What a surprise! Prizren, Kosovo, is a chocolate box town that looks like Switzerland, albeit with a few minarets thrown in. This is a city where ethnic riots broke out as recently as 2004, yet strolling around its beautiful riverside promenade filled with bustling cafes you wouldn’t know. Sitting on a sunny bench in the gentle autumn afternoon light, we watched men trickling into a beautiful square, washing their feet on the fountain and many giving Naira a smile before heading into the mosque. So peaceful.
With lots of Turkish tourists coming here, Prizren has a few excellent Baklava places where it tastes nothing like the stuff we get in the UK. In the interest of cultural experience, I tried some (yet again!). It’s crispy, buttery taste brings water to my mouth even as I write about it now.
Meandering through the town, we came across a strange one story wooden building, looking old fashioned but clearly recently renovated. A curious peek in the windows revealed more than 10 coffins, all draped with green cloth. Puzzled, we asked the nearby tourist information: it was a Sufi Muslim place of worship, called a Tekke where Dervishes dance to connect spiritually with God. Selected believers can visit the coffins of the former sufi leaders to make a special wish, which are in the coffin hall we saw.
Keen to find out more about this city’s fascinating history, we asked the Manager at the tourist office to do a city (Www.sharriecotour.com or 0037745359480). Being born and bred in Prizren, she not only showed us the historical sites in this cobblestoned city but also shared what it was like to live in a place where history seemed to change its course every few years, peppering her explanation with fascinating anecdotes about life in Kosovo. I started this excellent tour exhausted due to Naira’s night time antics but left it energised and inspired.
Along the way, we bumped into two Swiss KFOR peace keeping soldiers who said they are on their way zum “,Gsproechle’ (have a coffee chat) with the locals to feel the pulse” and establish how much tension there is between Serbians and Albanians. Great to meet fellow countrymen with a special insight into Kosovo society, but it is easy to forget that KFOR soldiers contributed to a sharp increase of human trafficking from Eastern Europe to supply the prostitution market.
Practicalities: we stayed in the lovely Prizren Hotel, the city is walkable. Forts, churches, mosques – you name it, any monument you desire is here. Only a few hours drive from Prishtina’s international airport.
How to make the most of this town: take a tour, try Turkish specialties (kebabs or Turkish tea), get lost in the cobblestone streets.
Practicalities: easy to get to by bus, need to take a taxi to town from the bus station. No smoking in cafes so perfect for babies but no baby changing as everywhere in the Balkans. Also, very steep cobblestone streets so better with baby carrier than pram.
Babyfriendliness:***** no mod con baby facilities (baby changing, baby chairs in restaurant), but the sheer love of babies we experienced in Kosovo and the outstanding helpfulness of everyone we met makes up for it ten times.