Sunday, May 31, 2015

Another Great Day in Prishtina!

It was another pleasant day in Prishtina with a lot more to see so we decided to spend another day walking through Prishtina.  As we walked, we saw several memorials to Ibrahim Rugova, the first President of Kosovo.

Click on my photos below to see them in high resolution on Flickr.  You can view the photos in high resolution by clicking here!

Ibrahim Rugova, first President of Kosovo

Zahir Pajaziti was a Kosovo Liberation Army commander who was killed in action against the Yugoslav army in 1997.  He was declared a Hero of Kosovo.

Yes, there really is a statue of Bill Clinton in Prishtina!  Without trying to explain the complexities of the Kosovo War, suffice it to say that the Albanian population of Kosovo was being oppressed by military and security forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia prior to the start of the Kosovo War in 1998.  Albanians in Kosovo were being fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes.  

President Clinton supported the efforts of Albanian Kosovars to create an independent state and authorized US participation in the NATO bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  The campaign began on March 24th, 1999 and ended June 11th, 1999.  It led to the rapid end of the Kosovo War on June 12th when NATO ground forces arrived in Kosovo.

As an American in Kosovo, I can say that we felt truly welcome and were treated with great hospitality and appreciation.  I would definitely visit Kosovo again!

After the war, Prishtina began to grow rapidly and continues today.  Apartment buildings are still going up everywhere we looked.  We often woke up to the sound of construction near our hotel (Hotel Afa).

Apartment Blocks Under Construction

Consumer goods are available although the economy is depressed.  While Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe, unemployment is high.

Super Viva Cafe

Caffetin Analgesic
A potent combination of Cafeine, Codeine, paracetamol and propyphenazone

The government of Kosovo approved the construction of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Mother Teresa in Prishtina in 2007.  The cornerstone was placed by former Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova, a Muslim.

Prishtina has an very active cafe scene!  Off limits to cars, Mother Teresa Boulevard offers a pleasant walk with outdoor vendors and cafes on each side of the street.  It is a great location for a coffee and some great people watching!

Walking Mother Teresa Boulevard

Mother Teresa Boulevard

Hungry?  Looking for some fast food?  Check out the Albanian fast food restaurant Kolonat.  Do those golden arches look familiar?

Another building from Kosovo's Yugoslavia past: The Palace of Youth and Sport built in 1977.

Adem Jashari was one of the founders of the Kosovo Liberation Army.  This banner hangs above the entrance to the Palace of Youth and Sport.  Prishtina's airport is named after him.  In 1998, the Serbian army killed 58 members of Jashari's family including himself, his wife and son during a raid on Jashari's home in Prekaz, near Skenderaj in the Drenica region.

The Palace of Youth and Sport includes a shopping mall that is still a popular shopping venue.

Shopping mall is part of the Palace of Youth and Sport complex.

These young men asked me to take their photo on the steps of the Palace of Youth and Sport.

In front of the Palace of Youth and Sport is the Newborn Monument.  The monument is a typographical sculpture that was dedicated on February 17th, 2008, the day Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia.  Each year, the monument is repainted with a difference scheme and rededicated on February 17th.

The American School of Kosovo is a private school opened in 2003.  The school caters to children from pre-Kindergarten through grade 12. The school operates with the principles of the American educational system and provides a curriculum that is North American-based. Instruction is primarily in English, with the exceptions of courses in Albanian language, Albanian culture, Albanian history and foreign languages (German, Italian, and French).

You can view the photos in high resolution by clicking here!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Exploring Prishtina

Yes, Kosovo uses the Euro!  That makes it really easy to travel to Kosovo.  Chris recommended that we take a walk after we get settled into Hotel Afa.  Walking after a long flight really does help reduce the effects of jet lag.  I highly recommend it!

So we headed downtown (literally down hill from Hotel Afa!) to see the sights.  The first building we saw was the Yugoslavia era National Library of Kosovo.  It was designed by Croatian architect Andrija Mutnjakovic and dedicated in November, 1982.    During 1990's, the building was used to house refugees from Croatia and Bosnia.  Unfortunately, there are many grand buildings in Prishtina that are languishing due to lack of funding.

