“March snow swirled across the ancient city of Prizren. Churches and mosques blend here in perfect harmony against a backdrop of narrow hill-climbing alleys, tiny coffee shops, barbers, old-style draper’s shops and jewelers specializing in the delicate filigree work that Albanians love so much. In his office a prosperous Albanian businessman said that if people would just get on with producing things and making money then ‘we would not be in the situation we are now.’”
That was Prizren seen through the eyes of journalist Tim Judah who witnessed first-hand the upheavals of the war he described in his great book Kosovo: War and Revenge. When I was there it was April rain rather than March snow drizzling upon the ancient city. But otherwise the landscape looked the same. Read the rest of this entry
When I travel I am always unconsciously on the lookout for the Polish connection. Coming to Pristina, I didn’t have to look very hard. In fact, the very first thing I saw when my plane touched down was… the Polish government’s plane parked on the tarmac next to a giant Luftwaffe aircraft. As it turns out, Poland’s President Bronisław Komorowski just flew in for a one-day visit with Polish troops and police serving in Kosovo as a part of the EULEX mission (ca. 220 soldiers and 120 policemen currently).
Having felt instantly welcomed, I built a better rapport with Pristina than I thought I would. While few visitors fall in love with this city, the negative things I read about it felt rather exaggerated in retrospect. Guidebooks warn about anything from potholes to feral dogs but while indeed street and sidewalk quality leaves much to be desired, Pristina overall felt extremely safe and – at least to me – rather familiar. It could well be anywhere in Central Europe except for more mosques than churches. One big difference is the demographics. As Europe in general ages, Kosovo has extremely young population with 50% of its people under 25 and 70% under 35 years. These statistics can be easily verified by strolling along the all-pedestrian Mother Teresa Boulevard where you mingle with predominantly young, and unexpectedly fashionable, crowd avidly window-shopping and sipping macchiatos in ubiquitous cafes. Read the rest of this entry