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Why would you want to go to Prizren, and who even knows where Kosovo is? The real question is: why wouldn’t you want to go?!Photos of Prizren
There are only two main cities in Kosovo: the capital of Prishtina and Prizren. I didn’t go to Prishtina myself, but my two days in Prizren were more than worth it. Here’s what I did, and my recommendations for your own travel there, which you will be doing.
There isn’t much of a choice for where to stay in Prizren on a budget. City Hostel is the only hostel in town. But don’t worry, it’s a wonderful hostel with really fun managers. The rooms are also cozy, with only 3-4 occupants each. Not a lot of bathrooms, but at least they are clean. Good storage and security in the rooms too. Just don’t listen to anything the managers say. They love to joke, and will even tell you that Prizren has the second best nightlife in Europe. That was a laugh. But they will give you free drinks and shots, and lots of them. In fact, they’re not happy unless you’re fully drunk by the time you slink off to bed. So they probably weren’t too happy with me…
Despite the lack of hostels, Prizren is a town almost entirely built on tourism. When it comes to restaurants, you’ll have a hard time finding any that don’t violate the rules of an authentic local establishment, such as no one outside trying to drag you in, pictures of everything on the menu, etc. At least they don’t charge tourist prices for their meals. A good meal will only cost you around €5 or less, and three large scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone are less than €1! The hostel recommended that I eat at Besimi-Beska. I avoided it as a tourist trap when I first saw it, but later capitulated when I failed to find anything better in town. The sample meat platter was actually quite good, and enough food to last me for two meals. I followed up with a huge ice cream which made me quite happy.
After lunch was a hike up to the fortress above the town. This is easily the best attraction in Prizren, and worth the whole trip to Kosovo. The view from the top is wonderful. Prizren only has less than 200,000 inhabitants so the town itself is small. But the surrounding mountains and river running through the town make it an idyllic setting. The hike to the top is not long (definitely shorter than the 1350-stair climb to the top of the fortress in Kotor). Just make sure you take some water with you, as all of the Balkans are hot in the summer.
That night I went back up to the top of the fortress to get more shots of the town at sunset. Sunsets in the Balkans are amazing, and Prizren was no exception. The night became very interesting when I started talking with the only other person at the fortress enjoying the sunset. Her name was Asia, and it turned out that not only was she also staying in the hostel, but she was checked into the same room as I was. We were also on the same bus the next morning to Skopje, Macedonia. Small world. The best part of the night was walking back down from the fortress and seeing a bunch of fireflies! The first time in my life I saw them, and her too.
Did you know that Kosovo has only been a country since 2008? Many other countries, including Serbia, don’t recognize it as an official country yet, which brings up an important point. Serbia doesn’t recognize the Kosovo passport stamp, so if you enter Serbia from Kosovo and then try to leave Serbia, they will say you entered the country illegally and you will reap the repercussions. If you want to visit both countries, make sure you leave Kosovo into one of the other neighboring countries, such as Albania, Macedonia or Montenegro, and then get into Serbia from any other country than Kosovo.
I also heard a rumor that Russia is even worse with travelers to Kosovo. If you have a Kosovo stamp in your passport, they will consider you an enemy of the state for supporting that country, and won’t let you in at all. So plan to visit these two countries on separate passports, either by being a dual citizen or renewing your passport. I’ll be verifying this rumor myself as soon as I can get to Russia, which might not be until the 2018 World Cup.
Other than the fortress, there are plenty of places to explore in the Old Town of Prizren. There are several mosques you can visit (such as Our Lady of Ljeviš, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the central Shadervan square, the Old Stone Bridge over the river and a cheap bazaar. There is also a 700-year-old church on the way up to the fortress I would recommend seeing. The original building was added on 400 years ago and you can see the difference in the construction and stones used. Recently the Albanians ransacked the church and pillaged the art. But Kosovo recently acquired the frescos back, and the church is now under restoration.
As mentioned, the bazaar was a wonderful place to shop, and very cheap in a region of cheap countries. I ended up doing my first clothes shopping this year. A head bandana (which was impossible for me to find in Albania) cost €3, a pair of polarized shades was €10 and three designer shirts were €20. Sure, they were probably all cheap knock-offs made in Turkey, but in all honesty, even expensive clothes don’t last long when you’re a permanent traveler. I learned it’s good to have a couple extra shirts when you’re in countries with temperatures above 40°. My sister once said I would come to really appreciate bandanas in my travels, and I can’t agree more.
So that was Prizren. Would I recommend it to you? Absolutely!!! And someday I’ll be back to Kosovo to see Prishtina and do some of the wilderness explorations, such as the Gadime marble cave. I hear there is also a great music festival in Prizren (NGOM) which I have friends going to. Oh, how am I ever going to get to all the countries in the world when I want so badly to go back to the countries I’ve already visited?