Kosovo: Day 1
Long-term ethnic tensions between Kosovo’s Albanian and Serb populations left the “province” ethnically divided, resulting in inter-ethnic violence culminating in the Kosovo War of 1998-1999. This is yet another war in this region that occurred in our very recent past. Even my own daughter was alive and hearing/learning about this war that is how recent it was. Even today the remnants of the Kosovo War are still fresh. For one, Serbia still refuses to recognize the Republic of Kosovo as an independent country despite Kosovo’s declaration of its independence in 2008. Moreover, some UN member countries also refuse to recognize it as independent from Serbia including, without limitation, Spain. This causes problems for residents of Kosovo who can’t get visas to travel to a number of different countries. And, for me and other travelers, we have to try and avoid getting a passport stamp when entering and exiting Kosovo if we hope to be able to return to Serbia. In fact, it has been suggested that I will have to go through Macedonia if I want to get back into Serbia so clearly this conflict is far from over. Furthermore, it is clear from the high unemployment and the poverty in the country that the Kosovans have not completely recuperated from these very recent conflicts. As we inch toward the border I look forward to seeing what, if anything, happens entering what is Country No. 53 despite what Serbia, Spain, and others think as the United States, my country, does diplomatically recognize Kosovo’s independence and status as it’s very own country.
Second observation is that the roads really need some work and bridges are narrow and most importantly, this is going to be an adventure.
I was so blessed on the bus ride in to have met a native Kosovan and a famous one at that – Meritone Bobaj. He is a champion to the Kosovans in snowboarding and also does kite surfing and downhill mountain biking among other extreme sports. His successes and failures are highly publicized here and online and in magazines. He was handsome and friendly and gave me guidance for my trip through the Balkans and even called the hotel to make sure a taxi picked me up and got me safely to hotel as it was 3:30 am when I arrived at the bus station. He was by far the most interesting person I have met on my travels. He filled me in on the history of Kosovo, the fact that he was formerly a civil engineer with many opinions about what happened with the World Trade Center buildings on 9-11, the difficulties of getting visas to travel given his country’s status as sort of independent and lack of diplomatic recognition by some members of the UN and of course Serbia.
As I said early early arrival via bus so I checked in at Hotel Andria and went straight to sleep. The cab ride was 3€ and hotel is 35€ per night just FYI. Also, there are no trains since 1999 to Kosovo from Serbia so bus is the only way to go. The border was easy although the only customs folks I couldn’t get to smile or talk to me in all my travels thus far. Maybe this is a result of where I’m coming from ie Serbia.
That’s all for now. From Kosovo with love.