My Kosovo Experience

Article published on Dec. 16, 2009
Article published on Dec. 16, 2009
Written by: Andrijana Papic Photos: Andrijana Papic Prishtina is not one of the top 10 touristic summer destinations, but given the fact that I come from the multicultural Macedonian society, visiting Kosovo was a cultural challenge for me.
Until my Kosovo experience I didn’t know any Albanians nor Kosovars – except for Fidan, a Kosovar I met by chance in Skopje – and the curiosity about how things really function there made me apply for the 9th Prishtina Summer Univeristy, which was organized for the first time under the Prishtina University auspices (until this year, the organizing of PSU was in the hands of the SPARK organization). Things were easier, of course, thanks to where I found all the necessary information.

My father was worried about me going there alone with my Serbian surname while I was worried that getting a stamp in my passport, would make it impossible for me to go to Serbia again. Luckily, I asked the customs officer not to stamp my passport, and now except for the photos, I don’t have any legal evidence that I was in Kosovo. However, after the two-hour trip to Prishtina, I felt relieved to see the familiar face of Fidan, smiling to me at the bus station. For two euros we got a cab to the dormitory which would be our home in the next three weeks. The dormitory was a newly renovated big building, satisfactorily clean, under the watch of three or four kind security guards saying Mirëdita every time you leave or enter the building. I had a single room and I shared the bathroom with two nice Albanian girls. My everyday routine was beginning at around 8 a.m. with a breakfast in the student’s restaurant which was only 2 minutes away from the dorms, followed by a three-hour lecture until lunch at 1 p.m. The afternoon scenarios were different, but most often we would gather in one of the rooms, discussing, laughing…or we would just take a nap. In the beginning, our biggest concern was the hot water, which due to the water regime, was available only for two hours in the afternoon. At first, it was unusual and panicky not to have hot water all day long, but after couple of days we got used to having a time-limited shower, usually followed by a dinner.

Prishtina is a developing city. Apart from the several really old mosques, the imposing Library and the Newborn sculpture in the very centre of the city, there aren’t many other architectural achievements that Prishtina can brag about. A huge percent of the population are young people who spend their nights and days in the myriad of small, stylish but stylistically different cafes, drinking countless cups of coffee and mugs of Peja beer (Peja is the Albanian name for the city of Pech). Our favourites were Tingle-Tangle with its painted walls and tastefully mixed pieces of furniture, then Traffic and the one and only Aurora, our final station where we would usually have a vegetarian pizza or burek (I wouldn’t recommend the pancakes) before climbing the steps to the dorms and taking advantage of the low water pressure – before it disappears – to brush our teeth. There are also several exclusive open-air discotheques, resounding with hip-hop and R&B music, and one night we were lucky to enjoy the musical performance of a band in the Depot club, harking back to the Macedonian folklore music.

The promenade, which reminded me of the one we have in Bitola, is named after Mother Theresa and leads to the National Theatre and the modern Government building. Besides the ploughed up streets, the prices are another thing that Skopje and Prishtina have in common, meaning that Prishtina is another paradise in the Balkans for the adventurous souls coming from the Western countries. My personal impression was that the city of Prishtina is a bit cleaner that my capital city, but it is couldn’t be matched when it comes to breaking the speed limit.

As far as the educational element is concerned, this year Prishtina Summer University has offered 16 different courses, covering issues mainly in the field of economics, politics and leadership, but there were as well, courses about archaeology, medicine and the one I attended was entitled The gender issues in the educational leadership. The concept of every course included one local and one international professor. The local professor in my course was nice, forthright and forthcoming lady who unfortunately didn’t speak English well enough to communicate easily with me and the girl from Novi Sad as we were the only non-Albanian speakers. However, she facilitated the understanding for the Albanian students who, according to those participating for the second or third time, were so far represented in the highest percentage.

The international professor impressed me. She was a 60-year old Canadian, eager to share with us her experience and knowledge. The lectures got me out of bed every single morning, the debates were amazingly inspiring and constructive, and the preparation of the final presentation, that my group and I have envisioned as a play, is an unforgettable memory…we had so much fun! When we weren’t discussing in the classroom, we were either sharing ideas in the nearby cafes or on the lawn in front of the University. The discussions easily turned into girl talks – as the two boys who attended the course, quit earlier – and being among those girls made me feel great as we all shared the same dreams and expectations of life, regardless of our nationality, our background and actual setting (some of them live in New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, etc.).

However, my favourite place for hanging out was the student’s restaurant. This was not so much for the food as for the long dining tables covered with blue platters where one would simply start a conversation or deepen the already made friendships.

Prishtina may not be the centre of the architectural creativity, but the old part of Prizren is delight to the eyes with its hamams, old houses, lovable cafes… and over thirty mosques you can count from the fortress raising above the city. The weekends were reserved for excursions. Apart from Prizren, we also visited the city of Peja (on the way to the city, we noticed the Patriarchy of Peja, guarded by armed soldiers, where one can enter only by showing a non-Albanian passport!), the grand canyon of Rugova murmuring along the road, the historically significant city of Prekaz, the magnificent Mirusha Waterfalls and the artificial lake of Batlava. Prishtina may be the heart of Kosovo, but these natural beauties are its soul.

Those three weeks rolled by very quickly. The beer, the waterfalls, the national evening, the talks with Aurelija on her balcony at sunset, the gatherings in the rooms before going out are so far, the lasting memories. There were participants from several European countries, including Germany, France, Sweden, Netherlands, Romania, Lithuania, Russia and one exotic native of Thailand, as well as more than 30 people coming from Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. However, the separation between the Serbs and the Albanians was evident. Therefore, I believe that events of this type are essential for young people because only personal experiences can erase the boundaries and weaken the stereotypes that distance us from the others and make us learn that generalizing isn’t the best approach.

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