As I stumble off the bus newly awake and trying to gather my thoughts that are all over the place I try to orientate myself which is usually easy but when newly awake a very hard thing to do, at least for me. I try to remember what I read about the location of the bus station being a few kilometers outside the city center and how much a taxi would be.
First thing is to send a message to my host, Sam, and tell him I had arrived and would be there shortly at the place we had agreed to meet which was the Grand Hotel.
I walked up to the group of men in their 40-50s who is standing in the typical Balkan attire which is the vest and the black skin cap and just simply said “Grand Hotel?” On guy just stretched out his arm as to say “Here is your ride Sir” and I followed him to his car. It is around this time I have managed to sort all thoughts and get them all categories and filed in their places in the memory bank and I remember that I read that a ride into the city shouldnt be more then 2.5-3 Euros. As we sit in the car and I start looking around on the dashboard for a taxameter not to get totally ass raped for being a foreigner, the driver leans slightly over to me and look me in the eyes for a second, as to asses me, and finally say “Quattre Euro” at the same time as he holds up 4 fingers. I couldnt really care less by this time either so I just winks off with my hand and he starts the car.
When I have been standing outside waiting for my host for some 20 minutes I decide to call him but my Bulgarian SIM card does not allow me to call the number. So I take a chance and walks into the Grand Hotel to ask if I could borrow the phone. Now this is always a problem when traveling, or even at home, as I know that hotels usually are very quirky and dont really wanna let you lend the phone to make a call. I have been quoted 3 euros by a hotel in Prague to make a call. Just that alone was amazing. But it is the only chance I have so I hope they might be friendly but still, hotels are not my favorite place to go to ask for phones.
When I walk into the lobby I feel a cold wind draw through me and it is really ice cold inside the hotel. I think to myself is this really a 5 star hotel that they can not even have heat in the lobby. The guys behind the counter is even wearing jackets but are very friendly and allows me to use the phone. I get hold of Sam and he promise to come and meet me as the apartment is just 5 min away from the hotel. I thank the staff so much and pay the 50 cents they want for the call and walk outside to wait for Sam.
Sam comes and picks me up and we walk to his place after taking a small detour pass the store so i can buy something to eat. And as we enter the flat I see people everywhere. It turns out he is currently having 7 other people staying in what is not even his place but his hosts place so Sam himself is a surfer. As people are waking up and appearing from everywhere, we are sitting in the kitchen/living room of the small apartment and small talking before I decide to go out as it is a sunny and beautiful day and I dont wanna miss the light.
First off on the small list I had of things I wanted to see in Pristina was the barb wired fenced skeleton of an orthodox church. Following the small map I had printed off internet I found it quite easily and it was really strange. Things here in Kosovo are usually strange or very different as it is a nation within a deep identity crisis and deep wounds of different people disliking each other. The church is standing on a open field, or rather the skeleton of the church as it was never finished before the Kosovo war broke out and after the clashes in 2004 it was vandalized and now it is fenced off and the future uncertain. A elder gipsy woman was sitting in the snow outside the church on the walk path begging for money, and as I was walking behind her to get closer to the church I noticed she turned around to eyeball me to see what I was doing as she most likely had seen my camera around my neck and maybe she was expecting me to photograph her so she could get some money out of me for it. That never happened. I walked on and passed the peculiar structure of the national library which much more resembles a design prison then a library and walk down towards the Bill Klinton boulevard to photograph what is to me the strangest thing I have seen in a foreign country.
A 3 meter tall statue of Bill Clinton, the former president of USA and the person who was the peace broker during the Kosovo war. Now I mentioned earlier that things here in Kosovo are strange and this is one of the things that are strange. Along with their flag which is a vivid flirt with the European Union in terms of colors and stars. And the fact that they use the Euro as a currency which I dont really understand how they could be granted so fast or they just decided that “now we use the Euro” and thats it? In some parts of the country the Serbian Dinar is also valid as a currency as the border to Serbia is close. A lot of things that doesnt fit together really. Not in my head at least and I guess there is an explanation for everything but they are usually easy to see but as this is a fairly young nation I guess everything needs time.
Next on the list was the NEWBORN monument which was unveiled on the 17th February 2008 as Kosovo declared their independence as a sovereign nation and I remember seeing pictures of it as it was unveiled in the evening in front of thousands of camera flashes from the international media as everyone was on site just to see what would happen when Kosovo declared independence. The big yellow letters are now something that I thought had been vandalized by people as they are all now full of graffitti and writings and the first thought that came to my head when I saw the letters was “They can not even respect their own monument of independence, how sad” and as i snapped a few photos of what i thought was vandalism I saw a father and his son, the kid couldnt have been more then 5 or 6, walking up to the monument and the father hands the son a marker to write something on the and it is in this second i understand that it isnt vandalism that i am seeing but a monument that people are proud of and use as a communication tool to support the independence by marking it and claim their part of it all. Anyway, it is much smaller than I had imagined it and it stands directly in front of a mall cramped in and not having a huge space as I would believe that a national monument would have.
I pop into a caffee right behind the monument and have a cup of tea together with some quebap and fries for a light lunch as I would meet up with some of the people from the flat an hour later by the monument and have a small walk through the rest of the old town.
After the lunch and meet up with some of the people and my host, he takes us through the old town and shows us the few things there is to see in Pristina, which is not a lot, but they still have some beautiful buildings and mosques and as we reach one of the older ones a younger male is coming out of the mosque and sits down to put on his shoes and Bob, one of surfers from UK, asks him if he could take a picture of him and the man replies
– Sorry no. I work at the American embassy and there will be problems.
Now this stunned me. And still is something that I am thinking off now a day later when I am writing this as his answer hit me. Would he have problems because he is a muslim? Or would he have problems because he was photographed outside the mosque? Is this such a shattered nation or is it because it was the American embassy?
After running around what was the small city we end up with another gang of Couchsurfers, this time Italians that live and work in Kosovo with different things. And as we sit and talk and i try one of the local beers Peja, in fact the only Kosovo beer I feel myself sit and nod off now and then in the sun as I am extremely tired. We head back to the apartment and two surfers leave and me and Sam takes a afternoon nap that lasts 2 hours and I wake up feeling like I was hit by a train and I am hungry as a wolf from the north. A small walk into the city and we end up in a local place having Plskavice and we talk and talk.