On the road to Kosovo – chats and stops
Ben stops. “Great morning light – I have to take a photo” … and he disappears in the river bed.
I like that enthusiasm. Shortly afterwards, we stop in the middle of the road. A cousin of Ben enjoys seeing us. He gives us walnuts. We continue our way chatting and chatting.
Among other things, Ben tells me that as a small boy in the eighties, he was watching the airplanes in the sky followed by their white stripes, and he wondered what that was. Well, Albania was still locked up. In those days, each family was entitled to one portion of milk, bread and portions of more selected food. His uncle was alone, and they merged the portions; this was, how they had more to eat. Imagination helped to survive, in the mountain village near Kukes.
The monuments for partisans and heros from the 1940’s are omnipresent.
Crossing the border to Kosovo and reaching Gjakova
Crossing the border to Kosovo is easy. Ben laughs: “Look, when they see a Swiss passport, they do not check it. There are so many Kosovo Albanians in Switzerland. Just think how many of them play in your football teams.” Yes, I know Shaqiri, and Ben corrects me: “no, no, he is not called Shakiri, but Shatschiri, “q” is “tsch”, also in Kosovo.”
Soon we reach Gjakova (gj to be pronounced dj). This town has suffered much in the 1999 war.
We stop at a catholic church that has recently been built with European support.
Construction is still going on.
The construction consultant is full of enthusiasm and tells us, e.g. where the organ will be located, where the tiles come from (Italy), who contributed funds (Europe) etc… The bells ring: It is eleven.
Near the church, there is an old Ottomoan bridge.
The clock tower seems to have been built by a Jewish architect, as the sign at the base suggests.
The town has perfectly rebuilt their bazar and city center – a pedestrian zone with cobbled streets.
The shops are modern – we are parked in front of Apple and Android.
We have a coffee at one of the bars. It is so modern that it only serves espresso and no Turkish coffee.
Continuing to Prizren
The landscape is no longer rough mountains. It is flat and at places hilly. I see a sign pointing to the Stone Castle winery in The Rahovic valley. Something to try tonight.
There is also some industry such as Swiss Pelet producing pellets.
Prizren has a beautifully restored city center. There are many bridges, and one of them is an old Turkish bridge. Above town there is a castle.
Along the river side and in the cobbled streets there are many restaurants and bars.
The Orthodox church and monastery are closed. Taking photos is forbidden. Policeman keep every one off the ground. The Roman Catholic church is being renovated, with European funds.
The Bajrakli Gazi Mehmet Pasha mosque from 1561 allows me to go in after the prayers. This is the cupola – beautiful.
We walk up to the castle and meet Kfor soldiers from Germany. This reminds me, there has just been a cruel war here, in 1999. When walking through Prizren I forget this… so well restored is the old town. However (other than in Albania), there are many women wearing scarfs and long coats, some even only showing eyes. Though I see the black Skanderbeg eagle on red background in all souvenir shops, the flag of Kosovo is a star with six points, because Kosovo consists of six ethnics (Albanians, Serbs, Turks etc).
The museum of of the League of Prizren
Prizren played an important role in the formation of Albania. Kosovo was one of the four communities or Vilyats of Albania under Ottoman rule. In 1877 the League of Prizren was founded in Prizren. It defended the creation of an Albanian nation in the congress of Berlin, in 1878. Without success. When Albania was eventually founded in 1912, Kosovo with Prizren ended up with Serbia. In the second World War the Germans made it belong to Albania again. After the second World War, Kosovo was again given to Yugoslavia (that now also encompassed Serbia). In 1999 there was the cruel war with Serbia that ended with the creation of the nation of Kosovo.
The league of Prizren had been founded in a building that later became the museum of the League. It was destroyed by the Serbs in 1999 and then has been carefully rebuilt. The museum shows the history of the League. Here are three men driving it (Unknown to us, Ymer Prizreni and Abdyl Frashëri).
I understand that this League fought for Kosovo and for Albania. But… now they are two countries. After all that has happened, I hope for peace for the two vibrant cities that I have seen in Kosovo, and for Kosovo.
The Beska or “Promise”
We finish off the day with dinner in the Beska. This restaurant is called “Promise” and it lives up to its promises. It deserves an entry in Tripadvisor. Why do we not, have any Kosovo Albanian restaurants in Basel? These paprika dishes, pita and yoghurt are simply delicious.
I have a small bottle of Stone Castle Cabernet Sauvignon which is a good match.
Great is the pond in he courtyard. Children love to watch the ducks that swimming and walking around between the tables.
Full of impressions I sleep well, despite the noise that comes from the river board… all Prizren is out on this warm and sunny Saturday evening.