Balkans Day 2 – Pristina
12th September 2018
Today we’re off to Pristina, capital of Kosovo. Most of my knowledge of Kosovo comes from watching the news delivered by Kate Adie in a bulletproof vest, so I’m looking forward to seeing modern day Kosovo for myself.
First, breakfast which consists of sausage and aubergine topped with cheese. I didn’t think I liked aubergine but apparently the secret to making it palatable is to outnumber it 3:1 with cheese.
Kosovo isn’t the easiest place to reach. The Serbs don’t recognise it so you can’t enter from there (or you can but you can’t get out again). The car hire company was having none of it, so we are going by bus. We set off for bus station. Our suitcase was damaged on the flight; the bottom has caved in so the wheels which no longer touch the floor, thus making it difficult to manoeuvre. I suggest buying a new one, but the old man opts to make do and moan. A lot of moaning.
Skopje bus station is huge, packed with people from a range of nationalities and cultures. But when our bus (or minibus to be more precise) pulls up and the relevant passengers emerge from the crowd to board, they are almost all British.
The driver is equipped for the two hour journey with two packs of cigarettes and chain smokes his way across two countries. Then we stop. On a lay-by. Next to a flyover. We are expected to get out. The driver tells us the bus station in over the road. It’s all so sudden and unexpected, that the old man disembarks without his Kindle, but the bus driver has already departed in a cloud of diesel and cigarette smoke. Moaning about the cumbersome suitcase is replaced by moaning about the lost tablet.
We wander around disorientated for a while and finally manage to find a taxi without ever locating the bus station.
After checking into our hotel; Prima, we set forth to explore Pristina. Foolishly, I suggest heading for a spot on the map marked ‘Tourist Information’. It turns out to be an empty glass booth.
Bemused but undeterred, we visit the key tourist attractions; first, the Newborn Monument (unveiled the day Kosovo declared independence from Serbia).
On to Mother Teresa Cathedral, where you can take a lift to the top of the Bell Tower for a view of the city and beyond.
But my favourite is the weird and wonderful National Library. Designed by Croatian architect Andrija Mutnjaković, it consists of a total 99 domes of different sizes and is covered in a metal mesh. Inside is pretty cool too with its marble mosaic floor.
Pristina isn’t the biggest city, with a population the size of Bournemouth, so after a few hours wandering, we have seen pretty much all there is to see.
Kosovo is strange place; a small, almost third world feeling, enclave in the centre of Europe. But we have enjoyed our day here. We settle at a pavement café for a local beer or two, a sandwich and to watch the world go by. Hoping that we find the elusive bus station, when we return to Skopje in the morning…