I don’t know why I never blogged about the day we spent in Kosovo. We didn’t take any pictures, but still, it happened and it was a unique experience. Luckily, passport stamps don’t disappear, so here’s a pic of my entrance stamp (a different entrance stamp somehow got stamped over my Kosovo exit stamp. Don’t know how that happened).
We left Budva, Montenegro by bus, and headed to Peja in Western Kosovo. The bus ride was incredible. Up and over mountains that were covered in evergreen trees and snow (it was mid April). The bus was older and not as high quality as other buses. Not many people were in the bus. When we crossed the border into Kosovo, there was a youngish boy (maybe 18) who took our passports to get stamped. He brought them back (it’s common to have someone take your passport to get them stamped, rather than getting out of the bus to get it stamped. It scared me every time–what if they don’t bring it back?). When he gave them back, he said, “Welcome to my country.” We talked a bit, and it was clear that he was very proud of his newly independent country.
The bus slowly started going downhill, into the city area. Lots of farmland, unfinished buildings, and buildings for sale. Kosovo was less like Europe, compared to the other places we had been to so far (until we went to Albania, that was a whole different story). The city of Peja had a fair amount of nice looking buildings, but everything felt run down, old, and dusty. There were a few street names that were funny, the only one I remember was “Bill Clinton Road” or something like that. As Americans, we felt very welcome and safe there.
The bus arrived. Pete had set up a couchsurfing thing where we were planning on meeting a guy at the bus stop. We had agreed to meet him for coffee and he would show us around the area and maybe help us find a hotel. He came and found us at the bus station. I can’t remember his name, but he was such a nice guy. His English was quite good, and he also spoke German. During the war in the 90s, he and his family moved to Germany.
We wandered around the city, he showed us a small cafe where we could get a traditional Kosovo meal. Lots of meat, a salad (not like a lettuce salad, a very Balkan-type salad), and some plain yogurt to drink. Pete couldn’t get his yogurt down (he has a thing with milk), but I choked mine down to be nice. I wasn’t able to finish my meat (it was like 3 different kinds and there was so much!), so I asked for a box to take it to the hotel (just because it was clear that it would have been wasteful to not take it). Moments like that remind me how wasteful I can be, and how that lifestyle is not normal for people whose history is different than mine.
After the cafe, we walked around town more. We also went to an internet cafe (can’t remember why). While there, the electricity went off, and within a few seconds, tons of generators turned on. It was an entire area that lost power, and it was surprising to realize that this is a completely normal thing!
We walked around more, talking to this nice guy and wandering around the city. We then went to a cafe for some coffee. He had told us that the city was trying to make it illegal to smoke inside public places, but that most people ignored the rules. We found that to be true at the cafe. The cafe was this huge, modern building in the city center. We walked in and were hit with cigarette smoke. There were ‘no smoking’ signs on every table, as well as large signs on the walls. But along with these ‘no smoking’ signs on the tables, there were also ashtrays. It was pretty entertaining. We were the only people who weren’t smoking. Everyone was clearly hanging out, drinking coffee. The guy wanted to buy us coffee, but we told him that we didn’t drink coffee (the whole not drinking coffee has been more troublesome than not drinking alcohol). He was surprised, but then we agreed that we would pay for his coffee and he’d pay for our juice (which was more expensive than his coffee, so it was a little awkward, but he refused to let us pay). We had a great conversation about the war, its impact on Kosovo, and Kosovo’s future. This is why I wish I had blogged this beforehand, because I can’t remember any details about the conversation.
He then took us to a hotel, it was reasonably priced. It was a little cold and dark, but it wasn’t as terrible as some places where we stayed.
We left the next morning. We went to the bus station and waited for a bus on our way to Macedonia. Overall, Kosovo was fascinating. The feel of the city was different from Europe, and I hope that we can go back in the future (with a car, which would make seeing the sights more feasible).