So far our time in the Balkans has been very interesting. Kosovo is pretty much in the center of all the other countries we are visiting this trip. After researching buses and playing with the itinerary, we decided to visit as a day trip from Skopje, Macedonia since it is only about an hour and a half away. (Keep reading to find out how long it really took us!) I would’ve liked an extra day to visit a couple of other areas in the country but unfortunately it just wasn’t in the cards.
Kosovo is an interesting place. One of the first thing I’ve wondered was if Kosovo is a country or still a part of Serbia? Kosovo is not a UN member state so it doesn’t fully count as a country but it did declare independence in 2008. It is recognized by around 100 UN states and is a member of the IMF and World Bank. What do you think?
Our day started off with a little hiccup. We had bought tickets for an 8:00AM bus from Skopje to Pristina, Kosovo and arrived at the station at 7:45. We were told to go to lane 1 for our bus. The area was very busy and no bus was there yet. The sign said Pristina so there didn’t seem to be a reason to worry. We even asked some locals and thought they said that they were also going to Pristina. The area was very chaotic and we starting hearing people mentioning Deutschland. After a few minutes we began to worry that we had somehow missed our bus. At around 8:15 Kim went inside and asked the rep who sold us our tickets what was going on. She told Kim that the bus (actually a mini-van) had left on time from lane 2. My thoughts were WTF! It wasn’t such a big deal in the end and we caught the next bus at 9:00AM.
We were told the bus ride to Kosovo took around 1.5 hours but when you add in border crossings and our bus driver needing to make numerous stops for himself, the ride took over an hour longer.
Kim and I were surprised by Pristina. The city seems to be a huge construction site with new buildings going up all around. Most of the sites we visited were walkable from the main square and it seemed like just about everyone spoke English. It was also nice to hear how genuinely thankful the people were for America’s help in gaining independence. A few people let us know how gracious they were to our country and there are even some streets named after US presidents!
Here are some of the things we did during our visit:
- Jumped at the Kosovo border welcome sign
- Checked out Bill Clinton Boulevard
- Spent time by the “NEWBORN” sculpture
- Pristina Ethnographic Museum
- Visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site- Monastery of Gracanica
Our bus moved past the Republic of Kosovo welcome sign a bit too fast for me to snap a photo. However, we had a short break just past the sign and guard booth so I had a plan to walk over to it. I asked the Kosovo border police if it was OK and he said no but OK. This seemed a bit confusing but I took it as a yes. I jogged over to the sign with Lucas in my arms laughing away. Kim followed us and took a few photos, one of them being this not so impressive jump shown above. If I didn’t feel like we needed to rush back to our bus, I would’ve tried again. Either way this was a great- something from nothing moment that I won’t soon forget.
When I’ve always thought of Kosovo, the only thing that came to mind was that a street named after Bill Clinton was located there. I had memories of a large picture and a statue which we had to see. I expected the statue to be in a prominent place, very close to the city center and main square. It’s actually located in a more residential feeling area closer to the bus station.
In this small square is an American flag, Bill Clinton statue and the large, billboard style sign high up on a building. (Check back for a post with more photos in the future)
The NEWBORN sculpture was a very creative idea. It’s located just outside a shopping mall. We loved how each letter had flags of various countries all over them- front and back. This was probably the busiest attraction that we saw in Pristina. People were taking photos and putting their kids into the letters. If Lucas was a bit older, we probably would’ve followed and done the same. I decided to take an individual photo of each letter and Kim, Lucas and I took a photo in front of the first N, right by the American flag.
The Pristina Ethnographic Museum was a very interesting site. It’s located in two houses, from the 18th and 19th century, directly across from each other. One house was kept in it’s original (how it would’ve been lived in) state and has low doorways. The other house had a birth and death room which were interesting to see. There were also lots of traditional clothing and costumes on display. We chatted a bit with the guides who were very friendly and knowledgeable. Guided tours are offered with the admission fee which we declined due to Lucas wanted to roam around.
I also got a souvenir at the museum- a traditional, local hat which I’ll write about in a future post.
Our last stop of the day was to the Serb controlled town of Gracanica to visit the monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery is included in the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo with 3 other sites.
The monastery is surrounded by walls and wasn’t very large. From the outside, the monastery was very nice but nothing spectacular. When we went inside, it was very impressive to see the frescos throughout the building. We didn’t spend a lot of time here but felt the site was worth the stop.
Don’t forget to keep checking back for more posts about our trip!
Here are some other posts about our current trip: