We had purposely booked a hotel close to the train station as we would be departing on the 07.10 next day. It had claimed to be just 200 metres from our departure point, but what it failed to mention was that this was though a trading estate, across a wasteland, down a muddy bank and over the train lines.
As I mentioned in my previous Kosovo post, the weather was on the inclement side and unsurprisingly yours truly slipped and took a tumble as we went in search of tickets. I still have the scar on my right wrist a month later! Oh well…….
After a fruitless attempt to buy tickets, we decided to invest in the luxury of a taxi to take us to the Ethnographic Museum (Muzeu Etnologjik) which was actually a traditional Kosovar house furnished as it would have been for centuries.
Amil, our enthusiastic guide, told us the history of the Ottoman style dwelling, as well as much of the recent torrid history of the fledgling nation. He was just 11 years-old when the conflict finished and he told us stories of corpses in the road, hunger and constant fear. He also gave us good tourist information advice, well worth the €10 tip, especially as entry was free.
A quick march through the thriving fruit ‘n veg market and after a few wrong turns we came to the small mosque that Amil had told us about.
It was now lunch time and we had been recommended to try flia, the local favourite made up of 15-20 pancake like layers with not much in between. It was supposed to contain cinnamon paste, sour cream or something similar, but all we could see and taste was grease!
After one mouthful for me and an aborted mouthful from Hamish, we abandoned the ‘delicacy’ for delicious chocolate cake and strong coffee. Make that two cakes!
We then made our way along George Bush Boulevard to the ultra modern Mother Teresa cathedral, which had only been consecrated two weeks before our visit. Teresa was born in 1910 in Skopje (then part of the Kosovo Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire) of Albanian descent and thankfully the Pristina cathedral was a more fitting tribute to the recently canonised Saint than the gaudy building in the Macedonian capital.
Refreshingly plain inside, it featured a stained-glass window of Saint Teresa standing hand in hand with the other most recent new Saint, Pope John Paul II.
The new age church featured a super-fast lift up its bell tower and for €2 we sped to the top for the best views in town. Despite the drizzle we could see a fair distance.
Having spotted the unusual national library building from on high, we decided that we could tick it off our ‘must see’ list without needing to trek there in the rain.
There was one other item I wanted to see – the sculpture named Heroinat.
Erected in 2015, the huge face depicted is made up of 20,000 identical discs of that same face. the 20,000 number represents the estimated number of Kosovar women raped during the Yugoslav conflict. Just let that sink in for a minute. 20,000 victims of an awful crime who will never ever receive justice in their lives and who will undoubtedly be unable to ever forget their ordeal.
This really harrowing thought made me speechless for a while. Lots of the poor souls will undoubtedly have fallen pregnant too. That’s when I stopped thinking about the unpalatable what might have beens.
I soon came around again with the realisation that I was on holiday. After taking a quick snap of the ‘New Born’ installation opposite, it was time for a dark beer, before returning via Madeleine Albright Street to our hotel and the adjacent pizzeria.
It was early to bed for us as we had an early start the next day for our first train journey of the 2017 Balkan tour, Pristina to Skopje. You can read about the journey over on my other blog On Track. Despite our ‘proximity’ to the station, we took a taxi this time to avoid any accidents!