like Sarajevo, this is a city of mosques.
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.
I found the road up to the fortress and was amused that someone had graffitied some directional signage.
It was a very steep climb! This man didn’t seem to break a sweat, just taking tiny steps until he got there.
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!
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.
It was a very steep walk back down!
Someone had a fire recently.
This is the ubiquitous skip you see all over the Balkans, but this was the first time I’ve seen one painted!
This is what I mean about Albanian obviously having some Romance language roots. In Mexico, this sign would read Restaurante Familiar Verona…
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!”
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. 🙂
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.
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…
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!
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.
The license plates here have RKS on them, further separating Kosovo from Serbia, which has SRB on the plate.
My host keeps referring to this one as the Stone Bridge.
Turns out that is its name, not just a description.
This church is a UNESCO protected site and appears to be undergoing renovations.
This is a clocktower.
The amount of overheard wiring in the Balkans astounds me.
Look at the odd little bubbles on the domes.
I made my way back to the area of the Stone Bridge to find a light lunch, ideally a burger.
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!
I don’t think I’ve ever caught two minarets in one shot before.
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:
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.
This is the hammam (Turkish baths), but they are not functioning.
I loved this display of rubber stamps in a shop literally attached to the hammam.
My host recommended the Fish House restaurant, especially the trout, which sounded good. I love trout, but rarely have occasion to have it.
They only had a half litre of wine, not just a glass. It was very good!
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.
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!
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.
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.