Click on my photos below to see them in high resolution on Flickr.  You can view the photos in high resolution by clicking here!

Walking down Mother Teresa Street you run into Mother Teresa Square with lots of interesting buildings.  Here is a shot of the National Theatre.

Kids are kids everywhere on this Earth!  They all love to play in water and fountains.  In Mother Teresa Square we walked by this fountain.  Behind it on the right is the Skanderbeg Monument.  Skanderbeg's real name is George Kastrioti.

Kids Playing in the Mother Teresa Square Fountain

Why would a predominantly Muslim nation name a square and a major boulevard after Mother Teresa?  It turns out that Mother Teresa spent her childhood years in Kosovo. 

Running through a fountain is clearly fun!

While there are a lot of old buildings, including some that date to the Ottoman Empire, there are also many new buildings.  

Kosovo Government Building

Ibrahim Rugova was the first President of Kosovo.  He served two terms from 1992 to 2000 and again from 2002 to 2006.  Rugova advocated peaceful resistance to Yugoslav rule.  He was taken prisoner by Yugoslav forces when NATO's air war began and was exiled to Rome.  He returned to Kosovo after the Kosovo War.

Ibrahim Rugova Memorial

As of 2005, Kosovo is home to 1.9 to 2.2 million people, 92% of whom are ethnic Albanians.  Four percent are Serbs and the remaining 4% are Bosniacs, Gorans, Turks and Roma.  The predominant religion is Islam.

Charshije Mosque

This is one of the last photos of the Monument of Brotherhood and Unity.  Why?  It was built 1961 during Joseph Tito's rule of Socialist Yugoslavia to emphasize the brotherhood between Albanians, Serbs and Montenegrins.  It is scheduled to be demolished to make way for the new ‘Adem Jashari Square.’

Monument of Brotherhood and Unity

Serbian Orthodox is the predominant religion of the ethnic Serb population.  The construction of the Serb Orthodox Christ the Savior Cathedral started in 1995.  The cathedral would have been finished in 1999.  However, construction was halted during the Kosovo War.  After the war, construction was not resumed because it is viewed as a symbol of Slobodan Milošević's rule.  The future of the building remains a topic of debate.

We ended the day enjoying an excellent meal at the Restaurant Liburnia.

You can view the entire set in high resolution by clicking here!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hello Kosovo!

We just returned from a week in Kosovo visiting with our son Chris and to see the Kosovo he has been talking about.  

Where is the heck is Kosovo? 

Kosovo is landlocked, surrounded by Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro.

We started our journey by driving from Richmond, Virginia (where we live) to Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia.  We boarded a United Airlines flight to Zurich and a SWISS flight to Prishtina, the capitol city of Kosovo.  "Pristina" is the Serb spelling of the city's name.  "Prishtina" is the spelling used by the predominantly Albanian population.  

Pristina International Airport (southwest of Prishtina)

As we flew into the night over the Atlantic Ocean, we were treated to a beautiful sunset!

Click on my photos below to see them in high resolution on Flickr.  You can view the photos in high resolution by clicking here!

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean east of Nova Scotia, Canada

We had about a three hour layover at Zurich, Switzerland before we boarded a SWISS flight to Prishtina.  As we flew toward Kosovo, we gasped as we looked down on a gorgeous view of very rugged and majestic-snow capped mountains of Montenegro.

The gorgeous snow-capped mountains of Montenegro

After a two hour flight, we landed at Pristina International Airport.  It is a small but modern and clean airport with a terminal built in 2013.  

We were met by our son Chris and a taxi driver who took us to Hotel Afa in downtown Prishtina, a 15 minute ride from the airport.  The friendly Hotel Afa staff quickly got us into our room on the fourth floor overlooking their quiet and relaxing courtyard.

Hotel Afa Courtyard

We relaxed in the courtyard, regaining our energy to explore Prishtina, our next blog article!

You can view the entire set in high resolution by clicking here!