November 12th , 2022
Currency: The Euro
Diesel: 1.71 eu per litre which is $6.29 US per gallon
EU Plate letters: RKS
Kosovo, officially the “Republic of Kosovo” (RKS) is a partially recognised state in Southeast Europe. Kosovo means “field of blackbirds” in Serbian. It lies at the centre of the Balkans. Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008, and has since gained diplomatic recognition as a sovereign state by 101 member states of the United Nations. It is bordered by Serbia to the north and east, North Macedonia to the southeast, Albania to the southwest, and Montenegro to the west. Most of central Kosovo is dominated by the vast plains and fields of Dukagjini and Kosovo field The Accursed Mountains and Šar Mountains rise in the southwest and southeast, respectively. Its capital and largest city is Pristina. Kosovo is slightly larger than the state of Delaware. It has a population of 1.8 million.
In classical antiquity, the central tribe which emerged in the territory of Kosovo was the Dardani, who formed an independent polity known as the Kingdom of Dardania in the 4th century BCE. It was annexed by the Roman Empire by the 1st century BCE, and for the next millennium, the territory remained part of the Byzantine Empire, whose rule was eroded by Slavic invasions beginning in the 6th–7th century CE. In the centuries thereafter, control of the area alternated between the Byzantines and the First Bulgarian Empire. By the 13th century, Kosovo became the core of the Serbian medieval state, and has also been the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church from the 14th century, when its status was upgraded to a patriarchate. Ottoman expansion in the Balkans in the late 14th and 15th century led to the decline and fall of the Serbian Empire; the Battle of Kosovo of 1389 is considered to be one of the defining moments in Serbian medieval history. The Ottomans fully conquered the region after the Second Battle of Kosovo. The Ottoman Empire ruled the area for almost five centuries until 1912.
In the late 19th century, Kosovo was the center of the Albanian National Movement and where the Albanian revolt of 1910 and Albanian revolt of 1912 took place. Following their defeat in the Balkan Wars, the Ottomans ceded Kosovo to Serbia and Montenegro. Both countries joined Yugoslavia after World War I, and following a period of Yugoslav Unitarianism in the Kingdom, the post-World War II Yugoslav constitution established the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within the Yugoslav constituent republic of Serbia. Tensions between Kosovo’s Albanian and Serb communities simmered through the 20th century and occasionally erupted into major violence, culminating in the Kosovo War of 1998 and 1999, which resulted in the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army, and the establishment of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. The Kosovo War became the reason for the death of some 10,000 people. By the end of 1999, some 1.5 million ethnic Albanians fled Kosovo in search of better living conditions elsewhere. NATO helped stop the Kosovo War. This is one of the successful examples of western intervention in the history of the world. Peace in the region was achieved with the help of three months of military intervention by NATO beginning in March 1999.
Ultimately, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008, and has since gained diplomatic recognition as a sovereign state by 101 member states of the United Nations. Serbia does not officially recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state and continues to claim it as its constituent Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, although it accepts the governing authority of the Kosovo institutions as a part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement.
Kosovo is a member of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and has applied for membership in the Council of Europe as well as being a candidate for the EU (not part of the Schengen at this time).
The flag of Kosovo has a blue background, charged with a map of Kosovo and six stars. The stars are officially meant to symbolize Kosovo’s six major ethnic groups: Albanians, Serbs, Bosniaks, Turks, Romani and Gorani.
Well the entry into Kosovo was super easy and fast. We did have to stop to buy insurance as the “Green Card” for insurance in the EU that we have does not include this country. Insurance for fifteen days cost €15. That took about two minutes.
Immigration took another whole minute; the agent asked for confirmation that we’d purchased insurance, stamped us in and Customs waved us on.
We had awoke to rain this morning and by the time we crossed the border it had stopped and the sun was beginning to peek out.
We stopped just inside the country to see the memorial to the Albanians who had been forced out the country during the Kosovo War in 1998-9. The monument is complete but the grounds around it are still under construction.
Then we began the drive northward to the capital city, Pristina with a stop enroute. The roads here are excellent – should be toll roads and the signs are in place for it but they are all “x’d” out and there are no toll plazas. It would seem Kosovo has some money as we did not see ram shackle homes like we saw in Macedonia; things look much newer – that, however, could be rebuilds since the war. We learned since our entry that there is a lot of US investment in this country which could explain the highways.
