The busride from Prizren had taken longer than expected, and it was pitch dark when the bus pulled into the bus station south of Pristina. A few taxi drivers were waiting to take passengers to their destination. I had read that they were supposed to be honest, but they tried to ask more than double the regular price, so I just bluffed and walked out into the night. Fortunately, I found more cabs around the corner who asked a fair price, and I settled in my guesthouse after a long day, too tired to go outside. The professor running the place was anyway so talkative that it was hard to wish him goodnight and sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I enjoyed the sensation of walking out and explore a city that I had no image of in my head, I was ready to be surprised. It was still very early, the sun was trying to burn a hole in the deck of clouds as I walked past a city park to one of the main streets. It was Sunday morning, and the streets were all but deserted, which I found pleasant. I turned right on the main street, until I passed the Carshi mosque, which I unfortunately under reconstruction. It was the first sign of the state of affairs in this capital city of the youngest European nation.
Streets are under reconstruction, buildings have cranes looming over them, scaffolding hugs old buildings that will get a second life in the future. A modern building adjacent to the old, big mosque mirrored the one minaret in its flashy exterior, a distorted view of the tower, multiplied on a building just a few years old. A little further on, the Kosovo museum, housed in a spacious Austro-Hungarian building, was closed, as were the ruins of the Great Hamam. Close to the hamam, the Jashar Pasha mosque looked much better, had already been improved, but was closed all the same, so I returned to the main street, and the end of Nëna Tereza street. Here, on the fence around a government building, I found pictures of hundreds of people who disappeared during the Kosovo war; they have been up for years already, some of them have weathered and turned into bleak, black and white versions of the coloured originals. I wondered how long they will remain there, if the fate of those on the pictures will ever be known, how their loved ones were dealing with the sad truth.
I crossed a square that was mostly sand and will surely become an attractive place in future Pristina, with the inevitable statue of Albanian hero Skanderbeg on a horse right next to a modern building. Most of Nëna Tereza boulevard has already been turned into a cosy pedestrian area with restaurants, and I walked through it to the Grand Hotel and beyond until I reached Bill Clinton boulevard. After NATO countries got involved in the Kosovo war, and help secure the separation of Kosovo from Serbia, some of the leaders behind the military campaign are honoured in Kosovo, likewise, there is a Tony Blair street. I walked the boulevard until I reached a golden statue of Clinton, dwarfed by communist-era apartment blocks; high above the statue, a large poster of Clinton once more makes clear that the former president is a hero in Kosovo. Walking back towards the city, I made it to the Newborn sign that become a famous rallying point for celebrations ahead and after the declaration of independence in 2008, now fully covered in graffiti. From here, it was a short walk to the curious National Public Library, a modern building with a striking architecture involving white cupolas on a multitude of squarish blocks. Right next door is the Orthodox church, another building seemingly under reconstruction. I walked some of the narrow streets towards the city centre, a cosy atmosphere started to show now that life was coming back to the still quiet streets. The overall feeling of my criss-cross walk through Pristina was that it is a city very much in development, it needs time, you can see it waking up and growing, the old parts being redone, the new ones being built. I wondered what this city will feel like ten years from now.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Pristina (Kosovo). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Pristina. Read more about this site.