Max Keating recounts his 10-day-long holiday in Kosovo, an underrated place that really shouldn’t be.
Kosovo, a newly independent state as of 2008, may seem an odd tourist destination; however, having had the opportunity to experience 10 days in the country, I discovered a hidden gem. Albania has recently become a popular destination for Western tourists, yet Kosovo retains the unreasonable stigma of an unsafe location.
Albania has recently become a popular destination for Western tourists, yet Kosovo retains the unreasonable stigma of an unsafe location.
Spending much of my time in Pristina, I found the city to be a great place for young people. Boasting one of the youngest populations in the world, Kosovo’s capital has a fantastic nightlife, with bars, clubs, and restaurants all home to cheap prices with pints between €3 and €4, and in Liburnia, one of Pristina’s finest restaurants, €15 for a gigantic steak. Similarly, walking throughout Pristina it is common to see wedding celebrations, folk festivals, and dancing, as a regular occurrence. The library in Pristina is another interesting attraction. Although dubbed the ugliest building in Europe, its architecture shows a strange construct from the communist era in Yugoslavia.
Kosovo Albanians hold their culture and history in high esteem, which is something I experienced in many conversations with Albanian taxi drivers. Having visited the Children’s Museum, dedicated to the hundreds of children killed or missing in the war, one sees first-hand how recent this conflict is and how many families have been affected by it. People donate clothes, books, drawings, or toys to present their stories of loss.
We had the opportunity to visit the family monument of Adem Jashari in the rural town of Prekaz. Revered as a national hero in Kosovo due to his leadership of the Kosovo Liberation Army during the Kosovo War, he defended Albanian civilians from the Serbian armed forces. Jashari was then killed along with over 50 members of his family fighting against the Serbian army in their family home.
As a Balkan country, Kosovo has a legacy of classical history in the region as well, such as the Ulpiana archaeological park which is a rich archaeological site still under excavation. The site holds the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Ulpiana, allegedly inhabited by Emperor Justinian II.
The stand out of the entire trip was my brief visit to Prizren, a beautiful tourist city nestled beside a large valley. The religious architecture displays a beautiful mosque and an orthodox church, dating to the 1600s and 1300s. Albanian culture is peculiar to the rest of Europe, as the Ottoman cultural aesthetic, which has been grafted onto the European base of their identities, is immediately noticeable.
The weather in Prizren and Pristina mirrors Southern Italy, although, as a landlocked country, Kosovo doesn’t receive the benefit of cool sea breezes. You will find there are many public fountains, with the most impressive being in Prizren’s city square. The local legend says that those who drink the water there will be married in the city. Prizren is a must-visit for any Kosovo travel itinerary, as it is filled with great bars and cafes, and a huge Ottoman fortress atop a mountain only a 10-minute walk from the fountain.
You will find there are many public fountains, with the most impressive being in Prizren’s city square. The local legend says that those who drink the water there will be married in the city.
Although largely undiscovered by the rest of the world, Kosovo is a cheap, fun holiday destination with exciting places to visit and would make an excellent summer destination for any students considering a visit to the Balkans.