Kosovo is the first war-torn country I’ve ever been to. With the conflict that ended in 1999 and resulted in its independence as of 2008, Kosovo is a country recovering from years of violence. As I rode the bus from Macedonia to the Kosovar capital Pristina, I didn’t really know what to expect; I could only remember being in high school when a few students arrived as Kosovar refugees escaping the war.
I arrived in Pristina with two friends and no planning, fatigue and lethargy getting the best of us. “What currency do they use here?” and “Does anyone know the address to the hostel?” were the first questions we asked as we descended the bus. Luckily, we were in for a bit of travelers’ luck, learning that the currency was the Euro, easily finding our hostel, coming up with a plan of what we wanted to see, and hiring a taxi for a day (for a total of 60 €).
Visiting Pristina felt like real travel after some of the touristy European cities that I had been to. It is not a major tourist destination so my friends and I were able to really explore and discover the city. During our time there we met a really cool cab driver who shared his thoughts with us and toured us around. We also met a fan of my travel-blogging friend Johnny, who showed us around Pristina and shared some of her experiences of life in Kosovo.
What I found during my time there was a country in transition with extremely friendly and proud people, an optimistic future and a beautiful landscape. What I learned was that nearly half of the country’s two million citizens are under the age of 25, that racial tension between neighbouring countries is still a reality, and that jobs and the economy are the same problems facing Kosovo as in most countries around the world.
People often ask why you’re going to a country they’ve never heard of or knew about. They wonder why you would go to a place like Kosovo where war was a recent reality and tourism is almost non-existent. To them I say, don’t judge a book by its cover. If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have experienced a country full of history and beauty. My only regret, as corny as it sounds, is that I didn’t spend more time there.
Read more about Pristina