"Prishtina 2008" Top 5 Page for this destination Pristina by maykal
Pristina Travel Guide: 300 reviews and 497 photos
Prishtina is one of those places generally slated by travel writers, yet despite this I end up liking. I don't know what it is about the place, but something appealed, something kept me there for longer than I intended, and I found it quite hard to move on and continue my trip...I would have been quite happy to settle in and spend weeks wandering aimlessly around the streets, sipping and munching my way though the thousands of great cafes and bakeries.
I think most people who keep abreast of the news have heard of Prishtina. "And now its over to our war correspondent in Prishtina" were fairly common words on the BBC in the late 90's, and the city returned to the headlines in February 2008 when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.
Kosovo as a whole seems to attract two types of tourist at the moment. The first is the war tourist, rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of seeing burnt out tanks and bullet-ridden houses, maybe hear a gunshot or two. The war tourist would be sorely disappointed with Prishtina...you could easily visit the city and not see any evidence of conflict.
The second type of tourist prevalent in Prishtina is the passport-stamp collector. As soon as independence was declared, it seems a certain breed of travellers have started to see Kosovo as a challenge, a race to be one of the first to get a Kosovo stamp. I met some in Skopje, people who weren't really all that interested in the history, culture or people of Kosovo, but wanted to brag about their trip into "war-torn" Prishtina and show off the UNMIK stamp. Two of them entered Kosovo with me, on a day trip...well, I don't know what they got out of the experience, as they only had two hours in Prishtina before the last bus back to Skopje, and preferring to walk from the out-of-town bus station ("we don't do taxis"), I can imagine they base their impressions on the fairly ugly suburbs as they wouldn't have got very far!
I've been accused of being both war-tourist and stamp collector...and would like to state here that I don't consider myself either. Kosovo has interested me for a while...you see, I'm a big fan of Ottoman architecture, and Kosovo is littered with old mosques and houses, tekkes and hammams. I also like mountains and the path less travelled. The Kosovars I met in Damascus in '99 were very positive about their homeland, and the publication of the Bradt Travel Guide to Kosovo last year was the final push...my trip was not supposed to happen straight after the independence declaration, but it added an extra dimension to the visit, almost a party atmosphere at times. Prizren was the main focus of the trip, but Prishtina distracted me and must have cast some sort of spell on me.
True, it isn't the most beautiful of cities. Actually in parts, it is downright ugly, with enormous concrete apartment blocks stretching as far as the eye can see. Add to that the massive amounts of building work that has gone on in the past decade, with some truly bizarre architecture popping up without planning permission, searching out the traces of old Prishtina can feel a bit like looking for a needle in a field of haystacks. But they are there, in a cluster of streets across the road from the new Parliament building, a mosque here, a clocktower there. Prishtina is hardly a sightseeing paradise, but what it does have is certainly worth seeking out.
Away from the old centre, Prishtina is a buzzing vibrant city. Trendy bars and cafes abound, I guess partly because of all the UN agencies and NGOs, although the ones I ventured into were mainly free of "internationals". Prishtina's restaurants are also excellent, whether they be the upmarket ones specialising in Albanian delicacies, or the cheap and cheerful qebabtores with their meatballs and kebabs, or the burektores and their cheese pastries.
I don't want this page to become political. I tried to avoid political discussion as much as possible while in Kosovo, which wasn't too difficult as not many people tried to draw me into political debates. I do have photos of some slogans, posters and graffiti that were abundant around the city...I may post a few on here, but they don't necessarily echo my own views. They are simply to show what the city is like at the moment.
Perhaps I should also say that my experience in Kosovo was a completely Albanian (and Turkish) one. Prishtina is nowadays essentially an Albanian city. I did not meet a single Serb, see a single sign in the Serbian language, and did not venture into any Serbian areas such as Gracanica, Mitrovica etc. This was partly due to time constraints, but mainly because so soon after independence things were a bit unclear. Even if i had found a way of getting to Gracanica, I was not sure what sort of welcome I would have got, as a Brit, in a Serbian town, since the UK was very quick to recognise Kosovo's independence. Maybe it would have been fine, maybe I would have experienced nothing but friendliness...but Mitrovica was certainly off-limits for me, due to rioting. I had no desire to wander blindly into trouble.... A cop-out apparently, according to a backpacker I met in Albania who told me I should have sought out all the troublespots and taken lots of photos. But this was a holiday after all!
So enough of that...Prishtina...yes, it is nice...if after reading a few of my pages, you think you sound like my sort of traveller (whatever that may be!), then chances are you'll like Prishtina too. Not for everyone, for sure...but give it more than a few hours at least!
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