Is Kosovo even a country?! Well, sure thing it is! A brand new one, in fact. “The field of blackbirds” as its Slavic name suggests. After years of civil war, known as Serbian ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians; Kosovo finally broke free. Declaring its independence in 2008, a new country was born. It is one of the youngest countries in the world. Although, Serbia among few other nations still does not recognise Kosovo as a state. Many travellers have never heard of Kosovo or simply keep it off their list of places to visit. Largely undermined, this Europe’s newest country should be your next destination in the Balkan region. This Kosovo travel guide will help you decide where to stay, what to eat and things to do.
How To Get To Kosovo?
As one of the smallest countries in the Balkans region, there is a limited choice of direct flights. The easiest and cheapest way to get there is by bus from a neighbouring country. I took a bus from Skopje, Macedonia to the capital – Pristina. The bus took about 3 hours and cost 400 denars (€5). You can buy the ticket at the bus station. There are frequent buses, which run daily at every hour. The ride offers beautiful mountain scenery. So have the camera at ready!
If you’d like to visit Serbia as well, I’d recommend going there first and then crossing over to Kosovo. There are still travel complications between those two countries, because of its bitter history. You can read more about the border crossing in my post about how to enter Serbia from Kosovo.
Accommodation in Pristina
Pristina is the capital and the largest city in Kosovo. The locals are extremely friendly and hospitable towards tourists. The majority of the country is dominated by ethnic Albanians, who make up over 90% of the population. Therefore, don’t be confused to see Albanian flag everywhere instead of Kosovan one. Food and accommodation are relatively cheap. Hostels’ cost on average less than €10 per night. I’ve stayed at Oda Hostel which was recommended to me by a fellow traveller I met in Macedonia. Personally, it was one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in Europe! You can even leave your mark on the wall… Have you found mine yet?
Traditional Kosovo Food
From local delicacies these are some common ones you should try while visiting Kosovo;
• Macchiato – for all the Starbucks lovers… Start your day right with some coffee. Did you know that Kosovo makes the best macchiato in the world?! Move over Italy… 😉
• Burek – it’s a savoury baked pastry made from layers of dough. It may be filled with white cheese, meat or spinach.
• Flija – a traditional Albanian cuisine. Multiple crepe-like layers brushed with cream and served with sour cream.
• Tavë kosi – traditional dish of baked lamb, rice and yoghurt
• Boza – a sweet thick beverage made of wheat, rye and/or millet. It’s usually served with cakes and pastries.
• Ayran – a healthy chilled yoghurt
• Raki – national Balkan fruit brandy. In Kosovo, they make it from grapes. Even though it’s served in a shot glass, it’s meant to be sipped. Gëzuar!
• Llokuma, Kurore or Baklava – for all those with a sweet tooth, try these desserts!
Things To do in Pristina
Sadly, Kosovo is one of the least visited countries across Europe. There aren’t many tourist attractions around here. Some of the most popular things to do in Pristina include the following;
Unveiled on the day Kosovo was granted its independence. What a better way to get the message across that the new country was born! Each year, on the Independence Day, the monument changes its design. When I was visiting, the ‘N’ and ‘W’ were laid down on the ground. At first, I thought “e born” is rather a strange choice. However, when you look closely, there are painted letters next to fallen ‘N’ and ‘W’, reading “No Walls”. The message is supposed to be addressed at U.S. President, Donald Trump and Serbs living in the north of Kosovo. As explained by Fisnik Ismajli, the creator of the Newborn monument:
“In a world where walls are being built every day, and freedom of movement is becoming ever more limited by narrow minds, while a wall here continuously harms Kosovo’s sovereignty, NEWBORN wants to bring those walls down, for the sake of humanity.”
Moreover, the letter ‘E’ is for “Emigration”. Absolutely great message to get across!
Bill Clinton Statue
The U.S supported Kosovo during its tough years of war. Bill Clinton also pushed the issue for its independence. The locals adore him for it, he got his own statue and a street named after him. If you’re an American, you’ll probably get a special treatment over there! On the other hand, Serbs were generally delighted with Trump’s election victory due to the fact he defeated the wife of their 1990s nemesis.
National Library of Kosovo
Popular for its quirky architecture. It has a grey metal exterior with numerous small white domes. You either love it or hate it! Personally, I love it!
Mother Teresa Cathedral
You can go up to the top of the tower to get a great panoramic view of Pristina.
Outside of Pristina
There is more to discover outside of the capital. The following have been inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
• The Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš in Prizren. There is also a well-preserved Ottoman quarter. Prizren is more popular destination amongst tourists and it’s the most historical city in Kosovo.
• Visoki Dečani Monastery – one of the most important monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Set in a beautiful valley, the architecture makes an exquisite visual experience.
• Patriarchate of Peć – located on the outskirts of the city. Monastery with many spectacular frescoes.
• Gračanica Monastery – the exterior design may not be as such impressive, but inside is a real gem hidden!
How safe is Kosovo?
Due to its recent war events, there are a lot of safety concerns. In the 90’s Kosovo was “Europe’s crime hub”. Popular for organised crime, drug/human trafficking and organ theft. High unemployment and other economic factors encourage criminal activity in Kosovo. I’ve only noticed beggars walking between cars on the road at the red traffic light. It’s no surprise as poverty is a common thing here. In fact, Kosovo is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Some political tensions are still ongoing, where protests have the potential to turn violent. There is also still some danger from residual mines and other ordnance left over from the war. Therefore, it may be painted as dangerous, but to me, it seemed like a safe place to visit for a short trip. I would recommend visiting the “newborn” country and seeing it for yourself. However, precaution should always be taken!
What are your thoughts about visiting Kosovo?
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