Theme: West Balkan & Turkey War Tour Country: Kosovo Language: Albanian & Serbian Unit of Currency: Euro Location: Pristina & Prizren Year: 2013 Bucket list: Hiking to the Fortress of Prizren
DO: TOUR THE CITY
- Drinking, eating, photographing, and hanging out with the locals in the city
DO: TREK TO THE FORTRESS OF PRIZREN
- Witnessing city views from the hill sides
The Amazing Adventures of Kosovo:
It is incredible how you meet people, and traveling around the world reminds me of this quite often. My time in Kosovo will be intertwined into three stories (individualized into three posts).
This post will unfold my first story and will capture the perfect moments during the first time in Pristina, Kosovo.
SO THERE I WAS walking within the alleyways of Pristina, with plenty of daylight and no set itinerary in hand. I stumbled upon the University of Pristina, where a National Library was conveniently placed in a courtyard and Christ the Saviour Cathedral was close by.
I remember thinking how amazing it would be to have a signature jumpin’ photograph in front of this famous Serbian church. Once the thought crossed my mind, a nice engaged couple approached me and asked to take my photograph.
After traveling to quite a bit destinations, I am a bit hesitant about lending my camera for someone to photograph me; however, after making a joke and mentioning that I can run fast in my trainers if they decide to steal my camera, I let my guard down and happily accepted their offer.
I am really glad that I did! I spent the entire afternoon and evening tagging along on their routinely “Sunday afternoon walk” around the city. Not only did I get to visit the places that were a ‘must see,’ but I also was able to experience the city through their eyes.
It was fate that led me to this unique city. Unlike all the cities that I have planned to visit in the West Balkan states and Turkish regions, I knew very little about this hidden gem. With the depth of history embedded into Pristina and the genuine kindness that seeped from individual characters that I met during my first day there, I can honestly say my impressions of Pristina were incredible. I am thankful that I trekked to this city and met the most amazing people during my journey.
The next two stories include a loving and generous family in Prizren, Kosovo and an amazing group of university students whom define why communication does not always have to be verbal.
This post will illustrate how sometimes at the most unexpected moments in our lives, we come across a string of individuals that display a kindness and warmheartedness that is rare to find. Fortunately for me, I was at the right moment and the right time.
It all started when I just finished a walking tour in Prizren, Kosovo with one of the hostel owners that I had anticipated staying with that night.
In order to continue learning about the historical significance of each country and the difficult obstacles that the West Balkans have faced during the time of war, I had to complete my tour in Prizren with discovering its most famous fortress.
The quest was to find the Prizren Castle, since it was destroyed during the First World War. This unique structure was built to protect Prizren from foreign attacks and consists of a great number of underground tunnels.
I thought that this was proved to be an easy task, but to my surprise there was a 90 degree up-hill trek that was in my way. After over-heating from the multiple layers of winter attire shaped to my body, I stopped to take in the view. As the cobble-stoned pathways welcomed my feet, I remember thinking how beautiful this cityscape really was.
Once caught my breath and started the treacherous climb yet again, I heard a faint “Hello” behind me. Startled as someone just spoke English in a non-speaking English city, to my surprise turned around and found a row of smiles looking at me. One of the oldest female siblings approached me and we begun to speak little English and display hand-gestures as if we were long-time friends.
At the top of the hill, we had all reached our final destination – the Prizren Castle. A few moments later when I had begun my capturing the beauty of the city within the images that I had photographed, I was asked by the young girl about my travels, university attended, and what my occupation was. Consequently, this information was being translated from English to Albanian to her entire family.
After a translated session of communication, I was politely offered to visit with the family in their home, which turned out was quite close to where my hostel was located.
I can honestly say that I have met dozens of locals in various travel destinations that I have been to (especially traveling solo), but I had rarely taken the offer and opportunity to visit their residence. When I thought about this invitation, I gazed at their facial expressions and focused on the range of ages that was eagerly awaiting my response. A family of six consisting of 3 children, 2 young adults, and 2 adults excitedly and wholeheartedly showed their enthusiasm when I said “Yes, I will come visit with you and your family in your home.”
And that was the story of how life-time friendships were formed. I will forever be grateful for the company that I had during my time in Prizren, especially having one of my best travel experiences with a local family in Kosovo.
Without further delay, here is my favorite image of the Hoxha family!
This post ends my time in Kosovo, but it would not be a great travel story if it did not have an incredible ending!
Once I met the Hoxha family, I became instant good friends with their oldest daughter, Elona.
I could have stuck around and explored Prizren’s nightlife, but I decided that I would chill with my new friend and her mates instead. This would include a bus ride back to Pristina and a proper night out.
During the course of my time learning about the girls, their studies, and what their common interests were, we had spent the time speaking slower English, gesturing, and even I had absorbed a tad bit of Albanian words to help the communication.
Regardless, I was not able to clearly communicate my thoughts and ideas to them, but I can honestly say that this had made my experience so much more meaningful.
Communication does not always have to be verbal, and though I had a few minutes of discussion on Beyonce and Lady Gaga, I really enjoyed the challenge of embracing a new culture and appreciated their patience while I slowly exchanged my new Albanian dictionary of words.
It turns out that my time with the girls was one of the coolest experiences I had with some local university students during my West Balkan states tour.
The best moment was when we had to say our goodbyes – each of the three girls had bought me a small gift of appreciation. In addition, I made a promise that I would back to visit again. In return of their generosity, I purchased 4 blue bracelets (represents their American Marine Biologist friend). It is awesome to think that we will always have a treasure from the moments that we spent in Kosovo together.
Next stop: Skopje, Macedonia!