While Kosovo is predominantly a Muslim country, it does not seem to be as strictly so as we saw few women in hijabs etc.
Our stop this morning was the Marble Cave at Gadime. We were not expecting much but it was only a couple of euro each to go in and if we wanted and we could spend the night in the parking lot free. We thought, what the heck, it’s a stop that’s not just in a big city.
Well, turns out it is a cave that is actually marble not the usual limestone, and this, we’d never seen. It’s not large but it had some lovely features. A nice young lady took us on a personal tour that last about twenty minutes (part of the cave is closed due to electrical issues with the lighting, so we couldn’t see the entire place but it was better than expected). It was discovered by accident in 1967 when a local family was laying the foundation for their new house. Approximately 1500 m / 4920’ have been explored but less than half of that is open to the public.
Argonite can be found in these caves as well – it’s not super rare but it’s not common in caves either.
Now it was on to the capital; we had a Marriot hotel in mind to give us a break from Minou but needed to check out the street parking situation as the parking is all underground for the hotel. Well it didn’t pan out, so no hotel stay for us.
We carried on into the city, stopping at a laundromat to check out the hours and made our way to a huge parking lot near the stadium for a night or two. After parking, we walked into the city to find a SIM card, a souvenir, and change for the washers/dryers tomorrow as well as some lunch. It was now mostly sunny but there was a strong cold wind – we pulled out our down jackets to keep warm!
We stopped of course to see the sights of the city:
First, the NEWBORN memorial honouring the creation of this new country. (Apparently it is painted differently every year on the country’s anniversary.)
Then we walked along Mother Theresa Boulevard, a pedestrian street looking for a cell phone company. We stooped in a cell phone repair place to ask about one and were directed to an IPKO shop where we got set up. Not as cheap as we’ve been paying lately, but better than back in Canada! Doug bought a 6GB SIM for €8 and Fran got at 10GB for €12. We’re back online.
We saw the bust of Madeline Albright, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state:
The main square of the city with the statue of the national hero: Skenderbeu
The unimpressive parliament house:
The unimpressive old town:
Then it was back to the pedestrian street for some lunch before heading over to the National Library – considered the ugliest building in Kosovo.
You can judge for yourself. We went inside and saw the lovely mosaic walls and the geometric staircase in the centre but we saw no books!
There is an “American Corner” which we went into to see if they would print a couple of things for us and they did so free of charge!
Walking towards Bill Clinton’s statue we saw Mother Theresa’s cathedral:
We had managed to collect some euro coins for laundry but not a lot. We returned to the Newborn memorial figuring souvenirs would be in that area and we found one and the kind lady change a some bills for us – she had a slew of coins.
Now we felt like something sweet so we wandered back to the pedestrian street for Nutella crepes and on the way passed the Heroine monument all made out of over 20,000 medals honouring the women of the war:
Pristina does not have a lot to offer with such a tiny Old Town and being such a young country. We have to admit we enjoyed the vibe of Skopje, Macedonia more but it was worth coming here to see this young country moving forward in a good direction.
We returned to Minou after all this. We had a WhatsApp chat with Josh and the grandkids before dinner and tried to stay warm as the temp is dropping to 3C / 36 F tonight!
Today we passed through 4 tunnels.
Sunday morning it was quite cool but it was mostly sunny all day reaching a high of only 13 C / 55 F with some wind. After Doug’s run, we walked over to the laundromat and did two loads. Here we met Alan, an American air force retiree working here with the US government assisting Kosovo with its prison system (another example of US influence).
After brunch, Fran went for a walk and then we tried to keep warm in Minou. Not driving today, didn’t help her coach batteries to store up a lot of power but it wasn’t as cold as the previous night; cooking dinner helped warm her up and we managed with lap blankets just fine.
Monday morning it was quite cool merely 4C / 40F and a bit foggy. As we drove out of the parking lot, Alan walked in and we said hello wishing each other well. We drove westward towards Peje, where we had a few things we wanted to check out.
