I’ve been to Skopje in North Macedonia twelve times and most times hired a car from the airport. It had always been my intention to ‘hop into’ nearby Kosovo by car for a quick visit. My research indicated that one of the best places in the entire world to have a cappuccino is in Kosovo’s capital Pristina. So I was eager to see if this was really true.
I started off early by car in the morning from Skopje and crossed the border to Pristina on my European Union passport. The Kosovars are/were in the process of building a new motorway connecting Skopje to Pristina to cut travel times but unfortunately for me, only part of this motorway was usable when I was there. However, future motorists should find it ready, hopefully!
After around one and a half hours driving, I arrived in Pristina, Pristina may not be the most beautiful city in the Balkans but it has its charm as its one of the liveliest capitals in Eastern Europe, with plenty of university students and expats, and is a city with many things to offer visitors and inhabitants alike, such as festivals, cultural events, interesting museums and cool cafés.
I could not wait to set my taste buds to the test so I made my way to the city centre and walked into the first cafe I saw! Ironically, all that the shop served were a couple of cakes and coffee! Well, I was there for the coffee so that was okay! The cake was delicious but the cappuccino, oh my God, that was divine! I’ve been to dozens of cafes all over Europe and I can now say – coffee in Kosovo is THE BEST!
However, the REAL highlight about this cafe was when I went to the toilet after paying my bill. I was amused and intrigued at the same time as the first thing I saw on entering the toilet was a sign saying that ONLY urine is allowed! Seriously? Is the plumbing system that bad? Anyway, that sign made my day as I laughed my way out of the cafe!
After leaving the cafe, I walked around the city to see the main attractions. Top of my list was what has been described as one of the UGLIEST buildings in the world! This building is the National Library of Kosovo and was designed by Croatian architect Andrija Mutnjaković. It was followed by controversies about its outside appearance as it makes extreme use of what is now called Brutalist architecture.
Another landmark I wanted to see was the New Born Monument. It was unveiled on 17 February 2008, the day that Kosovo formally declared its independence from Serbia and the birth of a new nation. The words ‘New Born’ were painted bright yellow when the sculpture was first revealed but it’s repainted in different colours every year.
After spending a couple of hours in Pristina, I headed off to the town of Prizren, around one hour away by car. If you’re looking for culture in Kosovo, it’s best to head south to Prizren. Seated at the foot of the Shar mountains, Kosovo’s second city packs a heavy punch with its rich history, traditional handicraft shops and gastronomic delights.
Walking around the cobbled streets of the old town was a delight, what with its great selection of bars and restaurants, as well as the lovely Sinan Pasha Mosque and the Old Stone Bridge. The ultimate shopping experience in Prizren is paying a visit to one of the town’s many filigree shops. However, keep in mind that for every ten shops you see, perhaps only one sells products that are handmade locally, so ask for proof of authenticity.
Standing proudly on the hill above the town is the 11th-century Prizren Fortress. Entrance is free and it’s open 24 hours a day, though climbing up for sunrise or sunset is highly recommended. However, I was too tired to do any further walking that day so I reluctantly gave it a miss.
I enjoyed my brief one-day visit to Europe’s youngest country. I can assure you the country has lots to offer, especially to the more curious and adventurous visitors. Despite its small size, Kosovo is home to some of the most spectacular natural landscapes of the Balkans, including gorgeous forests, high mountains and breathtaking panoramas.