Sunday, 26 August 2012

Kosova

All the images we had in our head about Kosovo were rather bad. Well we grew up when the Balkan-war was on. And Kosovo was the latest cruelty around Balkan - even tho it is already 12 years ago...
Therefore, we were surprised when crossing the border was easy and we saw plenty German car plates... most of them Kosovo-Albanians earning their money in Germany, as we learned later. We planned to drive through Kosovo in one day and spending the night in Montenegro. We drove into Pristina... the roads are fine and there are shops all along the big streets. Everything is paid in Euro, Kosovo's official currency, brought into the country by all the EU organizations. Our sightseeing tour brought us first to the extraordinary university library of Pristina. Then along ruins to the main street in the center which is broadly under construction. Some cafe's were calling us and we saw them being filled with internationals. Prices are comparable to western Europe. UN cars were on the street. Some huge Albanian and Macedonian car arrived... each supported by two security cars. Drivers remained in the cars while another guy of each car joined the neighboring cafè to secure the area. Interesting and funny to watch :) It appeared to be obvious that we are tourists... while most others were on business/mission^^ Just sitting there and watching the people was probably the most interesting part. Later we continued through the city... down the shopping street. All the great buildings are inhabited by international organizations and properly secured... obviously one needs a great view and a lot of security when helping!
We left Pristina towards Peja. On the highway suddenly cows!!!! appeared. Calmly walking there while the cars approached with 100+ km/h. Hitting one of those probably is like driving against a wall :o Unluckily our GPS systems went off. Danny's not having a Kosovo map. My phone lost GPS signal and my tablet's battery was down. So we went by good old map. The big street towards west from Peja should lead us through a national park towards Montenegro - according to ADAC at least. After some trouble we indeed found the correct way - or what was thought to be correct^^
The sun led us into the valleys of the national park, the street was busy and we even spotted some Montenegrian plates - had to be the right way :D Time was running against us... when it was dark we would see nothing on this road - lights were missing. The road seemed never ending, but getting smaller the further we were getting. Bad feeling... suddenly asphalt ended and a dirt road continued. Even worse: small streams resulted in huge holes in the road... on some places bridges were build out of tree trunks, covered and connected by dirt... the latter obviously was partly washed away by former rainfalls... somehow we managed to cross 4 of them. Then we asked the next car if we were on the right way. Unluckily noone spoke English, but they were able to tell us that there was a village in front of us in 1km. Another hilarious bridge later the entrance of the village appeared and the first place seemed like a holiday destination. A group of teenagers had some lesson and in the edge an elder was sitting next to a fire writing in a book - that had to be the one in charge of the facility - correct! :)
"We are looking for the ways towards Montenegro and somehow totally lost our way" I started. A smile returned. "Every question you ask will cost you 50cent". "ok, we need to know". "Just a joke. You can sit down. There is no more border crossing around here. I go and get some beer".
Later he told us that we were only 2km away from Montenegro. However, the border crossing in our map did not exist anymore since end of the war. A heavy rainfall resulted in its closing. As he was out of beds, we were allowed to place our tent in his garden. But later - due to the cold night - he invited us to sleep on the floor on an older building of his. The teenagers group was under lessons of some local counter part of transparency international and supported by Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung. They invited us for dinner and breakfast and we joined their party - as it was their last evening. We talked through all night to the owner and the organizer of the group and learned a lot about Kosovo and its people. Generously hospitality... the next morning we anyways crossed the border (according to GPS, which was working again) and then took the correct and official crossing further north to continue to Montenegro.

Pristina's library

Kosova Republike! in front of "wanted" posters

Thats the way this place feels like: newborn

entry into national park from Peja... we didn't see the yellow "do not take pictures"-sign at the military base earlier^^

our shelter

brushing teeth after illegally crossing the border to Montenegro (later took the legal crossing)

Drive through the national park - simply gorgeous






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