Initially a visit to Kosovo never figured in my Balkan plans. But as it happens, and especially as it happens in the Balkans, the route took on a life of its own. I was researching ways of getting from BiH to Macedonia (the only country I hadn’t yet visited in the Balkans). Gradually it became clear that the only route that made sense had to go through Kosovo. And suddenly I realised that I was simply obliged to stay in Pristina for a day and to see what it’s all about. What is Kosovo anyway?
Apart from the obvious – the war with Serbia – my only association with Kosovo was the presence of a legion of international workers, as well as various horror stories in the press about Kosovo mafia, going all the way to human organ trafficking.
But Pristina met me with tranquility and silence that immediately confounded my stereotypes. On a hot day the main Pristina pedestrian thoroughfare looks like any other broad and empty street anywhere in the world eaten by the scorching sun at a random midday:
A paradox: the main boulevard of a resolutely Muslim country bears the name of a Catholic nun. The favourite game of recent statehoods is fighting for the building blocks of identity. Malaysia fights Singapore and Indonesia for batik and chilli crab. In the Southern Balkans it is Mother Theresa who has become an apple of discord (as if there weren’t apples of discord enough). She was born in Skopje to an Albanian mother and an apparently Aromanian father, himself born in what is now Kosovo. Who owns her? In the Balkans – everybody! And so she gets the main boulevard of Pristina named after her, and her statue graces a tiny park in the middle. Two likenesses of Ibrahim Rugova, considered here the Father of the Nation, flank both ends of the boulevard, lest you forget who really controls the place.
Continue reading One day in Kosovo