Pristina.. Pristina… Pristina… is in Kosovo but my iphone says the pictures were taken in Serbia. Before I made my journey to Kosovo, many people had asked me either “What? Kosovo, that’s a country? where is that?” or “Hayoung, why are you going into a war zone.. is that a safe place..?” Clearly many people (including myself before I had seen the place with my own eyes) didn’t know anything about Kosovo. You could just tell by people’s reaction. One time, I told my guy friend living in Korea that I was going to Kosovo.. and his reaction was … “why do you always travel to weird unknown places..?” Well… Despite the fact that Kosovo is an “unpopular” or “still in conflict zone”, I had so much fun. I think if people have opportunity, they should go visit the place. You can see the livelihood of Kosovo, and you will feel energetic.
After spending couple of days in Gjilan, Kosovo., I had chance to visit Pristina (capital of Kosovo) and spent several days there as well. After visiting Pristina, I truly understood why people had been calling Kosovo a fast developing and energetic country. You could see the new buildings coming up everywhere, and could see foreigners traveling (majorly European) around the city and there were many exciting restaurants available besides just Balkan foods; What I am trying to say is that variety of food choices were lot better in Pristina than Gjilan. Although I did not see any Asian people at all, one of my friends informed me that he had seen four Japanese people touring around the city. I wish I was there to witness the ASIANS walking around the city, that would have been hilarious. We probably had exchanged strange looks thinking “what the hell are you doing here…?” haha
You could see many historical buildings around the city, and you could tell Kosovars were very proud of them. University of Pristina, the best one in Kosovo, was structured nicely. Also right next to the university, there is Pristina National Library, which was quite impressive and weirdly designed. My friend who currently works at University of Pristina had explained to me what the structure and the design was based on, but … of course this chicken head had forgotten about it. Maybe i will google and Wikipedia it later.
Kosovars are known to be the most friendly people on the earth. They have great respect towards each other of different background. Whether you are coming from Middle East, Asia, North America, Europe… Whether you are Asian, African, European… Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Buddhist… whatever you are, they are willing to accept you as a unique individual. Just walking around the city, my Kosovar friend was pointing out different places for worshipers of different religions. They were very proud of them.
It was during Ramadan that I visited Pristina … and considering the fact that the majority of people living in Kosovo are Muslim, the city was exceedingly quite during the day (until the sundown). The city came to alive after the sundown, and there were so many people on the street ! The restaurants suddenly became so busy and so many street venders unpacked their belongings for people to buy. It was just a very interesting experience for me as I never had been in a place where the majority of population are Muslim.
There were so many cars on the street as well. I did not recognize many nice cars but there were many decent cars. There were many taxis around the city, and you could easily negotiate the price if you want to… (actually I didn’t really understand how the taxi worked but… I made it !) The thing is in Kosovo, you do not have to worry about getting ripped off because you are a foreigner. Everywhere else I have been to, I had to worry about my belongings constantly and was tired of getting ripped of just because … I obviously look like a foreigner. What I am trying to say here is that, you don’t have to worry about getting ripped off by taxi drivers in Kosovo. People are generally honest about the price, and I always felt very safe. Also, when I was in Gjilan, and had gone to a fruit vender to buy some fruits… and they gave me some discount just because I was a foreigner visiting their wonderful country !! :)
One place you must visit if you are travelling in Pristina is a place called NewBorn Monument. It is colored with flags that have recognized Kosovo as a sovereign nation. It was great to see two of my flags that were painted on the NewBorn Monument: The United States of America and South Korea. Kosovo is still struggling to be recognized as a sovereign nation. There are still many countries that do not recognize Kosovo as a sovereign nation but there some, which do recognize Kosovo. As a Korean American, and a person who has been to Kosovo and studied Kosovo’s struggle for independence.. I personally recognize Kosovo as a strong sovereign nation, but I would like to avoid any conflicts or any complicated debates over this issue as I believe the issue should be solved peacefully between Kosovo and Serbia… (which have been failing).
Thank you for your time and I will continue writing stories about Kosovo.
To be continued: Kosovo – Mirusha Fall