Previous trips can be accessed by clicking the following links:

Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea

Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Jordan and Denmark

Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, India and England

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

9/20: Pristina: Europe's Newest Capital

We headed back to the Ethnological Museum as it was closed yesterday. The Museum was free and worked on donations only. 
There was a guide who took us around the entire museum one on one who also asked if we wanted to hire him on the side for a tour of Pristina and the environs. He spoke four languages, he said. There were two buildings in the museum: this one was from the 18th century.

It was common to have two entrances to each home: one designated for family and the other for guests.The chairs were meant for adults and children despite the small size, the guide assured us.
After walking upstairs, there was an unusually low door. One must bow to show respect, the guide said. Adam: You would have showed a LOT of respect if you had been there! The room below was set aside for guests only who were always welcome even if they knocked on the door in the middle of the night. The room's location close to the chimney and, thus the warm part of the house, indicated the importance of guests in the home.
Fabulously intricate original 18th century woodwork:

We then went into the second building which represented a 19th century house.
The couple's room with a hope chest on the left: I hadn't heard that term since I was a child, I think. It was traditional for a girl to have one when she was young and it was filled with clothes that she could wear until the day she died.
Artifacts from everyday life:

The uest room was again in the most ideal location next to the chimney so they were always assured of being warm.
This same style of clothing has been worn for over for 4,000 years in this part of the world, our guide said.
Wedding costumes:

Jewelry cabinet:
This one item looked like it came from New Mexico and not Kosovo!
What Ethnological Museum anywhere doesn’t have clothes worn for special occasions?! Our guide said you could always recognize where people came from depending on the clothing that was worn.

He showed us the hat worn by men mostly in northern Albania. It was made of wool, starch, water and soap; a rather odd combination, I thought.
This room was titled death rituals. The apple represented life after death. The musical instrument represented the hobbies the deceased man had had. The influence of religion changed these pagan rituals: Muslims put their dead headed toward Mecca, Catholics toward Rome (that was new to me) and Christian Orthodox to ....(Oops, I didn’t catch this one and wasn’t able to find it easily via googling it.)

The loss of a family member in the Albanian tradition has always been considered a tragedy. This loss is manifested through lamentation, crying and yelling. The wearing of proper attire was a sign for expressing grief for the dead. The family or relatives normally wore dark clothes. It was tradition to wear clothes inside out, especially for the new widow. This tradition depended on the specific religion. Muslim women, for example, wear a white scarf on their heads; Orthodox wear black and Catholics a dark blue one. That was also new to me! Graves were opened so the person's head was directed at sunrise and the body was placed directly in the soil.
According to the information we read in the museum, “Kosovo is a geographical territory in the Central Balkan Peninsula inhabited by more than 90% Albanian majority. For Albanians, ‘music is of the human and for the human.’ Music is celebrated at all individual, family and social experiences of Albanian families. Songs are sung beginning at the birth of a child. Specific songs for children are called ninula or nina-nana and the purpose of them is to make the child sleep. We would call them lullabies of course.

Kosovar musical instruments:

The Museum had been a very peaceful space away from the noise of the city. It was very well preserved and having the guide show us around was extremely helpful.

Some other sights in Prisitna:

Back on the city's pedestrian mall was the National Theatre of Kosovo. The structure itself was unremarkable but it represents an important symbol of artistic and national ambition for this young nation, 
Heading out of the Old Town was the Newborn Monument. Probably the city’s most famous attraction, it was unveiled on the day Kosovo declared its independence on February 17, 2008. It was decorated then with the flags of the 99 nations which recognized its declaration. In the years that have followed, the monument has been periodically repainted with street art style flair.
The seven concrete letters spelling 'Newborn' were a reference to Kosovo being a newborn state and a stirring tribute to Europe's newest democracy.
Graffiti on one part read:
Behind the monument was the humungous Youth Center Building, an example of Socialist-era architecture built in 1977. It was intended to be used for social, public, cultural and sport activities. The building caught fire in February, 2000 due to an electrical malfunction. Now only the shopping center part of the building is functional.
Lots of murals adorned the sides of buildings in Pristina:

Photos along the pedestrian mall:

These were the biggest cabbages I have ever seen. They had to have weighed about ten pounds apiece!
We were drawn back to the very ugly National Library we had seen only from the outside yesterday as we were curious what the interior looked like.
First though we walked over to the wandering over to the unfinished Serbian Orthodox Cathedral which is in the same grounds as the library. Construction of the Christ the Savior Cathedral was abandoned at the outbreak of the Kosovo War in 1998 and only the shell remains. 
We weren’t able to go inside as there was a large police presence in front of it as one of the officers told Steven they were expecting a protest there later. It was sad seeing all the grass and weeds overgrown. The church was a poignant reminder of the religious and ethnic tension that is still commonplace in the region today. 

I found it interesting that a large portrait of Mother Teresa was by the front doors.
The first thing you see as you enter was the American Corner. I peered in and saw lots of, obviously US magazines, study carrels, etc. Rather odd in the National Library in Kosovo.
The atrium:
As one person wrote, the stairs to nowhere!
When is the last time you've seen a card catalog in a library?
To give the Library its due, the interior was rather conventional unlike its very weird exterior!

On the way to the bus station to get a bus to a nearby monastery, we walked by the Catholic Cathedral of Blessed Mother Teresa and found a way in through the construction debris this time.

Unusual, wouldn't you agree, having the Albanian Eagle in the center of the dome and not any religious depictions?

I wonder how muh longer it will be before the Cathedral, located at the intersection of George Bush Blvd, will be finished.
We passed the KFC restaurant in the local mall. It is the first, and I believe, the only American fast food location in the country.
Because Gracanica, 10km east of Pristina, is a predominantly Serb town in the heart of Kosovo, there were rumors that the bus drivers won’t let you board the bus if you tell them where you are heading. The Lonely Planet travel guide says ‘be discreet’ but how discreet can you be? In a hushed tone, ’I wanna go to Gracanica Monastery, nudge, nudge, wink, wink but keep it to yourself’ kind of way? We told the conductor on our bus where we were heading and he didn’t have a problem with it so, by now, people probably realize that visiting tourists don’t have a hidden political agenda. The bus dropped us off near the monastery around 15 minutes later. 
The important and controversial Serbian Orthodox monastery had UNESCO World Heritage status.
We knew that Kosovo’s independence is not recognized by Serbia and thus had planned our itinerary through the former Yugoslavia so we wouldn’t be traveling directly between the two countries. 

The frescoes inside were predictably gorgeous and well worth any concerns we had getting to the town and the monasatery itself.

The Monastery was a very relaxing place to walk around.

Outside the monastery were billboards advertising a Shield Festival in the town.

The statue of Milos Obilic in the main square was holding the Serbian flag of course.
Most of the signs in Gracanica were in Cyrllic again because of the Serbian influence unlike Pristina when none were.
The monument to the missing Serbian soldiers in the Kosovo War of 1998:
Back in Pristina, we walked back to the hostel from the bus station along Bill Klinton Blvd – the latter is not a typo but the way his surname is spelled in Kosovo. 
The larger than life portrait of the former president in front of his statue. Photos of it are in my previous post:
At dinner that night, I had one of the most unusual chicken afredo meals I've ever seen! At least it wasn't something with french fries again.
Pristina is certainly not a 'pretty' city but Steven and I found it an interesting and intriguing mix of peoples, religions and architectural styles

Posted from Tirana, Albania on September 28th, 2016. 

1 comment:

  1. So glad to find out I've been such a respectful person this whole time!


We love to hear from you!!!!