an emotional visit.
kosovo, a country whose name i hear countless times as a child, being the daughter of a mum who many years ago worked as the manager of a refugee house.
standing in front of the border all the memories of conversations, moving discussions and the devotion to the refugee topic suddenly come back to me.
sitting at the wheel, paul has his own thoughts. he asks himself: what awaits us? what’s all this about the 5000 kfor soldiers in the country? what is kosovo really like?
after passing the border, we drive on a superb serpentine road through a lush green mountain to pristina, the capital.
shortly before arriving, a tyre loses air. we ask around and are guided to the nearest mechanic. the gentleman takes care of us immediately. nail out, plug in. everything for 5 euro in less than 5 min.
we are baffled. the tyre will hold until the next complete tyre change in india.
priština, how would you describe yourself? you’re in your infancy and growing. a brand new pedestrian zone with a few old elements. here and there shops are still waiting for tenants or buyers.
in the evening you blossom out and become populated by the well-dressed inhabitants. the golden mile turns into a catwalk. this is where the heart of the city beats. people meeting for an ice, a beer or dinner.
as luck would have it, a kosovar family from germany crosses our path. they can not believe that we are traveling in their country. it amazes them. in perfect german, they welcome us warmly and recommend visiting the rugova canyon near peja. when our paths separate again, they leave us their number, just in case.
further on in pristina we visit the ethnological museum. it shows professional, restored half-timbered houses from former times. inviting dark wooden furniture, traditionally designed kitchen utensils, handmade clothes made of cotton, silk and felt plus filigree silver jewellery. for a warm, harmonious interior, traditional rugs are laid out, large, comfortable floor cushions and day covers in various shades of red. a nice young man shows us around and imparts to us all his knowledge. this makes the visit a true experience.
on the way through the city we notice an advertisement for the bear sanatorium a little outside. sceptical but still interested, we set off it. an immense area in the middle of nature awaits us. 15 bears which have lived and suffered in miserable conditions are now spending their old age in dignity here. it is very interesting for the three of us to be able to observe the animals from close up without disturbing them. a fantastic project of the aid organisation “four paws”.
we are drawn further into nature, towards the west.
looking for a suitable place to sleep, we come across a supposedly deserted empty swimming pool with water source. local people proudly tell us, of course in german, about the healing powers of the brine water. the owner of the adjacent restaurant offers his lawn as a place to sleep and gives us bread and fruit. meanwhile it is dark, the air is heavy and takes getting used to.
next morning we are amazed when the pools are filled up and hundreds of people populate the swimming pool. we park in the first row – in front of us the mud pool where, alternating hourly, men and women wallow in mud from head to toe.
the park guard wishes us a good morning and appoints us as today’s honorary guests. we are invited. we have never experienced anything so awesome. we are in a muslim therapeutic swimming pool. a large construction curtain separates the male from the female basin, children jump back and forth. on the meadow people relax together. the muddy visitors walk around like on the dead sea in israel.
at the end there is homemade goulash and for paul a professional massage. luk is happy to splash in the water.
days later we laugh about this experience. in the truest sense of the word we dived into a different culture.
that should not be the only story.
arrived in the so-called albanian alps, the canyon of rugova borders on montenegro and albania. the road runs impressively through the meter-high overhanging massive rocks. they are within reach. between the mountains we see abandoned houses, ruins left over from the war, memorial plaques of the uck freedom fighters and just as many new hotel buildings. small a-shaped huts adorn the slopes. right in the middle, the “white drin” flows and digs its way inexorably into the interior of the country.
a friendly hotel owner lets us spend the night on his terrace plus jacuzzi. he is looking forward to an international visit.
the following day we spend with a family from the mountains. paul and luk help with the hay stacks and we learn how to bake flija at the open fire, a kind of salty layer pancake with curd cheese. everybody looks after us and lets us participate in their family life.
we meet many kosovars, who come to us openly, invite us and want to talk with us. hospitality is very important for them. they always show their gratitude regarding the help provided by germany.
we experience an enchanting country with gripping impressions and moments. calm people, a well developed infrastructure and kfor soldiers who will probably start returning home soon after their work is done.
we too say thank you very much!