Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pristina, Kosovo

I kind of knew that yesterday that my trip to Pristina in Kosovo was a bit of a box ticking exercise. I just held hopes that it would be worth a visit in its own right and would justify the effort. I have to be honest and say that aside from the fact I have added another country to my list it didn’t.

I left Skopje on the first bus at 0900, full of optimism and excitement of country number 41 on the horizon. After a hassle free ride I got to the bus station and having decided the guesthouse I had booked was out of walking distance I went over to a taxi company, avoiding the vicious guard dog that was foaming at the mouth and barking furiously in the car park.

I had pre booked the only guesthouse in Pristina, the Velhania which according to Lonely Planet was run by a jovial Professor of Engineering and “perfect for anyone missing the hostel atmosphere or their Granddad”. Intrigued by such a description I was looking forward to it. Even if this place was within walking distance I’d never have found it. I was checked in by two chain smoking middle aged women and shown to my room in another building. I had a triple room to myself in a building seemingly lacking other guests. I was let down on the hostel experience promised and time would prove me to be let down on LP’s other promise; I never did get to meet the Professor during my time there.

After walking into the city centre I soon realised there was very little here of interest, my quest to unearth some hidden gems would be a fruitless one. I went to the UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo) building and watched with fleeting interest the UN emblazoned cars coming and going but the novelty soon wore thin so I went off in search of a nice Mosque, The Carshi. Honestly, I walked past it twice as with the dirt and smashed windows I assumed it was derelict. The only thing that drew me to explore closer was the National Library, a peculiarly designed building. It looks like a badly designed set from the original Star Trek or a building covered in large eggs encased in wire mesh. Would love to know what the architect was smoking when he thought that was a good idea. Picture is at the start.

There was nothing else in Pristina for me to look for. The Bazaar area mentioned in LP I’d already inadvertently walked through it, I was quite disappointed. I just reminded myself that the main attraction was being in Kosovo itself. In the evening I indulged in some people watched along the main street during the Passagiata along Bulevard Nene Tereze (Mother Therese) and just took in the sense of national pride from the world’s newest nation. Maybe this is just imagined but the Kosovans are a fiercely proud people and it seemed evident to me.

It’s just a shame Pristina isn’t more of a tourist town and during dinner I took the decision to take the first bus back to Skopje and move on to Ohrid. This means an 0630 bus but there was nothing keeping me there a minute longer. Was happy to be there, but definitely not one of Europe’s gems.

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