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Sunday, March 8, 2009

An Unfair Report on Pristina

Frozen Pedestrian Street, Pristina (Photo: Ellen Baltzar)

Pristina was the last capital on the Balkans which I had not visited. It was quite strange having in mind that I have worked in the region for eight years and have visited all the other countries many times.

I have to admit that I was not particularly impatient to go there. I really like travelling and in general I am excited to go to new places but there are countries which simply do not attract me. I know it is not fair as I am fully aware that there are interesting things and people everywhere. However, a fact is a fact. Kosovo is such a country, US – another.

I don’t know what the reasons for that are. I guess we all have some associations with a place, some underlying myths coming from books, films, stories. Well, it is true that Kosovo has been in the spotlight for so many years but still…And, of course, this has nothing to do with being in favour of Kosovo being a part of Serbia or being against it.

Other countries that do not attract me are the really dangerous ones. I would include here Somalia, Chad, DRC, Liberia, etc. Although I like Africa and I really sympathize with the people there I regard those conflicts as hopeless, extreme manifestation of human stupidity and cruelty. Somehow my curiosity for people and nature in these places is completely neutralized by the political madness.

Same is valid for countries where religious fundamentalism is dominant such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. I just know that discussion and arguments do not fly there. I will never forget the book Mighty Heart and, among many other things, the absolute realization that there are people, groups with whom conversation is just not possible. Sometimes we are so far in our understanding of the world from the others that there is not even the faintest hope that both sides might meet somewhere on the territory of an intelligent argument.

But let me get back to Pristina. The town was covered by snow which had not been cleaned and this reminded me immediately of Sofia: snow falls when it is cold, snow melts when it is warm. As far as I could see Pristina is a kind of mixture between an ex-Yugoslav city and an Albanian city. Ex-Yugoslav because of the architecture from the 70s and 80s – no masterpieces but not bad either. Albanian – because of the language mostly.

Peter and Ellen also drew my attention to the funny building of the city library designed by a Croatian architect who has obviously seen too many albums of Antoni Gaudi.

Despite all that, the sarma was tasty.

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