Kosovo to Poznan via Berlin

Well, it was a wet couple of days between Prishtina, Kosovo and Poznan, Poland and that was not the worst of it. No one told me that there was a time change on the day I left … and not in my favor. Luckily, I like to be ready ahead of time, so when the taxi arrived and I tried to tell him he was 45 minutes early … instead, his dispatcher told me he was actually 15 minutes late … and, we needed to shake a leg to make the flight. Yikes!!!

It was crunch time, not just because we were running late, but also because I was flying with EasyJet, a low-cost european airline .. pack ’em in. Flights to regional airports with the extra “gym” bonus of having to carry your bags up and down stairs .. no elevators for these hard core flyers.  Schoenefeld Airport here I come!

Two nights in a small pension in the town of Schoenfeld.  I believe there are 3 rooms to let; but, they also have a huge airport parking lot behind the house.IMG_6028

While at the pension I did require snacks, which gave me an excuse to walk the neighborhood to the Aldi market (a multi-national grocery chain, based in Germany)  where I was shocked and amazed to find … Where are my Trader Joe’s shoppers … yes, I found Trader Joe products!

Well, now I had to research how TJ’s products ended up in Germany (I actually brought my TJ’s grocery bag with me).  So, it seems that Aldi Nord (owned by one of the two brothers) owns Trader Joe’s … well, knock me over with a feather, I always thought it was an AMERICAN store.

Want more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldi

Ok, done with that tirade.

Although I’ve been to Germany severals times, it’s never been to Berlin.  I guess I was expecting it to be more like Munich or Frankfurt. Berlin, however was very different for me in that it is not high on my list of “pretty cities” like Valencia or Florence, but more on an industrial level as most of the buildings were stark, boxy and grey. Of course, they do have some very ornate “vintage” buildings like the Berliner Dome, the Reichstag and other governmental buildings. Loved the train station in central Berlin .. all glass and steel, very modern and well utilized; full of shops, cafes,  train information center and 1st class waiting area.

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Extremely disappointed in the Wall ..or what is left of it after the “wall-peckers” as they are called, have taken chunks out to either sell or keep .. don’t people realize these are historic treasures, not commercial ventures? And, Checkpoint Charlie was less than expected as well. The Brandenburg Gate was still standing as proud as ever and a “fair” of sorts was in progress at Alexanderplatz, where you can get cookies that say almost anything.

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Moving on to the travel day and an early start (remember, I like to be early).  I thought since I was going to the train station at Schoenefeld airport at 10 am, there would not be much of a crowd.  Surprise!  Not one, but two flight had just arrived and a ton of people were trying to get tickets and get on trains into the city. I just stood back for 25 minutes and let them go at it.  Then I got my ticket and hauled my stuff up the ramp to the track area.

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Of course it wasn’t much better on the train, as all of these people were waiting for the same train as ….  me.

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You realize that it looks this way through the whole train and that every seat IS FULL.  I stood all the way – actually it was only 20 minutes – to Berlin.  And,  I now had 2 hours in the station to eat, rest and visit the loo.

Onward to Poznan.  It is still a dreary day, light drizzle here and there, no weather for picture taking and not much to look at along the way, either.  Arriving at Poznan the station was dreary, the people were dreary…do I need to draw you a picture?  I was feeling mighty dreary that day!  Oh, poor dreary me.

Lugging  my bag up the dreary escalator I began to see some light; and, at the top I thought I had arrived in heaven.  It was a MALL, a big, bright, shiny mall with a huge glass wall and stores and cafes; and right at the front was a McDONALD’S .. well maybe not quite such a good thing.  I dragged my bag through the automatic rotating door; and, what should appear at my right hand, but a lovely cafe with real food, fresh baked bread topped with seeds and nuts, sandwiches made with real lettuce and tomato’s and cucumbers and lovely cheese and fresh hot tea … really what more could a girl want .. ok, maybe some chocolate cake.  Ahhh, I see it .. in the pastry cooler with all of the lovely  dessert selections

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Of course I couldn’t read what anything said so I fell back on the universal language – pointing!  It was sooooo good,  soooooo fresh, sooooo needed right now.

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The next time you find yourself on that dreary escalator up from the dreary train platform in Poznan, Poland, just know that at the top, if you make a hard right inside that glass door you can have what I just had … it’s worth the trip!

