"Kosovo" Pristina by antistar
Pristina Travel Guide: 300 reviews and 497 photos
Pristina is a capital of a country that doesn't exist, at least not yet, and not if the Serbians have anything to do with it. Entering Kosovo doesn't get you a Serbian or Kosovan stamp, you get the words UNMIK. That's the UN Mission in Kosovo. There is no real government here, no real police force, and no real army. It's all dealt with by the UN, although there are signs that they are devolving a lot of that power to the locals. It seems the UN is making plans to hand over power to the Albanians, even if the Russians and Serbs aren't budging.
It's not a pretty capital. In fact entering the city from the train station was shocking. I guess I should have expected it, but I thought nearly ten years after the troubles that things would be close to normal again. And they are... in the centre of the city. The walk from the station to the centre, however, was like walking through a war zone. The abandonded houses, the burnt out stadium, the dark and empty old bus station. It was so bad, I almost turned around and got straight on the train to Skopje.
But I persevered, and the city proved to be much nicer than first impressions suggested. It's not a beauty by any means, but it's not a bad place to spend the day. However, those tempted to come to Kosovo by its newly founded tourist office would do well to seek out the true beauty of Kosovo, which is in the countryside and small towns, like Prizren, and not in the capital.
I didn't spend much time in Pristina. Enough to get a quick look around the main streets, and witness the end of a "marathon for peace" involving runners from all over the world. The most entertaining part of the journey was a train ride on the unique "Kosovo Railways", a ticket that will make an interesting souvenir for anyone. The countryside from the train was spectacular, and the people were extremely friendly. I got to listen to a chorus of Turkish songs and be invited to someone's house.
The people of Kosovo do seem to be very friendly, and also very grateful to the support they received from the west. It would be difficult to find a more pro-American country in the Muslim world, or even anywhere. They particularly love Bill Clinton, whom they named a boulevard after. Just to get an idea of how much love they have for him, as I left I looked back and saw a tower block that must have been 15-20 stories high. At least two thirds of those stories were covered in a giant poster showing Bill Clinton in salutary pose with a beatific face.
I'd dare say he's more fondly remembered here than in his own country.
Photo Album on Facebook (better quality).
It's never going to be completely safe in a place where political and ethnic tensions are high, but Pristina is probably... more travel advice
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