After visiting Macedonia and Albania, the next destination was Kosovo. Instead of visiting the capital, Pristina, after a bit of research, Prizren – known as the cultural capital – looked like a good alternative. The second largest city, it’s a young and vibrant town filled with picturesque mosques and churches, and good restaurants and nightlife. Travelling through the Balkans, I can’t help but think of the relatively recent war, and how the legacy of such a vicious conflict must affect the people here. It’s good to see that life continues, and tourists are returning, although it’s still not possible to travel from Kosovo directly into Serbia.
Finding our bus in Tirana city centre, we settled in for another Balkan safari. After a few hours, it got darker and darker, and the heavens opened. Then, in the pitch black, the driver stopped and deposited us on the side of the road, gesturing into the distance. It was lashing rain, there was no phone coverage and we were looking at a dark, unwelcoming wasteland. With no other choice we set off with trepidation, stumbling over uneven ground and getting completely soaked. But like most things when you’re travelling, it all worked out, and lo and behold, lights appeared in the distance. We eventually found the bus station, and a map, and directions to Prizren City Hostel.
We arrived in the door of the hostel like a pair of bedraggled misfits that had missed a spot on the ark. The hostel was fairly new at the time, and the owner was awesome, greeting us with an offer of “Coffee, beer, raki? Or all three?!”. Well, it was late, we were cold, and we were tired, so all three seemed like a sensible option. Warmed up with coffee, thirst quenched with beer and merry with raki served from the biggest bottle I have ever seen, we settled in at the bar. We chatted with the owner who told us all about Prizren and starting his hostel – definitely an entrepreneur. After a couple of hours and some good stories we were starving, so we got changed and set off downtown for some food.
Prizren has a pretty, well preserved old town, with cobbled streets and lots of buzzing bars. We reached the main Shadervan Square, a stone piazza with a fountain in the middle. Besimi Beska had been recommended for food. It’s a huge restaurant with an indoor garden, and an enormous menu of grilled meat, salads, fish, pizza and local specialities. I had some trouble finding the entrance and treated the people inside to a good impression of a mime artist as I felt around for the door handle. They were definitely laughing at me when the waitress had to come and let me in. I blame the raki! We had a feast, including some memorable freshly baked bread, and a huge platter of meat, and some more local hooch. I can’t remember exactly what the bill was, but I was astounded what good value it was. After dinner, we explored some of the local bars, and then headed back to the hostel from some much needed sleep.
In the morning we arose and had a good look at the old town by day, and explored some of the old mosques and churches. Take a look at the Saint George Orthodox Cathedral, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Church of Our Lady of Ljevis and the Sinan Pasha Mosque. There is a nice walk up to the Prizren Fortress, ‘Kaljaja’, which gives you excellent views of the town.
After a break for some strong Turkish coffee, and buying some food for our journey in a local bakery, we headed back to the bus station to work out the next leg of our journey to Montenegro.