First of all – sorry for the delay in posting our latest travel story! Since our latest instalment of our Balkan adventure (Pristina), it’s been a pretty hectic time in Matt-and-Lucy Land – we blame that pesky Christmas.
Anyway, on with the show.
We rocked up at Pristina bus station without a ticket booked, as our next destination – Prizren – was only a couple of hours away and there were plenty of buses to choose from. We successfully bagged our tickets (for a normal coach, rather than a sweaty minibus) and set off on our way. En route to Prizren, it rained. A lot. In fairness, it had been well over two days since since we’d last enjoyed a storm, so we were probably overdue.
Despite the rain, it was absolutely boiling by the time we arrived in Prizren. Probably the hottest it had been so far on the trip. Prizren bus station was ‘interesting’. We had originally intended to book our bus for the next morning’s journey to Kotor straight away – however, the timetable looked more than a little outdated, and there was not a soul to be seen at the ticket desks.
We knew that we had to get our tickets sorted as soon as possible, as there were hardly any buses for the route that we wanted to take – Prizen to Podgorica to Kotor. Lucy (chief organiser) had discovered that ‘Vector’ buses were the company that served this route. Where was the Vector ticket shop? It was literally nowhere to be seen.
After wandering aimlessly for a while, we decided to give up and go for an explore. On the way out of the bus station complex, Lucy spotted it – a Vector stand! A few minutes later, we were the relieved owners of two tickets to Ulcinj, from where we could transfer to Podgorica.
To celebrate our successful ticket buying, it was time for Kebabs. It’s quite rare these days to go to a restaurant where nothing is in English and no English is spoken, but we’d somehow managed to find one. Ah well – it always makes for an interesting experience. Steering clear of the one word we understood – ‘burger’ – we used our finest Albanian skills to order two mystery platters (and some Coca Cola). We both, somehow, ended up with some very nice kebabs for the handsome price of 5 Euros between the two of us.
Food demolished, it was time to head into the centre of Prizren to find our accommodation and explore. We made our way in via an ancient destroyed Mosque, and then literally walked through a massive building site before emerging at the river. It’s an incredibly pretty little city.
The guesthouse was found without a problem, and our German skills once again came in handy as it was the language of choice for the owner! The room itself was brilliant – in a ‘this is an experience’ sort of way. The light in the bathroom didn’t work, so bathroom trips were taken in complete darkness, and there was the world’s oldest computer in the corner of the room. It’s probably an antique, and might do quite well at auction. The room itself looked over a dentist’s operating room, so we could enjoy watching the citizens of Prizren getting their fillings sorted.
After the excitement of the dentist waned (2 minutes), we headed back out into Prizren to seek out the city’s top sight: the fortress. Perched on the top of a very steep hill at one end of the city, it’s pretty hard to miss it – especially when there’s the world’s biggest Albania flag draped over the ramparts. After a quick supermarket dash to buy water, we began our ascent.
It was an incredibly steep and hot walk up to the fortress. The distance itself wasn’t too far, but it took a while thanks to the many water breaks we needed. The view kept getting better and better, which gave us enough motivation to push on. Embarrassingly, we were overtaken by everybody (including a group of children who kept running past us playing some sort of cops and robbers game). Spot the British people who can’t handle the heat!
We finally reached the top and wandered around, taking in the views. We were slightly puzzled by a group of youths preparing flaming torches (which looked like fireworks – Matt excitedly thought they might be a local ‘Ultras’ group). Staying a safe distance from the torches/fireworks, we admired the view until a thunderstorm (of course) suddenly appeared and forced us to hurry down. On the way, we reencountered our Prizren friend who had insisted that Matt wash his hands (to cool down?) on our way up. We had a nice chat with him – he had spent some time in England, and obviously with a very upper class family as he bizarrely sounded like a character from Downton Abbey.
The thunderstorm finally passed over, and we ventured out for dinner. It was really, really busy, and the restaurants were unexpectedly expensive. We finally found one that had a bit of space and looks reasonably nice, so we sat down. Hmm. No menu? Before we could make our escape, an impatient (but very efficient) waiter had made his way over to our table. He confirmed that there was, indeed, no menu – but that they did do pizzas. Pizzas? Excellent, we like pizzas! Do you like meat and mushrooms? We do indeed! And with that, our meat & mushroom pizzas were ordered.
I’m not going to lie – they weren’t the best meat and mushroom pizzas we’d ever tasted. Ah well. Towards the end of the meal, we noticed an approaching march of flaming-torch-wielding folk (remember the Ultras at the fortress?). There must have been a good 100 torches, and even more people. Lucy got up to take photos, whilst Matt decided to go one step further and put money down on the table so that we could follow the procession. They didn’t walk far, and ended up congregating outside the League of Prizren House, which was decorated in (you guessed it) Albanian flags. Obviously, we understood nothing of the speeches that followed, but we watched for a bit before heading back to the hotel for sleep.
The next morning was a super, super early one. We left the hotel at 5:15am to make sure that we arrived at the bus station in good time to find our coach which would set us off on our journey to Kotor. Incredibly, the guesthouse owner had woken up especially to see us off, and was waiting downstairs with breakfast bags! Whether the bus company appreciated the sesame seed rolls as much as we did is debateable. Anyway, that was our last action in Prizren. We’d really enjoyed the place – the was a great buzz at night, we’d had some great conversations with people, and the setting on the river is incredibly picturesque. We left Kosovo with a very positive impression of the place, and excited to see how Kotor would measure up – stay tuned!