Prishtina, capital of one of Europe’s younger nations, Kosovo, is, legitimately but regrettably, entirely associated with war and tragedy in the international consciousness. News reports from the conflict in the Balkans and the ethnic cleansing which Kosovan Albanians were subjected to are planted indelibly in most people’s minds. Mercifully, this was just one chapter in Prishtina’s history. It has a proud back story as a medieval centre of trade and industry, and a go-getting, carpe diem mentality today, fuelled by some much-needed external investment and burgeoning infrastructure.
No-one would accuse downtown Prishtina of being pretty, and negotiating its shambles of former Yugoslavian crumbling concrete blocks is a culture shock by car or by foot. Little by little, though, the humanity and friendliness of the place creeps in, and the fascinating little shops and frenetic café culture begin to make the city liveable.
Kosovo needs, and deserves to have, a spike in tourist numbers, and has admirably few restrictions to entry for many foreign visitors (take note, Azerbaijan and Belarus!) The first thing to strike anyone external to the region is the incredibly reasonable pricing of everything. Enjoying the hearty and tasty local cuisine, as well as capable international offerings, especially Thai and Italian, costs next to nothing. Harking back to its fourteenth century roots as a craft village, silver filigree is having a moment in Prishtina. This artisan product is widely acknowledged as some of the best of its kind in the world, but at a fraction of what you might expect to pay elsewhere.
Three Things That Everyone Must Know About Prishtina
British and American nationals can expect to get a very warm welcome in Prishtina. Kosovans consider the UK and USA to be their saviours in many ways, and their gratitude is visible all over the city, most notably in a gaudy, incongruous, and totally brilliant eleven foot tall statue of President Bill Clinton, a hero in Kosovo. The clue to where to find the statue is in the name, it’s on Bill Clinton Boulevard, and leading off from it is George Bush Street. Like so many experiences in Kosovo, seeing it is surreal, surprising and endearing.
Within a theoretical hour’s drive of Prishtina (factor in jaw-droppingly insane and unpredictable traffic) are the beautiful Šar mountains which form one of Europe’s last remaining true wildernesses. Rare though they may be now, bears and wolves still roam here, as well as plenty of deer and foxes. The increasingly winding, verdant scenery on the main highway from the capital to the Macedonian border crossing is breathtaking.
There’s precious little disposable income for most denizens of Prishtina, so free pastimes are popular. One of the best for the attractive local youths and families is an evening stroll along Mother Teresa Boulevard. A number of major hotels, leading restaurants and government ministries are dotted along this long pedestrianized precinct anyway, so it’s a natural meeting point for the city. There are kids jumping in and out of the fountains and plenty of impromptu street performances. It’s the beating heart of this city in recovery.
Phileas French for Today's Growth Consultant