We thought we had lots of time in Prizren but there always seems to be one more site to see. We got up early to tick one more off before breakfast. One of our travel companions had discovered a tiny church hidden away near the central square so we went to have a look. From the street there isn’t much to see but there are some steps down to the main entrance. Just as we went in a policeman – who should have been guarding it but was actually having a coffee across the street – arrived to tell us very politely we could take photos but please no Facebook. We could only just fit four of us in at the same time.
After breakfast, we left Prizren for the capital Prishtina just over an hour away. Not much to see on the journey. The roads were quiet, fortunately, as the driver spent a lot of the trip texting.
We checked into our hotel and popped into the convenience store opposite. It’s another hot day so an ice cream seemed like a good idea – I had a ‘chocolate bumm’!
Our excursion for the day started with a visit to the Field of Blackbirds, the site of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo. The Serbian armies were defeated (probably) by the superior forces of the Ottoman army. Although not strategically significant the battle has become very important to the history and identity of Serbia. A number of significant later events took place on the same date, including the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip in 1914 that precipitated World War One. There’s very little to see at the site other than a memorial erected in the Yugoslav era. We climbed to the top for an overview of the battlefield and the surrounding area.
Next stop was the grave of Sultan Murad or at least parts of him – his organs rest here, the rest of him is in Turkey. He was the Ottoman leader who was killed in the battle. We had a guided tour of the museum. It’s fair to say the guide’s version of the battle and subsequent events didn’t entirely match any other we’d heard.
After the grave, we headed for another old Serbian monastery. This one is in the town of Gračanica, a few miles away from Prishtina. The town is a small Serbian enclave. We passed a sign telling us we were now under video surveillance. Gračanica has the second largest Serbian population in the country behind Mitrovice. Shops take Serbian dinar, salaries are paid by the Serbian government and street names include Yuri Gagarin and Gavrilo Pricip.
The monastery walls are topped with razor wire. The church itself is again very beautiful inside. It’s very tall and has a unique double cross layout. The walls are covered with frescoes as usual. One wall depicts hell with people being eaten by beasts. Along the bottom of that wall are images warning people against specific sins: a miller who used false weights has a millstone around his neck for eternity; a woman who wouldn’t marry is devoured by a serpent and a blacksmith who worked on a Sunday is tortured by a red hot poker.
On the way to lunch we stopped at the best-known site in the city of Prishtina itself – a three-metre statue of Bill Clinton, at a major intersection on Bill Clinton Avenue. Next to it is a dress shop called Hillary, no mention of Monica nearby.
Lunch is on the edge of the city in Germia Country Park, a large park on the edge of the city. On the way we passed a huge swimming pool packed with locals cooling themselves. Lunch was okay but not very interesting food, more generic Italian than Balkan but this is where all city folks not at the swimming pool were today.
We took taxis back into town and had a quick walk around with our guide. Prishtina is a city of few sites – we saw a statue of Ibrahim Rugova (the first president of Kosovo), a Skanderberg statue and the ‘New Born’ letters.
After the group dispersed, we walked to the National Library. Built in 1986, this Brutalist edifice is an usually decorated building, the outside is covered in a decorative metal frame. On the way back to the hotel we tried to visit the Ethnographic museum but it was closed by then and looked like it hadn’t been open for a while. We walked back to the hotel through a local market that was closing up for the day, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
We had a few hours off, time to read and have a shower then joined some of the group for a glass of wine before dinner. We walked through an exhibit based around ideas of unity of all men with particular emphasis on the Balkans.
Dinner was in a cool place with good food, music and books. Soma Book Station is a vegetarian restaurant. It’s an all rounder: it starts the day with breakfast and coffee, moving through lunch and dinner until it becomes a late night club and bar.