Days: 505-507 (12 November 2015 – 14 November 2015)
Total distance travelled: 130,849.6 kilometres (81,273.05 miles)
The second youngest country in the world, and we were now in its capital.
Here we were roughly three months shy of its eighth birthday and what did we think?
If you believe the Serbians (some, not all) north of the border, we were now in lands full of tribal folk, where blood feuds endure and lawlessness is king.
Indeed even our kind monk (who gave us a free ride from his monastery to a distant church) was full of scorn and loathing!
We’d arrived in the dark (well technically, it was only I who’d entered Pristina after sunset), and were by now following what directions we’d managed to find to a hostel that sounded like it would suit us fine.
The hostel was found, we made our way in to be greeted by warmth, both from the temperature and the welcome within.
This was Buffalo Backpackers, run by an Albanian and an American (a Texan to be precise… they’re almost independent aren’t they?) and our latest temporary home on this extraordinary journey.
Smells of cooking food wafted all around, and when an offer was extended for us to join our hosts and a few other guests for this local meal, we could hardly refuse!
It’s starting to get a bit repetitive, but yet again we awoke to a fine morning, and after a complementary breakfast, we found ourselves headed back the way we’d come the previous night.
We were on our way back to the bus station.
A short ride later saw us to the nearby town of Gračanica, home to the monastery of the same name which together with three other locations form the only UNESCO World Heritage listing in Kosovo.
It wasn’t hard to locate the monastery, this Serbian orthodox structure holding a position of prominence within town, and after passing through a large wooden portal, there it was, quite the striking structure beneath this blue sky and bathed in bright sunshine.
Photo’s inside the building and the grounds is actually prohibited, so it was only through positioning ourselves at strategic points were we able to procure this contraband.
I think it was a place worthy of such deceptive efforts.
A middle aged couple wandered in briefly as we admired, but for their brief presence and an elderly woman selling candles, we had the place completely to ourselves.
It wasn’t long before we were done with this fourteenth century monastery, but it wasn’t to be a case of us simply jumping on the next bus back to the capital.
Instead we began to walk… in the opposite direction.
Before long we were out of the town, our path leading us past a ruined petrol (gas) station and out into rural countryside.
We were now surrounded by plowed fields, the occasional passing vehicle keeping us on our toes, but otherwise it was just a stroll in the country.
After a while we began to wonder if we’d made a wrong turn, but eventually on our left appeared a sign, Ulpiana.
If Gračanica had felt old, then this sixth century Roman city was positively ancient and once again, here we were with the place all to ourselves.
Well, almost all to ourselves, as that previous statement neglected a pair of dogs that showed a passing interest in us, seemingly residents and housed at the site caretakers office (we never saw the caretaker).
Aside from the bases of the structures, there wasn’t a ton to take in, although you didn’t need a lot of imagination to be able to appreciate that you were looking at more than just a handful of houses.
With their distinctive shape, a pair of basilicas was certainly present, but with no on site museum, we had little incentive to linger all that much long.
It was after this walk back to town, that we did indeed then look to find ourselves a bus back to Pristina.
Back in the capital, the town was abuzz.
Kosovo was about to compete in only its sixth official football international, against none other than its adoring neighbour, Albania!
We briefly flirted with the possibility of attending, but those dreams were promptly shattered.
There was unlikely to be a spare ticket in the whole city!
Still, it didn’t deter us from heading on down for a peek (if possible) at the action.
We’d expected tension, but the atmosphere was far more festive, and as suspected, there was no possibility of us, a pair of unknowing tourists, getting in.
Anywhere that offered the chance of the slimmest glimpse of the action inside that cauldron of noise was being utilised.
I briefly climbed a wall and perched beside a long line of locals, but in truth, I couldn’t see shit!
It was a shame we couldn’t fully enjoy this momentous spectacle, and the odd roar gave us little clue as to which team had scored, given the support for both sides was shared by almost the entire stadium (perhaps fittingly, the match finished two all).
Still, it remained a gorgeous afternoon to explore some other parts of the city…
It certainly had its charms, but also its quirks, and an almost unhealthy obsession with Bill Clinton (he’s perceived a bit of a hero around these parts for his help in the 1998-1999 struggle with the former Yugoslavia).
In case a bronze statue wasn’t considered enough, there is also the main boulevard…
An unexpected surprise came in the form of our first encounter with Kolonat, Albania’s own answer to McDonalds!
Since our arrival back in Europe, we’d spied chestnut sellers everywhere, roasting their nuts over little coal braziers, and at some point in time I’d said to Sarah “If we find them for cheap enough, I’m going to try some.”
We figured that the €0.50 here was good enough.
Occasionally they can be found back home in Australia, but they are hardly common fare.
So what did we think? They were okay, without being great, and would benefit for sure from some sort of seasoning, either salty or sweet.
Our local dinners in contrast, they were an unexpected delight in both their price and quality!
We had one last day excursion before us, another adventure to go and see another component of the UNESCO listing within the territory (you can wait until the next post for those shenanigans), before there was a sobering moment as we got news of the Paris attacks.
Beers were shared with random, fleeting friends as someone had the nice thought to get a fire roaring in the courtyard.
We were up before the suns rise.
A new day, a new (well not as new, or at least as young as Kosovo) country…
* To reach Pristina, we went separate ways (I had a passport to collect in Belgrade), so for me it cost 900.00 Dinar for a bus from Kraljevo to Belgrade, followed by 2,040.00 Dinar from Belgrade to Pristina.
* Sarah’s route cost 750.00 Dinar from Kraljevo to Mitrovica (although this should have been 700.00 Dinar), whilst her local bus from Mitrovica to Pristina set her back €1.50
* A local bus from Pristina to Gračanica Monastery (from where we also walked out to the Roman ruins of Ulpiana) cost us €0.50 per person each way.