Prizren

Prizren, in Kosovo, is a pretty city of mosques and monasteries dating to the 14th century. Happily spared (mostly) from both the "destroy the old, build the new" drive of the communists during the early years of their rule in Yugoslavia, as well as the ethnic and religious atrocities that plagued the Western Balkans in the last decade of the 20th century, Prizren has the best-preserved old town in the country by far, and is often referred to as the cultural capital of Kosovo.

Understand

Old town of Prizren

Clinging to the slopes of the lush Sharr Mountains, and divided by the river Bistrica (Serbian for "clear waters", which is more of a wishful thinking than a precise description nowadays), Prizren, including its modern suburbs, is home to about 180,000 people, making it the second largest city in the country, after Pristina, the capital. The majority of the population is, as with most of the rest of Kosovo, the ethnic Albanians, but there is a Turkish community as well (most of the Turks of Kosovo live in and around Prizren). As such, the usual duo of Albanian and Serbian you'll see on the street and road signs in the country are complemented here by Turkish, which can be freely used particularly in the old town, even on the conversations with the Albanians. The local Serbs have left the city in the aftermath of the Kosovo War of 199899, when Kosovo was de facto detached from Serbia, with their charred houses standing vacant on the upper streets leading to the fortress.

Prizren is also where the Albanian national awakening began, as the League of Prizren, a political organization for defending the rights of the Albanians, was founded here in 1878.

Get in

The best way to get to Prizren is by bus from Pristina (€4, 2 hours or a little less than that). You can also take buses from Peja (3 euro) where the famous Serbian monasteries are located. You can also catch a bus from Skopje. Most bus companies that run from Istanbul to Pristina continue onward and terminate in Prizren. There are several direct buses from Belgrade (7hours, 1 day bus & 2 night busses, run by Kosovo Albanian companies, cost about 10 Euro, stops depending on the route in Nis or Kruševac, Pristina and other towns on the road, information dates from February 2005).

From Albania, there are two good ways

The main event in the town is yearly international documentary DOKUFEST and short film festival held in August.

Daytripping from Skopje

With direct buses from Skopje arriving in the evening, and making their return in the morning, a day-trip from Skopje may not seem possible, but if you put some thought and effort into it, you'll realize it's entirely feasible. Read on:

Take the 6:00 in the morning bus from Skopje to Pristina. If the bus is not very crowded (and it doesn't seem to be at least in the weekdays), you won't lose much time in the border, and arrive in the bus station of Pristina just in time for the 8:20 bus to Prizren. (You could have got off in Ferizaj on the way at 7:30, but you'll need a lot of creativity to spend time there until the departure of the next bus to Prizren at 9:15.) This bus will arrive in Prizren at about 10:15.

Upon returning, the last bus to Skopje leaves Pristina at 17:00, making a stop at Ferizaj bus station at about 18:00. This means that you'll have to catch the latest the 13:45 bus to Pristina from Prizren (which will let you stroll around Pristina for a little more than an hour—to spare more time for Pristina, take the 13:00 bus), or the 17:00 bus to Ferizaj (and pray it arrives in its scheduled time of 18:00, and doesn't miss the last bus to Skopje—the 14:30 bus, which arrives in Ferizaj at 16:10, is probably a better bet). Note that the evening bus to Skopje is often almost completely full by the time it arrives in Ferizaj, which means that, should you decide to take it there, you may have to travel standing for part of the route, and then take a taxi in a village near the border for the rest of the route to Skopje, perhaps because of a rule regulating border crossings.

Get around

From the bus station everything is within walking distance

See

Shadervan Square in wintertime
Our Lady of Ljevis

Around Prizren

Do

Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hammam

Events

In August the town hosts the Dokufest International Documentary and Short Film Festival www.dokufest.com. During the Festival the town is full of people and various parties go late at night in the bars.

Buy

There are few traditional crafts that are still practiced in Prizren and the surrounding area. In Prishtina, there are some women's cooperatives selling carpets and embroideries, and there may be one or two in Prizren as well. Ask around and someone will be able to direct you. The most traditional craft for Prizren itself has always been filigree. Very ornate pieces are made for traditional local wedding feasts, but more simple pieces are available in any of the shops that line the road leading into town. Poke around and ask to see the older pieces.

Eat

The center of the town is full of barbeque restaurants (qebaptore). Prizren is well known in Kosovo for its barbeques as they make everything right infront of your eyes. In the downtown or in Shadervan you can get plenty of these restaurants.

Drink

There are plenty of coffee shops, bars, and pubs located in the downtown Shadervan. Also, various bakeries exist in the area with the most outstanding pastries and fresh daily specials. There is a nice coffebar "La Linea" just behind the Sinan Pasha's Mosque.

Sleep

There are a number of places to stay in Prizren. The most prominent was the Hotel Therande in the center of town, which as of July 2007 appears to be closed for renovations. The Prizreni is on the road toward Albania, and getting there is another option due the new highway of Albania. It had been used as a collective center for internally displaced after the 1999 conflict and does not seem to have recovered.

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