The newest country in Europe just turned ten years old.
Well, for most of us it is a country in its own right. But when one considers that 111 of the United Nation’s 193 member states have acknowledged Kosovo as a sovereign state, there are evidently many who still disagree.
Co-incidental or not, parts that have shaped Kosovo of 2018 are present on one the squares in Pristina. The very centrally located square is in itself nothing special; a modest fountain, a statue to the left, no trees and – well, that´s it. People don’t hang around here, they pass by. But if you take a moment and look around you as you come to the square, you will realize that you are in company of the past, the present and – well, the future.
Facing north, you’ll see the statue of the Lord of Albania himself on your left. Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu, mostly known for his rebellion against the Ottoman empire, is sitting on his horse with a sword in his right hand, looking like the “hero in combat” that the plaque claims he was. (From what I gathered, the square also bears his name.) We´re talking 15th century war hero now.
When you look straight ahead, your eyes will see the compounds of K-FOR, the international peace keeping force and the police. On your right, depending on your exact position, you’ll see one or two mosques. The closest one being the currently restored Xhamia e Çarshisë, originally built in the late 14th century. The future, then, is represented by the building on your right. The headquarters of a bank, covered in mirrored glass and one of the most contemporary buildings in the city center. Behind it is the city´s only luxury hotel. In a way, this square makes up what Kosovo is coming from, what it was, is and wants to be.
For most Europeans, Kosovo is still synonymous with war. The only two people I know who have been to Kosovo have served here in the international forces. Every country seemed to get a label formed by media reports, that will take generations to remove even if things have changed (for the better or for the worse). This fact has been proven in length by Hans Rosling in his “Factfulness”, where he time after time shows that people see the world as they were taught (in school), not as it is today. It has been a decade since Kosovo declared independence and it will take a long time to wash away the label of a “war-zone”.
Everything isn’t running perfectly in either Kosovo (more on that at a later date) or Pristina but there is no reason not to go here. In daytime Pristina is a peaceful and pleasant city to be in, at night some areas turn into party zones.
Give it a chance. You’ll like it. Oh, and they do really good beer here.