Well before arriving in Peje we began to see snowy peaks:
Just before the city of Peje, we passed the Peja brewery:
The first was a Serbian medieval monastery but it looked closed up (maybe because it was Monday?) as we drove by so we proceeded to the Rugova Canyon a little further down the highway. This was pretty cool.
We stopped at the lookout point where they had built a glass bottom platform and then drove a little further up the switchbacks through a couple of rock tunnels and some large overhangs.
We turned around heading back to the city stopping across the road from the monastery where we saw a small military looking building. Inside was a police officer who asked for our ID and then let us enters the grounds.
The ruins are in the centre of the site and in the corner is the the Church of St Nicholas which is actually made up of three other churches all in the same building.
The building of four churches:
There were a few frescoes on the outside:
The frescoes on the walls and ceilings were amazing!
It was about 10 in the morning and we drove back into the city looking for a parking lot for the night as there are no campgrounds around here. After reading about all of them, only one seemed to fit our bill and before reaching that one we saw another for €1 a day! There were only a couple of cars in it (it could maybe hold a dozen max) and asked about staying overnight: €2 total – sold.
After getting parked, we walked in the city proper finding the pedestrian streets to the main square
And the old bazaar
We looked for a few things, didn’t find them and then meandered back a ways finding a place to have brunch and then a green grocer to pick up veggies for salads for a few nights, a bakery for bread and a store for a couple more local beer. The Peja we had the other night was a pilsner and we saw signs today for a premium lager Peja so we wanted to try that.
The sun shone all morning and our batteries powered up pretty well. We were parked to get the most sun we could with the buildings around and …..
We had a pretty quiet night and it did not get as cold as it did in Pristina. After exercising and tea time, we began the drive to the border with Montenegro. This was a very windy, climbing road up to 1800m / 5886’!
Existing Kosovo took two minutes to get stamped out. The border post is about 3km / 2 mi from the actual border.
We drove 199 km / 123 miles in Kosovo – we are in a part of Europe with very small countries.
We quite enjoyed this country, it felt more modern with a young vibe AND most people spoke English.
Fun Facts about Kosovo:
- Kosovo is the second-youngest country in the world, declaring its independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008. The only country to declare its independence more recently is South Sudan, formed in 2011 from Sudan.
- Kosovo, a landlocked country slightly larger than Delaware, is the smallest Balkan nation. About 40 percent of its land is covered by forest, and slightly more than half of its land is agricultural.
- With a median age of 29.1 years, Kosovo has among the youngest populations in Europe. More than 40 percent of the population is under 25.
- Kosovo is also the poorest European nation after Moldova, with a per capita gross domestic product of about $10,400 in 2017.
- The majority of Kosovo’s population of nearly 1.9 millionis Muslim, with Albanian and Serbian serving as the country’s official languages..
- Tensions boiled over into conflict in the 1990s, when Albanians opposed both Serbs and the government of Yugoslavia – then a recently dissolved federal state – in Kosovo. Hundreds of civilians were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced before NATO intervened to resolve the conflict, though several thousand peacekeepers remain in the country today.
- A statue of former U.S. President Bill Clinton stands on a street that also bears his name in Pristina, the capital. Clinton helped end the conflict in the late 1990s, and former President George W. Bush, who also has a street named for him in the capital, recognized Kosovo’s independence in 2008.
- Pristina is also home to a Roman Catholic cathedral named for Mother Teresa, who was Albanian and lived in a small village in Kosovo as a teenager.
- Due to its geographical location, itserves as an important link between central and southern Europe, Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea.
- Limestone caves are abundant and are found in several parts of the country. The Marble Cave, a karst limestone cave in Kosovo, is a famous tourist destination in the country. The cave was found by a villager in 1966.
- More than half of the country’s land is agricultural.
- Tony Blair is a national hero in Kosovo.He helped save the suffering people during the war that took place between 1998 and 1999. To show gratitude towards this great leader, an Albanian couple has named their child “Tonybler” in his honor. There are a few more children in Kosovo that followed suit.
- Kosovo does not provide citizenship by birth. The child gets the citizenship of the country when at least one of their parent is a citizen of Kosovo.
- Kosovo became both UEFA and FIFA member in 2016. The country scored their first goal in their first match played in Finland, that same year.