Thursday, September 28, 2017

Prizren, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo
9 - 10 Sept 2017

We continued our journey of the Balkans from Skopje to Prizren by bus (4pm, 550 MKD) which we bought from the Skopje International bus station the previous day.  The border control is just about 30 mins away at Elez Han. We got our passports stamped here. As Malaysians, we didn't require a visa to enter Kosovo. The journey took about 3 hours. We arrived at Prizren around 7pm. Then we walked from the bus station to Hotel Antika (EUR 31.50 or RM 161/ per room / night through which took us about 20 mins (1.2 km).

Hotel Antika

After freshening up a bit, we set out to find dinner. It wasn't difficult to get a halal meal as more than 90% of the Kosovo population are Muslim. The currency used here is Euro, so we didn't have to convert our money. Kosovo is a disputed territory and still claimed by Serbia.

From our hotel, we took the "less happening street" as there seemed to be not much of activity there. We settled at a cafe and had meat with bread for dinner.

the cafe where we had dinner

our dinner (3 EUR)
the less happening side of the street

Apparently, we had made a wrong turn from the hotel. We decided to check out the other side of street, i.e turning to the right from our hotel and we landed right in the heart of buzzling activity. There were restaurants, cafe and shops and crowds of people. The river Bristica flows through the city giving it a charming atmosphere with old mosques and monasteries scattered around. Just next to the Bristica river is the Sinan Pasha mosque.

here is where the action is
river Bristica at night

restaurant by the river
bridge across Bristica river

Sinan Pasha mosque by the Bristica river and bridge

Sinan Pasha mosque

We woke up early the next morning at the sound of the Subuh (dawn) call to prayer. As soon as there was daylight, we set off to climb up the Kalaja fortress. It was first built in the 11th century during the Byzantine empire. Before we climbed, we checked for opening hours, which said it was opened 24 hours. Unfortunately, when we reached at the entrance, the gate was closed. No one else was around there yet. Perhaps there was indeed an opening hour, but we could not confirm it as we left the fort when the gate was still closed. We took about 20 minutes to climb up. The elevation is about 100m from our hotel.

All was not lost, as the view of Prizren city from atop the Kalaja fortress was marvellous with the river, buildings, historical mosques and churches in the vicinity. One of the churches, the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa is a Unesco World Heritage site, which we would pay a visit on our way down later.

route up to Kalaja fortress

Kalaja fortress

view of Prizren city and Britstica river

another view of Prizren city from Kalaja fortress

a church on the hill

way down

Back at the city within 15 minutes, we visited the Sinan Pasha mosque. But the mosque was also closed, so we visited its beautiful garden only. The mosque was built in 1615 by Sofi Sinan Pasha.

Sinan Pasha mosque
Sinan Pasha mosque

garden inside Sinan Pasha mosque

beatiful garden inside Sinan Pasha mosque

bridge over Bristica river

beautiful Bristica river

We stopped by at our hotel to have breakfast (included in our room rates) . The meat is halal.

Our breakfast at Hotel Antika

medieval decor at the hotel cafe - that's the Albanian flag though

After breakfast, we walked to the Unesco Heritage Site- Church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa which is listed under Medieval monuments in Kosovo It is a 14th century Serbian Orthodox church, then converted to a mosque during the Ottoman empire, then back into a church. (Taken from Wikipedia). During our visit, it was closed for restoration works.

unique design of the Church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa
Church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa

Shops open early in Prizren at 8am, so we did some souvenir shopping after that, before packing our stuff to continue our journey to Valbona, Albania. It's a shame that we spent too short a time in the lovely city of Prizren as our plan was to arrive earlier the day before at 2pm. But there was only the 4pm bus from Skopje to Prizren on weekends. So do check the bus schedule before planning your journey.

Our journey from Prizren to Valbona turned out to be one of the most challenging leg of our Balkan trip. Stay tuned to find out why.

souvenir shop
Prizren bus station



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