Thursday, November 24, 2022

Kosovo September 2022

Today, Ilir picked us up for our next adventure. Our first stop will be Prizren, Kosovo, where we will spend the night.
Once we arrived in Prizren, the cultural and historical capital of Kosovo. Prizren is surrounded by mountainous landscapes. Ilir walked us around the old Ottoman center of the city, where the Lumbardhi River passes.
We walked by the Catholic Cathedral, Our Lady of Perpetual Relief. Mass was happening, which kept us from going inside.
Next, we visited the Sinan Pasha Mosque. The Mosque is stunning inside and out. The centerpiece of the city.
Up on the hill was the Saint George Orthodox Cathedral.
We meandered through town, Ilir pointing out historical landmarks, one of which was the oldest tree in the area, over 400 years old.
The stone bridge was built in the 1600s.
We saw the Hammam, a Muslim bathhouse.
We all went to lunch, where Ilir gave us his history.

As with most of the Balkans, Kosovo has had many conflicts over its thousands of years of history. More recently during World War Two they allied with the Germans. With a small Jewish Population and a large Muslim Population, the Muslims hid the Jewish People during the war saving 100% of them.

In the late 90s, after the break up of Yugoslavia, Kosovo was attacked by the Serbians. Slobodan Milošević was the President of Serbia (Which at the time was a much smaller Yugoslavia).

All Albanian Muslim men were slaughtered (over 8,000) or deported by the Christian Serbs. Ilir and his father were the lucky ones loaded on a train and deported as refugees to Albania. A place they had never lived. The women, Ilir’s mother and sister included, were kept as hostages (which means raped and tortured).

Listening to Ilir tell his history was heartbreaking. He was sixteen at the time, a high school student. He came home from school there were soldiers in his house. Ilir and his father are loaded onto a train with thousands of other men and boys, not knowing their destination or if they would return.

Luckily, NATO intervened and ended the war. About 80% of Kosovo was destroyed.

Now 30-plus years later, most of Kosovo has been rebuilt. Now muslims, Christians, and Catholics live in harmony. But the Serbian Government and some Serbians still don't recognize Kosovo as a separate country, regardless of what Jared Kushner says.

Just two weeks ago when we were in Serbia we saw signs and billboards stating “Kosovo is Part of Serbia”. From my understanding this issue goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years.
After lunch Ilir departed. Margarite and I hiked up to the Prizren Fortress, which overlooks the city.
Guess what car manufacturer this car is?
We had dinner at Hani I Vjeter and we ordered the Specialty, Ilyrian. It was delicious.

Dinner video-

We got up early and took a short walk around town.
Today we depart for Albania. Before leaving Kosovo, our driver for the day Alan brought us to Gjakova, a small Kosovo town close to the Albanian border.
We walked the main shop area and visited the mosque before having lunch.
We learned a bit of about how during the Serbia, Kosovo war. The Serbs surrounded the town with military tanks, gave the citizens a short warning, and then flattened the old city.
After lunch, we drove two hours to Valbona Valley National Park, Albania, also known as the Albanian Alps.



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