Feb 142013

Got to our hotel, the Swiss Diamond Hotel Pristina, and check-in was a breeze. Hotel was quite nice, staff were friendly, and the room was quite nicely furnished as well. Overall, very impressed!  The front desk staff pointed us to some major areas to walk and where we might find a bar serving drinks, and overall were quite helpful.  Just a few thoughts on the hotel:

Breakfast was included and was quite comprehensive.  Set up in what looked to be a ballroom or conference room, there were several stations including eggs to order, all sorts of breads and pastries, cold meats and cheese, salads, hot meats, you name it.  Quite a good breakfast, and included in the rate.  The only downside was trying to get coffee, as it was quite hold to find servers.  Overall though, it was quite good.

Our room also had a balcony overlooking the city, with a pretty cool view:


We wandered around the immediate area of the hotel for 30 minutes, and finally found a bar that was serving still.  Beers were quite cheap, plenty of English were spoken, and people were quite friendly.  The only real downside was the smoke.  The concept of non-smoking doesn’t seem to exist in Pristina, and we could only manage to stay around an hour before lack of sleep and the smoke caught up with us.

Next morning, was up early for breakfast, and a walk around the city.  Plan was to wander, get lunch, and then make our way to Skopje, Macedonia via either train or bus.  The hotel claimed the train wasn’t running (although sites online say differently) so we planned on the bus.  Supposedly they ran every 30 minutes or so, so we could go whenever we were ready.  With a two-ish hour trip including waiting at the border, we figured we’d head there mid-afternoon to get in before dark and explore before dinner.

Out of the hotel, we wandered a bit and first came upon an old abandoned church.  There was nothing inside but rubble, but it appeared to be under restoration:



Next on the walk was the University of Kosovo, and it’s rather architecturally odd library:



On one of the University buildings was some pro-independence graffiti:


After strolling around the university a bit more, we headed towards George Bush Boulevard, and after a short walk we found ourselves at Bill Clinton Boulevard.  Can you guess who’s a bit popular here?  Must be one of the last places on earth Americans are still treated like heroes.  Clinton was especially popular, with his own street:


Complete with mural on the side of a building and statue!





We continued our walk around the city, coming across this rather unusual artwork.  Big block letters of “NEWBORN” – I assume it has something to do with the newborn status of Kosovo as a nation (depending who you ask) but wasn’t able to find out more details.



Little bit more of a walk, and one thing we were noticing was the glut of provocative advertising around the city.  Sex seems to sell airline tickets, and hey, I always put on my nicest dress when I’m trying to sell a battery don’t you?





By this point it was nearly noon, and jetlag was catching up with me in a fierce way.  Fortunately, high-quality espresso was easy to come by.  It was just warm enough outside (maybe 10C) to sit on the lanai and people watch while trying to refuel.  Note all the Kosovo flags.



We walked a little more, before finding a small restaurant on a main street whose name unfortunately I lost.  They were near the hotel, had good pizzas, and most importantly due to all the smoke they had outdoor seating where we could enjoy a local beer and do some serious people watching while eating.  Oh, and they were extremely cheap.  I think two pizzas and two beers were around 15 euro max.


After lunch our last stop was to get some waters and snacks before heading to the bus station.  We stopped at a small grocery store, and I couldn’t resist it…it was Kosovo so time to have a Kiki!


Got back to the hotel, checked out, and had the hotel call us a cab.  5 euro he’d take us to the bus station…then the sales pitch started.  Where are you going?  Why are you taking the bus there?  I drive a nice Mercedes, I can take you there.  We negotiated with him, and decided that for two hours of going it was well worth the extra to take the taxi we were already in all the way to our hotel in Macedonia.  We settled on 50 euro, and were off.  It was around 30-40 euro total more than we’d planned on, but for two hours of comfort it was well worth it.

Especially when we got near the border.  There was an hour or longer queue to cross, and the journey ended up taking us nearly three hours total.  Again, the Macedonians were quite suspicious of a South African passport, but maybe 5 or so minutes later we were on our way.  Thanks to the iPhone we helped the driver find our hotel…the glamourous Holiday Inn Skopje, and it was time to settle in and start exploring!

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