Most people have no idea where KOSOVO is on a map or what language is spoken or the history of that country. It’s complex, it’s tense and it’s poor by European standards with high unemployment, and still trying to recover from past conflicts….BUT, I have to say it has some of the most incredible Autumn Mountain Vistas I have ever witnessed on a motorcycle. The neon bright foliage of reds and yellows and oranges and lime greens against the glowing bright greenish blue lake and dotted red roof houses was absolutely spectacular to witness!
The moment you drive past the border and into Kosovo you feel a kind of apprehensive vibe. The clock ticks differently here….like their way of life has not quite caught up with the rest of the world. Kosovo is a disputed territory and a partially recognized state. I know this for fact because when we tried to cross the border to take a 30 mile stretch across Serbia to Montenegro we were denied entry into Serbia because they did not recognize Kosovo as a country, although we had already been into Serbia before. So, we had to double back about 60 km to enter directly into Montenegro…complicated yes, and even more silly since the Kosovo border patrol agreed with us, while shaking their heads apologetically.
Although that sidetrack gave us some unexpected additional time riding, it turned out to be an incredibly beautiful ride of which is embossed into my mind’s eye as the positive aspects of this forlorn place. Kosovo is landlocked in the central Balkan Peninsula and surrounded by Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania. The largest city and capital is Prishtina which we circumvented coming south from Macedonia. Nearly the entire way to Vushtrri (where we stayed at a very nice typical modern Bavarian style hotel) it was ‘PISSING RAIN’ as Mark, my Brit friend and driver described it! So we moved slowly and with caution as we weaved our way through the highways, NOT autobahns which were few and far between, making traffic horrendous! We got totally soaked from head to toe, that’s for sure! But so worth it!!
Once we decided on our hotel and unloaded (a daily chore) and relaxed, we joined the locals in the hotel restaurant. We each had a delicious traditional ‘Meat Dish’ and talked with the local waiter whom spoke pretty good English having lived in Swiss Cottage, London. It always amazes me how many people speak our native English…we are blessed! Kosovo cuisine is significantly influenced by Turkish, Greek, Albanian and Balkan cuisine. A few recognizable dishes include pies, kebab, sausages, lamb, stuffed peppers and cabbage, beans, pita bread and rice. There were many interesting road side markets that we zipped past along with locals selling road side food like dried peppers or fresh fruit.
The villages were small, but the corn fields were big. There was lots of space to expand the agricultural land for farming and ranch animals to help provide for their people. We often ran across a herder with his flock of sheep but we also drove past soooo many ‘started but not finished’ abandoned houses and commercial buildings empty and crumbling and in the middle of no where. There was large roadside trash just left on the highways and quite a number of automobile wrecking yards. My heart always felt heavy while in this country and it’s desolate disposition for modern 2016…it just felt unfair when there is so much wealth in the world. Greed sucks.
Since their independence in 2008 Kosovo’s economy has grown some each year, with less effect from the global crisis due to low level of government debt, and the strength of its banking system. Sadly, beautiful Kosovo continues as one of the poorest areas of Europe, with as much as 45% of the population living below the official poverty line, and 17% being extremely poor even with it’s potential strengths. And unfortunately it does not go unnoticed….not an easy thing to swallow for the faint of heart.
There were a few times when I felt down right FREAKY DEAKY about Kosovo because of something you might not normally see anywhere else in the western world. The TANK sign or the odd unattended graveyards just off the highway, plus the furry little bugs or the weirdo road sign and the partly abandoned eerie villages! That combination of things just didn’t sit well with me…but there is more…
If you really want to piss me off….then you stand a few yards away from a STARVING PUPPY, while you are gulping down a huge meat sandwich and it never crosses your mind to give a piece of your food to that poor helpless animal. When I saw this pathetic site, I grabbed all the food we had and approached the sickly yapping puppy as it sat off the highway and gave it all we had, sad, so very sad. The number of starving to death ‘no hair left’ dogs and cats with mange and bones showing through, and no one even gives a damn, is what pushed me to the edge…but there’s more…
You give a child a man’s job because you…..?????…..and it doesn’t matter what the reason. When I travel, I TRY NOT TO JUDGE but sometimes my big mouth American upbringing just can’t help it. If the animals are treated so poorly I can only imagine the children and the life they have to look forward too. Rant over….
Was it BEAUTIFUL….ABSOLUTELY. Would I recommend it….I’ll recommend anywhere that opens your eyes to the world and other realities. Would I go back, maybe. But it would not be a top priority. I thank the people whom I met for their kindness and expression of the pride for their country and hope their future is bright. Carry on…