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Monday, September 26, 2016

9/19: Pristina, Kosovo: Fabulous Peppers & President Clinton

We got a bus from Prizren to Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, or Prishtina as it is also known, arriving at the Han Hostel about noon. When making reservations for our accommodation, I always make sure that we don’t have to climb too many steps to our room as we learned that lesson on our first overseas trip back in 2013. 

Then, fairly frequently, we had to lug our bags up flights and flights of stairs. We knew the Han Hostel was on the fourth floor but it had an elevator. However, we quickly realized it wasn’t working. I suspected it doesn’t work normally judging by the signs on the steps that said just 70 more, 60 more, etc! 
Thank goodness, we arrived at a decent hour and not after 11 hours of traveling so we were still relatively fresh. After recouping for a while from the hike up all the steps, we left the hostel and walked around the corner to Skenderbeg Square on the city's pedestrian mall. 
There we saw a large statue of Girgi Kastrioti known as Skenderbeg, a 15th century Albanian nobleman and military commander who served the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Venice and lastly the Kingdom of Naples before his death. It was interesting that the statue has been moved a couple of times through the years but was now placed in front of the Parliament Building in the very center of the city.
The Parliament Building or National Assembly was a very unpreposesssing building.
Nearby were photos a small sign  that said 'Remember the Serb Genocide in Kosovo in 1999.'
Just beside it was a a very low-key monument (too small in my opinion) dedicated to the 1,650 people still missing and presumed killed by Serbian forces in the Kosovo War that took place in 1998-99. The monument was unveiled 18 months ago.

Pristina is Europe’s youngest capital - here's Kosovo's flag.
We saw a massive monument right around the corner from Parliament and wandered over to look at it. It was called the Brotherhood and Unity Monument. It was dedicated to the fallen fighters who rose up against Fascist occupation during World War II.

From there we headed into Old Town. We couldn’t help but notice right away the Jashar Pasha Mosque that was restored in 2015 by TIKA, the Turkish International Cooperation and Coordination Agency. TIKA had also been responsible for restoration of a number of mosques in Prizren. It was built in 1834 but had been closed to prayers until this year because of the risk of collapse.

Just a block away was the Sultan Mehmet Fatih Mosque. It was built in 1461, eight years after the collapse of Constantinople, present day Istanbul. It was built during the rule of Sultan Mehmet II al-Fatih – also known as the Conqueror, and hence the mosque took his name. 

Beautiful painted floral decorations and arabesques graced the walls and ceiling. 

From there, we wandered past the Clcok Tower downhill to the Mosque Bazaar. 
This old marketplace was the heart of old Pristina for many centuries but sadly much of it was destroyed in the mid-20th century during a period of heavy modernization which was coupled with the slogan ‘Destroy the old, build the new.'  What was left, however, was still pretty fabulous. 
It was a perfect place to watch the people as we meandered through the stalls. We were the only tourists there so we also attracted our own fair share of looks too.
The produce section of the bazaar was one of the best I think we've seen anywhere. 

The colors and the sheer numbers of the peppers was absolutely mind boggling. I just wanted to take photo after photo of all the pepper displays. As it is, I took way more than I'll ever figure out what to do with but they were just so gorgeous, I couldn't stop.
Pepper market like none we’ve ever seen before:

Delicious raspberries for only .50 for such a large container! I bought two of them even though my eyes ended up being larger than my stomach.

Neat seeing the Luxor sign as we’ll be there soon.

Longest leeks I’ver seen:
Steven thought these were pumpkins but they looked too elongated to me.
One last pepper picture for old times' sake!
The sign said 'Association of Political Prisoners of Kosovo.'
Normally I try and make sure I miss taking photos of wires but this time I wanted to include the shoes in front of the Ethnological Museum. In the States, that normally signifies the presence of gang activities in the area. I wonder what significance, if any, the shoes had here. The Museum was closed so we decided to return tomorrow instead.
We walked back to the mall as there were a number of things we wanted to see heading away from the Parliamnet Building. On the way, there were some archeological ruins behind a fence that were part of the Kosovo Museum. The museum, itself, was closed then and each time we passed it later.

As we walked down the pedestrian mall again, there were a number of people in front of the Parliament Building, unlike earlier when no one was there. Also, there was a TV crew this time - I wonder what was going on to merit that attention.
Absolutely bizarre seeing the huge Lego block in the middle of the pedestrian mall just a few feet from the Parliament Building.

Located in a rather isolated part of the mall was a statue of Mother Theresa that we had diffiuclty finding. Mother Teresa was a great woman, but this statue didn't quite live up to it. Thankfully, it was one of the few monuments we saw that was not defaced in some way or had graffiti sprayed on it.

Residents of Prisitna must be big readers as there were book stalls up and down the mall.

Massive mural of Ibrahim Rugova, the first President of the Republic of Kosovo, and a prominent Kosovo Albanian political leader, scholar and writer. He oversaw a popular struggle for independence, advocating a peaceful resistance to Yugoslav rule and lobbied for U.S. and European support, especially during the Kosovo War. Owing to his role in Kosovo's history, Rugova has been dubbed "Father of the Nation" and "Gandhi of the Balkans."
From the mall, we walked over to the National Library of Kosovo which also serves as the library for the University of PristinaThis wacky building has to be seen to be believed and has been listed as one of the 30 ugliest buildings in the world by The Telegraph (of London) newspaper.
I can't make up my mind whether it is one of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen or one of the coolest. One way or the other, I simply could not take my eyes off it! I totally agreed with the person who described it as 'looking like chain mail over Lego blocks with oversized burst footballs on the roof.' It was so horrible that it fascinated me. One thing is for sure, it will live long in the memory!

It was odd to see a Roman Catholic Church in a Muslim-dominated country in the heart of Pristina right across from the Library. The Cathedral of Blessed Mother Teresa, on Mother Teresa Boulevard funnily enough, was an impressive building but not yet finished. I later learned that about 3% of the Kosovar population considered themselves to be Christian.
Sign advertising KFC location in a nearby mall and the fact that it is the first international food brand in Kosovo.
Regardless of one's political leanings, it is hard to deny that President Bill Clinton had a heavy hand in ending the war in Bosnia, and the Kosovo War during the 1990s. So seeing the city of Pristina name its main road Bill Clinton Boulevard was no surprise. 

The Albanians in Kosovo wanted to thank him for his help in their struggle with the government of Yugoslavia. A 10-foot high statue of Clinton was unveiled at a major intersection in November of 2009, in a ceremony at which the former president spoke. 
I think it's especially ironic that here I am writing about President Clinton's statue in Pristina when, in just three hours, Hillary Clinton will be in her first televised presidential election debate!
Just a few steps away from the statue was the women's clothing store named after Hillary Clinton!
When we walked back again on the pedestrian mall, it was very busy even at 4 pm on a weekday afternoon. We wondered why so many people were out and about and not at work?
In just a matter of a few hours, we had seen almost all the sights on our list as Pristina is a small capital city with little in the way of museums or other sights. We knew we had left things for the next couple of days to do but, thankfully we wouldn't need to rush.

Our first impressions of the capital were decidedly mixed: the pluses were the fabulous market, the intersting and thought-provoking monuments and sculptures, the huge pedestrian mall and its walkability. The minuses were the hodgepodge of architectural styles and generally unattractive buildings.

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


  1. I think the building does indeed belong on the list of ugliest buildings in the world. Bet it cost a lot of money, too. Lil Red

  2. I am sure you're right! When I have a moment, I want to google which have been determined to be the ugliest buildings - thatsure would be an interesting list! I wonder if we've been to any of the cities where they're located.

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