All tucked in now at the Poco Loco Hostel in Poznan.

Just so you know, I’ll be taking off my traveler hat for the next 3 days and putting on my tourist hat.

Hope you have a sunny day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Prince Visits Pristina

The itinerary for Prince Charles and Camilla was nowhere to be found on the internet and when I went by the British Counsel building this morning it was closed.  It is a Monday to Friday office … so I had to guess about the time. I thought, “if I were planning this I would want people to be aware and provide an audience for the royals”.  Apparently they don’t think the way I do.

Ahhh, what time of the day would be good for laying flowers at a monument at a public building?  What time would you choose?  I chose 10 a.m.,  and began to wander in that direction in and out of small streets I’d not seen before.   Two Kosovo police officers were heading that way, and I though .. “maybe they are assigned to that duty.”  But, no.  Two other officers were standing security near a building.  I asked them if they knew what time the Prince would make his appearance.  They did not know.  So much for shared intelligence in the city of Pristina.

It’s still early, only 8:30.  Walking through a small street I came to back of a building I had photographed the day before.  It was obviously very old; and, from the type of construction it was most like built by someone Turkish .. using sod for bricks and hand hewn wooden beams to support the layers.  It appeared as though it had started as a single story and then been “upgraded”.  Oops, was there supposed to be a door there?

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If you are handy with a tool belt and are looking for a fixer-upper, you might be interested in this property.

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As I was taking some photos of the construction a man approached and asked if I were a journalist. “No, but I am a travel blogger”  He asked then if I would be willing to have a coffee with him and talk (people want to practice their English).  Of course,  I had time.

We talked; he said he had been a journalist with the local television station in Pristina, but now the younger ones had all of the technical knowledge and he had retired.  He talked about his experience with Americans during the conflict; and other times with Jordanians and how he learned and practiced various languages.  We talked about the importance of knowing and understanding other cultures.  We talked about The Donald (everyone wants to know about the Donald, and if he really could get elected .. people just think he is not a good choice for America).

At 9:30 I said I think we should head to the parliament building and see if there is anything happening … and happening it was, but on a very small scale. A small group of people were standing around a red carpet; police were directing pedestrians around that area and out onto the street.  Fortunately my new friend knew people and we ended up at the edge of the red carpet with the news photographers.  I’ve always said “it’s who you know.”

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There were children lined up, each with a single white rose for Camilla to lay at the memorial to “The Lost” in front of the parliament building  (More than 10,000 people are still missing in Kosovo after the war.)IMG_5888

And several others with full bouquets of white roses, which I assumed were for Camilla personally.  It was entertaining to watch the adults walk the children through how to line up, walk to the memorial, lay the flowers, line up, face left, and walk single file back to their places.  The kids were about 6 to 10 years of age; and although I am sure they were told of the importance of this event it was painfully obvious that they would rather be doing something else.

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These two girls seemed to be the only ones that were really Into It!

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“Dear” in the headlights, look

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One little girl dressed in red and with one of the full bouquets seemed happy to be part of the fete, until it was explained to her, what she would be doing …IMG_5918

Do you see it coming … meltdown on 3…..2…..1

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The kids were drilled half a dozen times without much success. It was chilly and they were short on patience.  Where the heck was that prince guy, anyway???

Then all of the news people rushed out of the building to take their places at the edge of the red carpet.  While we all continued to wait.  It is now almost 11, and I have been here an hour, others much longer. IMG_5925

Finally, the royals arrive with about 12 vehicles in tow.  They are much shorter than I had imagined; and where is Camilla’s hat? What a letdown.  I know the Brits are a conservative bunch, but really guys, less than 100 people showed up!  I think there were more people in the cavalcade than waiting to see them.

