Springtime in Kosovo


smoke ’em if you got ’em

Kosovo is a mess.  Once the Roman province of Dardania, it became part of the medieval Serbian Empire, which withdrew after losing the Battle of Kosovo to the Ottoman Turks in 1389.  Still they never forgot, and always claimed it as their cradle of the culture.  Albanians claim their ancestors were here even before all that, and regardless, they greatly outnumbered the Serbs at the time of the fall of Ottoman Turkey, precise reconstructions of the past being tricky business, what with the fog of memory and all.  So when Slobodan Milosevic moved to limit Kosovo’s autonomy, tempers flared.  Following the Bosnian War in the 1990’s, the Kosovo question was left unaddressed, so they duked it out.  By this time, of course, NATO was in no mood for Serb atrocities, so they bombed Belgrade and proceeded to administer Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.  That’s the way it stands to this day.  Euro is the best currency to have.  Serbo-Croatian and Albanian—and English—are the best languages to know.  Calling code?  Yeah, right…

Have you been to Kosovo?  I was there in 2009….

“A long lonely road leads from Beograd to Kosovo, like some silly cliché being spoken for the umpteenth million time, but lending some credence to its claims of independence, regardless of the ethnicities involved.  But first we go more than half way back to Nis before turning west, aggravating my “no backtrack” sensibilities a bit.  It seems like somebody in Sofia, Bulgaria, could organize a connection to Pristina at least as good as what I had to Beograd.  I guess they did; it’s called Macedonia.  At the de facto border Serbia checks me out, but I don’t think I ever got checked in, just glanced at.  I guess the UN doesn’t do that; only real countries do.  Kosovo has still got a ways to go. ”

PRISTINA is the capital and largest city of the mess called Kosovo.  It is rapidly rebuilding after much destruction in the Kosovo war, mostly in the modern style.  Fortunately not all of the old style was obliterated.  These are the best English-speakers between the UK and the UAE (thank you, NATO), and the food is good, and it’s cheap.  Serbs think it’s still theirs.  There is one hostel there, details and specs in the book ‘Backpackers and Flashpackers in East Europe.”  Say hey to the Professor for me.  “Show me a former war zone and I’ll show you a travel bargain.”—H. Karges