Pristina, Prizren & Peja, Kosovo
There were no problems crossing into Kosovo but the journey leading to Pristina was slow going, with only a one lane road and more traffic than we expected in Europe's newest nation. The scenery started off like Macedonia, green and mountainous, but quickly turned dry and dusty. The drive was fairly mundane.
Despite being the capital, Pristina is a small city, so it didn't take us long to look around. The main street appeared decrepit and uninviting, but efforts were being made to clean it up. On our travels we passed the derelict Orthodox Church, the weirdest-looking library in the world (caged bubble building is the only way to describe it), a beautiful pedestrian street full of cafes that would fit into any modern city, a long line of photos of people missing or deceased in the 1999 conflict, a few mosques and, finally, a bazaar. Like in Skopje, the bazaar was full of surprisingly clean food, plus every household item you could ever need in your life. Danny was excited by a razor (yes, a razor) that had been on his wish list for a while, so he bought the razor and an entire shaving kit for about €2. We also loaded up on fruit and veg, taking advantage of the cheap prices and fresh produce.
There are no caravan parks in Kosovo, so we stayed the night in a large parkland, right next to a cafe. As it was too hot to sit in the car, we spent the night at the cafe, eating their pizza for dinner. Naturally we sampled the wine too, but neither of us were keen on either the red or the white. Sitting in the cafe felt homely and normal, like we were in any other major city in Europe, even though we knew that just around the corner was a city struggling to tear away from its past and enter the 21st century.
The following morning we drove to Prizren, a couple of hours away. The houses on the outskirts of Pristina were mostly red brick and wouldn't have looked out of place in Australia. The road once again was single lane, winding and frustratingly slow. Tractors, which accounted for one in every 10 vehicles on the road, couldn't go above 30 kph. Trucks (also one in 10) couldn't go above 50 kph. Buses stopped and started frequently. Then there were drivers who just liked to go at a snail's pace. I'm glad I didn't have to make this trip every day.
Prizren turned out to be one long market town. For kilometres we passed endless strings of outdoor stalls, with no obvious organisation to the set up. Somehow we landed in a car park in amongst all the mayhem and explored the area by foot. I swear you could buy anything on earth in this town – there was a stall for everything. And it was unbelievably cheap. Danny, being a market-enthusiast, was in heaven. At one point we spotted what looked like a streetside Ikea, with furniture filling the side walks. The food section was massive – what do they do with all the unsold food? Bulk buying was popular - for example, capsicums were only sold in bags of about 30, but really, who needs that many capsicums?
The market (and the entire town) appeared run down and dirty, nothing like the last few markets we had wandered through. The only rubbish bins we saw were large dumpsters, and it appeared as though they hadn't been emptied in months. A mountain of garbage was forming around them, adding to the unhygienic feel of the town. In the end we only bought bread, because that was all we needed and it seemed relatively safe. I think Danny would have purchased a hundred items if we were in Australia, but our limited storage space prevented that from occurring.
Our next town, Peja, was slightly less chaotic. There were actual shops we could walk into, we were able to walk on the side walk, there was a tourist office, plus we saw hotels and cafes. There was also a small bazaar situated under brightly coloured umbrellas, but it didn't offer nearly as much as Prizren. We even found an internet cafe – we hadn't seen internet for several days, and weren't even sure it existed in Kosovo.
The main drawcard to the country was how cheap everything was. An all day car park in the middle of town was €1, a fizzy drink 30 cents, water 20 cents, a loaf of bread 30 cents, a huge pizza €3. If prices were like this all over Europe, we could have doubled the length of our holiday.