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Sunday, September 25, 2016

9/18: Prizren: Kaljaja Fortress & Wandering Minstrels

A nice lazy day planned today, just a hike to the fortress high above Prizren. The Casbah is another name for Prizren's Old Town that we wandered through en route to the fortress.

The hike to Kaljaja Fortress was certainly one of the steeper hills we’ve ever climbed. 
The Fortress was in sight but we still had a hard slog ahead of us!
Nice views of the city below.

Half way up the mountain towering over Prizren was the Church of the Holy Savior. When the custodian let us through the locked gate, he asked us where we were from. When I replied Canada originally and now the US, and Steven wandered on a few steps, the man put his hand on my left cheek and said ‘Canada’ as if it were truly heaven on earth! I didn’t disabuse him of that either!
As part of the Kosovo War, the Church had been burned down in 1999 but not completely destroyed. The small chapel still had some of the original frescoes on its walls. 
The Chapel:

There were just reproductions of frescoes, of course, on the still standing walls. What a sense of absolute peace and serenity I felt at the Church aided by the absence of other people and the lovely Eastern Orthodox choral music we heard over the loudspeakers.

The custodian with an image of the Church on his shirt:
Just beyond the church we met another older American couple from Minnesota who were traveling with their Albanian guide, Benny. They have a daughter living in Tabernash, Colorado. We had heard very little English spoken in the last few days so it was enjoyable to chat with them for a few minutes. From what Jim revealed, we figured that he and his wife, Debby, must have a good ten or fifteen plus years on us. 

How impressive to hear them talk of their frequent trips to far flung places around the world as they seemed fit as a fiddle. Their only concession to their age is they often hire guides for several days at a time rather than traveling independently as we do. We can but hope that we will be as fit and still have the zest to travel as they do when we’re in our 80s.

It was so funny as both Jim and Steven pulled out matching Icelandair water bottles. We all remarked that we liked the perfect size and that the bottles weren’t flimsy as so many others are.

After saying goodbye and that we hoped to meet again, we walked onto to the Kaljaja Fortress.
In order to defend Prizren, the Kaljaja Fortress was built on a hill above the Bistrica River. Despite these defenses, Prizren fell to the Turks in 1455 and they remained in Prizren until the Serbs regained control in 1912.
Views of, and from, the Fortress:

The museum had photos detailing a number of interesting shots of before and after the reconstruction of much of the Fortress. 

Western Casements from 2011 and 2015:
Lower City from 2011 and 2015:
After the much easier walk down from the Fortress, I suggested we stop at one of the very busy cafes that lined the river in the center of town. It was only just after noon and that was one of the very few times in our travels we stopped at a restaurant not at dinner time to get something to eat. Steven had said he wasn't very hungry and that he only wanted a glass of beer but that he would eat something if I ordered. That is his code for he will indeed eat at least eat half of what is put in front of him!
We both managed to scarf down the scrumptious pizza in short order! Amazing to think it, the beer and my bottle of water only cost a few bucks. Not only was the company, food and ambience great but we were also serenaded by the 'wandering minstrels.' These were the two boys who played their hand-held drums and sang for tips as they went from table to table! Seeing tableside 'entertainment' like them was common not only in Prizren but also elsewhere in the southern Balkans. 
A not so welcome sight while dining out was the number of beggars who would also go from table to table at all the restaurants and bars. Mostly, they were young women always holding sleeping infants in their arms - we had to double check as the babes almost looked like dolls; other times, it was old men hoping for money in exchange for the pencils or cigarettes they wanted to 'sell.' I was surprised that seemingly none of the restaurants or bars tried to discourage these activities on their premises.
We spent a leisurely afternoon on the hostel’s 3rd floor terrace. Steven worked on improving the blog and on chess games and I spent a few hours on the first Dubrovnik post.
Our view of Prizren from the terrace. Not too shabby, huh! Zachary: This is where we were when I called you!
We were heading onto Kosovo's capital, Pristina, in the morning but Prizren had been a welcome introduction to Kosovo. It’s a wonderfully quaint town with cobblestone streets, ancient two-story homes, pedestrian walkways, mosques and a sea of red-tiled homes, still working mightily to recover from the war.

Posted from Ohrid, Macedonia on September 26th, 2016. 

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