The non-profit American Tourism Society holds its fall conference in Kosovo this week to promote the country as an emerging destination. The conference includes an excursion to Prizren, a city with vast appeal.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Prizren – 25/10/10 Photos by Laura Hasani
Multiculturalism is a trademark of Prizren, Kosovo.
The southern city of Prizren is dubbed an open air museum, so rich is its multicultural history. It and its larger municipality, which includes dozens of surrounding villages, offers stunning scenery, tucked as it is on the slopes of the Sharr Mountains and the banks of Bistrica River, bordering Albania and Macedonia.
A mixture of oriental continental cuisine, is served in a restaurant near the river.
Craftsmen offer gold and silver jewelry, embroidered goods, textiles, and much more. Work continues in the kiosks and small wooden shops until the sun sets behind the mountains. People stroll the stone streets by the river, generating a comfortable rumble of various languages.
The Bistrica River runs through Prizren.
"Respecting each other, that's how we adapt," says resident Fahrudin Amza, 40. He and his son serve Prizren boza, a sweet, cold drink, and ice cream at their bar.
Though there have been glaring exceptions, as during the 1998-1999 fighting, "there has [generally] been harmony among people," Albanian Catholic Ndue Paluca told SETimes. "It's people who have established and preserved it."
Amza came to Prizren 28 years ago from Dragash. He is a member of the minority Gorani community, a Muslim group whose language is a mixture of Macedonian, Bulgarian and Serbian. But Amza and his family also speak Albanian, and his children go to an Albanian school.
Prizren’s Sinan Pasha Mosque.
Many people in Prizren, like Amza, are multilingual. Bekim Dili, a Bosnian, who works as a waiter in an Albanian-owned coffee bar, also speaks Albanian.
"Prizren is a united city, a city of everyone," Dili said as he serves a bar full of ethnic Albanians, Bosnians and Turks.
Edis Shekaxhiu is one of the young ethnic Turks in Prizren. A recent graduate of a university in Turkey, he has returned to his hometown, where the Turkish community is influential. The 24-year-old architect believes Prizren is a traditional town that has managed to preserve its identity.
The coffee bar is next to the old Sinan Pasha Mosque, one of Prizren's most magnificent. From the bar, one can look up the hill and see churches and monasteries, Catholic and Orthodox.
The Saint George Church is in the middle of one of Prizren's Kalldrem, a Turkish term for stone streets. It is one of the oldest Orthodox churches in the city.
The narrow streets are cobblestone in historic Prizren.
Father Teodor was recently assigned there from Belgrade. He says he likes the city and feels safe there.
Alajdin Shala is a member of the Kosovo police, serving at the church. He and his colleagues are working to ensure that all is well with the priests and the church, which was targeted by Albanians in the unrest of March 2004.
Late afternoon comes and it's time to try Prizren's famous qebapa, which one connoisseur described online as "a meaty bundle of joy".
Locals recommend a small place that faces one of river's main bridges to try a hot and tasty pastry, burek, with meat, cabbage or cheese.
There's a legend in Prizren, that drinking from the cold fountain in the middle of the Shadervan, the main square downtown, will ensure a return trip to the beautiful city.
"If you do [drink Shadrevan water], you will come again and again," says Paluca, sipping his drink of choice, boza. "That's what people say here."
The downtown area is dotted with shops, bars and restaurants.