The sun was setting behind distant mountains when I landed in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. After a weekend in London for Wimbledon, I was kicking off my big summer adventure: two weeks in Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. Four new countries for me in an area of Europe I have wanted to visit for years!
My arrival was smooth and I was greeted by a friendly officer at passport control who laughed as he flipped through my crowded passport trying to find a place for my entry stamp. My taxi driver spoke great English and chatted me up the entire drive into the city. Much of it was a preview of what I would hear a lot of during my time in Kosovo: the effects of the Balkans War (which most Kosovars talk about it as if it was just yesterday) and how much Kosovars love Bill Clinton. He also gave me the heads up that I was visiting during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, but told me I probably wouldn’t notice it much in Pristina. Despite the population officially being about 90% Muslim, he compared the way most in the capital practice to Christians who only go to church on Christmas and Easter.
My hotel was a small, family run place not far from the main square and my room was enormous for just 40 Euro (although the air conditioning didn’t work). I would only have a day to explore Pristina, so I was up early the next morning to make the most of it – and to try to beat the heat as temperatures were expected to soar toward 100 degrees. When I first set out from my hotel, I was wearing a skirt just past my knees and a tank top with a light, white cardigan – mainly to cover my shoulders and be respectful since I was in a predominantly Muslim country. That didn’t stop me from attracting constant stares from all the men I passed on the sidewalks (and until I got to the main square, it felt like I was only passing men!). However, as I got into the square, I saw Kosovar women all around in short skirts and tank tops – far less conservatively dressed than I was! So given how hot it was, I ditched the cardigan.
Pristina is very small for a capital city and I walked all around the center easily. I passed Pristina’s famously abstract library and an abandoned orthodox church. I stopped at a cell phone store to get a SIM card for my phone and I trekked up to Martyrs’ Hill for a nice view of the city.
I found the famous “Newborn” monument and took a mandatory selfie in front of it and then tracked down the Bill Clinton statue (unfortunately Bill was too tall for a good selfie). I also got a good laugh as I passed the corner of Bill Clinton Boulevard and George Bush Avenue – only in Kosovo!
I wandered through the market and found the ethnographic museum, where I found a great English-speaking guide to give me a tour. Even though I was in Kosovo, it was fascinating to me how much of the culture on display at the museum was Albanian. This was another theme throughout my time in the country.
By the time I headed to the bus station around 3:30 p.m. to catch a bus to Peja, I was ready to move on. I enjoyed my day in Pristina, but I felt like that was probably enough.