A flat country! This was my first thought when i entered Kosovo. From Montenegro it went down pretty steep and it was noticeably warmer (42° C, 110° F).
Peja was the first big town for me. I wanted to withdraw money at an ATM. A men started talking with me in German. Mentor led a grocery store in Hannover for many years. His family invited me to stay overnight. By motorbike we visited the Patriarchate of Peja- this complex of four churches was built between 1230 and 1330 by Serbian Nemanjici dynasty. The church was the seat of the Patriarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church starting in 1302. I would have never imagined a more beautiful start like this.
The next great event followed shortly afterwards. In Kliqinë there was a reunion with Driton, a work colleague and his family. By random went the fasting month Ramadan over. During 3 days we celebrated afterwards the Bayram. For this occasion we went to Mitrovica, where many other family members came together.
Grateful and with a full belly i cycled to Duçan. There i visited the Visoki Dečani monastery. The monastery, along with all other Serbian Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, was added to the UNESCO list of endangered World Heritage sites in 2006. Suspected Kosovo Albanian insurgents hurtled hand grenades at the monastery on 30 March 2007, but caused little damage. In recent years, the situation around the monastery has stabilized and it has reopened to visitors.
After the visit i continued to Junik. On this day i was equal invited three times. Agim, the owner of a petrol station, serving me a coffee with pizza. I have never experienced such a hospitable country on this trip.
I really wanted to see the Albanian Mountains. Therefore i decide to make a detour (see the last Blog: <Northern Albania>). This was a unique and hard experience.
Two weeks later i came back into Kosovo over the highway from Kukës to Prizren. As the highway was built, they destroied the old road. I had no other choice.
I liked Prizren from the beginning. The war and its aftermath caused only a moderate amount of damage to the city compared to other cities in Kosovo. Serbian forces destroyed an important Albanian cultural monument in Prizren, the League of Prizren building, but the complex was rebuilt later on and now constitutes the Albanian League of Prizren Museum. At this place there was a reunion with Avni. Together with his nephew Qenderim we visited the city. On the way to the castle (Yes, we pushed the bike up there!) we met Fredrik. He’s cycling to Asia. After i had said good- bye to Avni and Qendrim i went with him to the Hostel. There was also Naïla and Yoann, a French couple, staying with us. They are cycling through Europe for 6 months. It was nice to have some bike fellowship.
Mister G, the owner of the Hostel, offered me to sleep at the terrace for free. I gratefully accepted the offer. This gave me time to discover the city. These is not as touristy like many other cities in the Balkans. However, many changes will be made.
On March 17, 2004, during the Unrest in Kosovo some Serb cultural monuments in Prizren were damaged, burned or destroyed. Also, during that riot, entire Serb quarter of Prizren, near the Prizren Fortress, was completely destroyed, and all remaining Serb population was evicted from Šara Prizren.
The municipality of Prizren is still the most culturally and ethnically heterogeneous of Kosovo, retaining communities of Bosniaks, Turks, and Romani in addition to the majority Kosovo Albanian population live in Prizren. Only a small number of Kosovo Serbs remains in Prizren and area, residing in small villages, enclaves, or protected housing complexes. Furthermore, Prizren’s Turkish community is socially prominent and influential, and the Turkish language is widely spoken even by non-ethnic Turks.
Josiah, a cyclist from England, wrote me that he’s arrived in Pristina. I jumped in the next bus and visited him. We could spend the night at a Couch Surfing contact. Kujtim helped us a lot. The next day i went back to Prizren for visiting the Dokufest. Dokufest is an International Documentary and Short Film Festival.
When i came back to the Hostel in the evening the employee of the Hostel urged me to leave it. The owner was not reachable. I spent the night at the bus station. The owner had always assured me that i can stay so long as i want. With a monthly salary of around 300 Euros enter not all particularly bother to perform their job carefully.
The ride through the National Park Šara was a nice graduation. Kosovo is the youngest country on the European Continent. The wounds of war have not yet healed. However, the people have learned here amazingly fast to look into the future. Their optimism and energy is enviable and clearly perceptible. I very much hope that they will achieve their goals and dreams.