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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the memorial to the thousands of men, women and children missing during the war.
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.
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.
Fresh produce is bountiful and of good quality.
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?
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.