Kosovo has headlined many newspapers around the world for the last decade. There have been ethnic tensions for many years between the divided population of Kosovo-alabanians and serbs. The Kosovo War in the late 90’s ended with a intervention from NATO and soon after, Kosovo became a UN protectorate. In February 2008 after gruelling years Kosovo declared its independence. Until south Sudan in mid 2011 it was the youngest nation in the world. But the difference is, that Kosovo is not a UN Member state.
Only 108 of the 193 UN States recognise Kosovo as an independent state, of course Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence. The second youngest nation is a potential candidate for future enlargement of the European Union though. But that may take a very long time, since the recent war has left devastating circumstances within Kosovo’s new borders.
Nonetheless, it didn’t affect the hospitality and friendliness of locals. I haven’t received such friendly smiles and interest towards visitors anywhere yet and I consider the day I spend in Kosovo far too less time and I want to travel back soon.
While hanging out in neighbouring Skopje, Macedonia, my bro Vincent and me took on an extreme early wake up call to catch the earliest bus to Prîstina, the capital of Kosovo. It is about a two hour drive between the two nations capital cities and after a well earned coffee at the bus station and a 5 euro one way bus ticket, we were off to the second youngest nation in the world.
When places had a lot of issues in the past with other countries, there are usually diplomatic issues that remain a problem, even if days of war are long gone. That said, I dearly and truly hoped nobody at the border would even think about stamping my passport. But my luck with NOT getting stamped is very bad. I got stamped from the Israelis at the overland border between Israel and Jordan and you all know what happens when you have an Israel stamp in your passport. (Most Arabic nations deny entry – also smaller gulf states)
Anyway, of course I got stamped at the Kosovo border and am now not allowed to enter Serbia legally. Now, I either get a new passport or I apply for a second one, when I want to visit Serbia in April. Argh! Whatever..
The bus ride passed quickly and we soon arrived at Prîstina bus station. We noticed there are hourly bus rides back to Skopje, which was relaxing to know, so we could easily spend the day here without worrying to much about missing a bus back.
The first thing to notice while wandering around, despite the obvious devastating state of buildings and streets, are the surprising looks you get from locals. It felt kind of like ‘Um, what are you doing here, but anyway, cool you’re here’. At least, that’s what we thought.
Prîstina is relatively small with little over 200k inhabitants, but a few years back there were not even half the people, because most locals fled during the war. Now, a small economic boom is underway with the help of international funds and organisations. You recognise it, while walking the famous Mother Teresa Boulevard. This street is the main centre area with dozens of small cafés, restaurants, hotels, government buildings and other important stuff, like a nearby sports stadium.
We walked towards the stadium and there we saw this building. It looks like the scariest building ever. It’s a perfect fit for Lord of the Ring’s Saruman. Incredible structure, that is a sports centre though.
Near this building, is the most important site for Kosovarians. It’s the NEWBORN monument. This structure was erected in February 2008 to celebrate the newborn independent republic of Kosovo. Every year the letters are newly coloured. This year it looked like this. Pretty cool!
We visited Prîstina on the weekend, therefore we found all the museums we tried to visit, closed. But it didn’t really matter, because I was just amazed by being here. Walking in all the places, that were part of recent history and just soaking in the new established Kosovarian atmosphere and vibes gave me that kind of explorer feeling I love so much.
So the rest of the day we just headed around, saw lovely kids playing incredible street music, talked to strangers in the restaurant, ate good cheap food and saw some more of blossoming Prîstina. A real pleasure to visit newborn Kosovo!