Kosovo, the newest country in Europe, emerged as an independent state in 2008. Its history is as complex as it befits a Balkan state. Formerly apart of Serbia, it is inhabited mainly by Albanians. During its history, it was influenced by Roman and Byzantine Empires, as well as Bulgarians, Serbians and Ottomans ─ all of which have left traces on the cultural heritage of Kosovo. The recognition of Kosovo is a subject of discussion among other countries, although this doesn’t mean one cannot visit and enjoy this beautiful land.
Like other Balkan countries, Kosovo is a patchwork of ethnicities and religions, with Albanian (mainly Muslim) dominating majority, and minorities of Orthodox Serbs as well as Muslim Bosnians and Turks. This diversity is reflected in the historical sights throughout the entire country.
Pristina, the capital city, has a wide selection of old buildings. Curiously, in the centre of the city there is a Bill Clinton Boulevard and a statue of the former American president, proof of the popularity of this American president in Kosovo. Among the places of interest in the capital, there is the Ethnographic Museum and numerous mosques. One of the most remarkable city quarters is the Gypsy district of Gjilan.
Prizren, the oldest town in Kosovo, boasts a plethora of well-preserved Islamic buildings, such as the Turkish Hammam or the Mosque of Sinan Pasha. An impressive mosque dating from the 15th Century is to be found in Gjakova. In the city you can also visit the nice Old Bazaar, a reconstruction of a historic market. The Pec Patriarchy is situated about 2 kilometres from the centre of Peja town, known as Pec in Serbian, and is an important religious site for Orthodox Christians and an interesting tourist attraction, as well. An impressive monastery with beautiful paintings and decorations dates back to the 14th Century. The other outstanding monasteries are located in Decani and Gracanica. The symbol of ethnic divisions in Kosovo is the Bridge in Mitrovica, linking the Serbian and Albanian districts of the city. There are also several interesting castles to visit in Kosovo, especially the ones in Prizren, Artana or Decan.
Kosovo also has impressive natural attractions, such as the Rugova Gorge, which is located north-west of Peja. The extremely scenic mountain gorge has steep walls, reaching as high as 300 metres. Another great attraction is the Marble Cave in Gadime-Lipjan. Also, there are good conditions to ski in Kosovo. Though the skiing facilities are not among the most modern, there are excellent slopes, for example, around Brezovica. A large area of the country is covered with mountains, which are dotted with lakes, which are perfect for hikers. While hiking or simply walking around, it’s recommended to use the paths or pavements, as there is a possibility to step on a mine. However, the risk is similar as in other countries of the hot Balkan region and it shouldn’t discourage you from visiting this attractive land.
While in Kosovo, it is worth trying the local food, such as the traditional Balkan burek, which is a pastry with cheese, meat or vegetable filling. The cuisine is, in general, similar to Turkish, with kebabs and yoghurt being a popular food.
All in all, Kosovo is an interesting area and a great off-the-beaten-path destination. A complex political situation in Kosovo demands that visitors be reasonably wary while travelling around the country, but it is worth the travel. Accepting the challenge of visiting Kosovo will let one explore its numerous interesting historical sights and unique culture.