9:30am start today to accommodate last night’s festival goers. This trip is sooooo easy!
We followed the river out of town. It was a gentle 45 mins walk up to the fortress. We were in no hurry, and the path was in the shade the majority of the time.
From the top, we had an incredible view of Prizren and the Shar mountain range. We saw how integrated the town used to be – with the main mosque, the orthodox cathedral and the catholic cathedral all within a short distance of each other. We counted up to 27 mosques; we were challenged by the information board to find 45. We could also see the terracotta tiles of the former hamman. All the roofs in town used to be like this. It would have looked spectacular.
We took a more direct route down – steep. En-route, we stopped to visit the ruins of the Orthodox Church of the Holy Saviour. There used to be 12,000 Serbs living in this corner of Prizren, now there are 12. They came back a few years ago when their houses were rebuilt by the British Embassy and they are financially supported by Serbia. The church was built around 1330, and sadly it was damaged and set on fire during the Kosovo war. The man currently looking after the church had to leave Kosovo along with his family during the peak of the conflict. Serbian homes were often set on fire. He came back a few years ago and told us there were no words to describe that feeling of coming home.
Back in town, we stopped for ice tea at a terrace bar, sitting facing the street – the way we’ve seen locals do it – and people watched.
We timed it so that we would be able to visit the Sinan Pasha Mosque between prayers. It was built in 1615 and it’s considered to be one of the most beautiful mosques in Kosovo. It underwent restoration a few years back funded largely by Turkey. I personally preferred the local one we visited yesterday – smaller, intimate and beautifully decorated. But this one also had beautiful calligraphy and details – such as the windows’ intricate pattern wood surround.
For lunch, we opted to go back to Besimi. We ordered a large bottle of water, a small salad to share (potatoes; olives; sweet corn and those red peppers we had yesterday) and some freshly backed round bread. I also ordered fli –also known as flia. This was a typical Kosovo specialty I was keen to try. It consists of multiple crepe-like layers brushed with cream, and traditionally it takes hours to make, as the batter repeatedly needs to be layered and baked. It was tasty.
We treated ourselves to ice cream; it’s at least 36c out there today and boarded the tourist train. We had our doubts but were persuaded to give it a go as other people in the group recommended it. The ride takes no longer than 15 minutes and we got to go down streets we hadn’t yet explored – shops full of those amazing dresses we’d seen in Peja, traditional clothing shops (these are primarily for locals rather then tourists) and shoes. We got to see a totally different side to the town, all for €1.50 each.
After a short comfort break back at the hotel, we met up with the group again as Ivan had made an appointment for us to go inside the church of the Virgin of Ljeviš. But as yesterday, we had to contend ourselves with looking at it from the outside. We completed the necessary paperwork with the police officer in charge of the site but both he and Ivan were unable to get hold of the priest. There was a strong siesta rumour going round 🙂
So three of us retired to a bar and people watched some more. We checked a couple of jewellery shops where we admired filigree (‘ornamental work of fine (typically gold or silver) wire formed into delicate tracery’ – source) and antique bracelets.
And then things got serious.
€1 got us into the League of Prizren museum. This is an extremely important place historically. Ivan started our Balkan history lesson the day we crossed into Kosovo. He carried on last night; he had us all sitting down on benches in a public square. We were absorbing his every words (we may be quizzed on this at the end of the trip). And it basically went something like this: to understand the Balkans today, you have to understand what happened during the Kosovo war. To understand what happened during the Kosovo war, you have to understand what happened during the break up of Yugoslavia. To understand what happened during the break up of Yugoslavia, you have to understand what happened during the Second World War. To understand what happened during the Second World War, you have to understand what happened during the First World War. To understand what happened during the First World War, you have to understand what happened at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. The Congress of Berlin is what got us to this museum today. The Treaty of Prizren in June 1878 basically identified Albania groups of different religions as one nationality.
The museum was a little dry and there were copies of letters from diplomats reacting to the Treaty (hence today’s title) but we did feel a sense of history.
The other building contained some old clothing from the various regions, and an art gallery.
Wandering the back streets, we came across local mosques, and older houses with intricate details. A man approached me and in French, started telling me about the state of some of the houses. In the past, seven brothers used to live in one of the houses, now one of them comes back once a year for two to three weeks but he isn’t spending any money of the house, and soon the roof will cave in.
The best t-shirt of the day was this kid wearing a ‘I’m Albanian and I cannot keep calm’ t-shirt. Funny.
At 7pm, we left the hotel. Andy for the fortress to go and have a look at sunset and me for dinner with the group. Let’s be clear on this: I was on social duties. Marashi is local restaurant by the river. We had some great local food – fried cheese; a village salad; rough country bread (crisp outside but moist inside); a yogurt dip and white Albanian wine. It was a very relaxed affair. Good food; great company.
On our walk back to the hotel, we were again surprised by the number of people in the street. All ages are out and about every night – watching and being watched. The obligatory evening constitutional.