One of the newest countries in the world, all I knew about Kosovo were the wars of the late nineties. It has so much to offer visitors though, including historic architecture and scenic mountains. There are seperate posts to come on it’s main two cities (the capital Prishtina and the wonderful Prizren) but here’s a taster of other areas of this small but fascinating country.
Dating back in part to the 12th century, this is an unusual monastery as it has four churches, built next to each other to form one building. Photography isn’t allowed inside but the frescoes are impressive and atmospheric. The monastery area itself was wonderfully tranquil, but is it surrounded by a sizeable wall built in 2005 and guarded by the police, as a Serbian Orthodox monastery in Kosovo (given understandable tensions from the Kosovo War).
Close to Peja, the Rugova Mountains are like a slice of the Alps in Kosovo, with rolling hills, small villages and cattle. Tourism is very new to this part of the world, with the first outside visitors in 2009 after investment in tracks and guest houses. We went for a ~9km loop walk from Drelaj, visiting several villages for drinks and later lunch. It was fascinating if harrowing to hear about their experiences during the war in 1998-1999 when Serbian soldiers destroyed everything they had, and forced them to leave the country.
Mosque of Fetei Hanum
The main mosque of Gjakova, originally built in 1592 but rebuilt (with funding randomly from Hewlett-Packard) after it was badly damaged by Serbs during the Kosovo War. It’s not a huge mosque but nicely detailed and we had a fascinating hour with the city Imam gaining an understanding of the history and operation of the mosque, and Muslim practices in Kosovo.
Home to some of the best preserved church frescos I’ve ever seen, untouched since the 14th century. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside, but the outside and monastery were very pleasant. There was also the novelty factor of having armed NATO peacekeepers protecting the site, a sad reminder of the state of unrest that continues long after the wars of the late nineties.
A moderately interesting town in Kosovo, useful as a base for exploring the region. In the town itself there are some reasonable mosques and churches, but the highlight for me were views over the city from a nearby hill as the sun set.