The following links may be of interest to you  Elizabeth Gowing is the driving force behind “The Idea Partnership” providing educational supports to Romas (gypsies) and other refugee communities in Kosovo.

http://www.elizabethgowing.com/

http://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/media/press-releases/details-announced-of-the-prince-of-wales-and-the-duchess-of-cornwalls-visit

Pristina, Kosovo

The Republic of Kosovo (pronounced: koSOvo) has 22 foreign embassies/consulates in the city of Pristina. Within a few streets from the hostel where I am volunteering is the Italian, Finnish, Albanian and British consulates.. Nearby are also offices for USAID, The American Chamber of Commerce, Swiss Embassy, American Embassy and the monument to Bill Klinton (sp). A few steps from Bill is Hillary’s dress shop.  IMG_5766

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Kosovo is a young and vibrant country, only 7 years new on 17 February. People here are breathing in freedom, becoming social activists and have voracious appetites for information about the world they have been denied for so many years.IMG_5712 (1)

Newborn  is a metal memorial to a new country.  It is repainted each 17 February in a new motif and during the year, people write comments on it, or just leave their signatures.  Yes, that’s me sitting in the big “O”

I was quite surprised, after being in Durres, Albania, that this city has a European feel to it. Everywhere you look there are pieces of Italy, Turkey, Germany, France, Spain and of course influences of the U.S. as well in’ food menu’s, coffee and tea’s.; signs on buildings, names of businesses, architecture, and clothing.  This photo is the end of Bill Klinton Blvd and is a mall.  As you walk the name changes to Mother Teresa, then national hero Skanderbeg plaza.  This photo was taken on Mother’s Day when all of the flower vendors were out.IMG_5890

It is the norm to pick up clothing in a store and see that it was made in Turkey or a European country. Women are stylish. Older men quite handsomely dressed with the typical black berets.  And, today I found 3 second hand shops in the older section of the city.

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Pristina is a city of Muslims and Christians living peacefully together, displaying the well-known Albanian hospitality and allowing each to live their own lives without distress. It was told to me that when the Serbs were in control of the region known as Kosovo, Albanians and other non-Serbs were subjected to far less access to education, politics and general freedom.  I was told that the Serbian police knew where everyone lived, had lists of names and if you wanted to live at your uncle’s house or your grandparents, it was known and you were ordered to return to your own residence.

There are memorials in the city to the missing, the killed, and the 60,000 women who reported rapes by the hands of the Serbians. This monument is made of 60,000 specially minted coins with the face of this woman on each coin. It is a city making a great effort to live down the past, reach up to their deserved future.

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They understand the value of education and freedom of information.  They strive to be the best citizens they can be.  When you visit, you will feel safe, welcomed and surrounded by their passion for their new life.

When they ask, and I answer saying “Yes, I am an American,” I am very close to feeling embarrassment because of the gushing response they show.  It’s like I personally came here and freed  them … when in fact it was our government, and our military who actually did the work. Today, I gave a few Euros to a man and I thought he was going to hug me right there in the middle of the street.  I, personally would rather do my good works quietly, but that does not happen here.

Speaking of streets, many are named for American politicians like George Bush, Robert Dole, Bill Klinton and the former archbishop of Kosovo Marko Sopi.  Yes, Xhorxh is George in Albanian.IMG_5819 (2)

One of the things I am doing is volunteering on Saturdays for The Idea Partnership and NGO run by a British woman, which holds classes for the Roma (gypsy population) and refugees.  The Partnership does many good deeds in Kosovo and the children are extremely interested in learning.  The Partnership encourages small businesses for the women who make organic soaps and bath crystals, jewelry, and cards for sale.IMG_5799

This is the memorial to the thousands of men, women and children missing during the war.

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And, my hero Skanderbeg whom I wrote about in a previous blog (Kruja, Albania), stands guard at the parliament building on the far end of the pedestrian mall.  There was a recent demonstration and apparently someone climbed on the statue and planted the Albanian flags on him.

Skanderbeg is an Albanian hero .. Albanians are a tribal society; and Albania is a country.  So Albanians may live in several countries, like Spaniards or Americans which is why his statue is also in Kosovo.IMG_5762

Hungry?  There is food everywhere you look, and very inexpensive as you can tell by the prices, even though they are in Euros.  When they say Hamburger, it is a whopper size bun and a nice size piece of meat .. no McDonald’s here.  I have not been able to finish one of them yet.

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Fresh produce is bountiful and of good quality.

 

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Breakfast here, as in other European cities is not bacon, eggs, toast and coffee.  I’ve become quite accustomed  to cappuccino and a sweet roll or croissant, or a green tea.  At the cafe on the corner breakfast of cappuccino, orange juice and croissant is 2 euros.

And, last but not least … do you believe you are seeing this?

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And, I have started a new blog about coincidences, small world incidents, and fate … if you believe.  Type –   One Random Traveler  – into your search engine box and hit enter.