Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Prizren: an example to follow for Kosovo?

By Giacomo Castorina Cali

It has been seven days since we arrived in Kosovo but it feels like it’s been closer to a month due to all the experiences we've had, all the people and institutions we met, and all the information we have processed.

On Sunday morning, after waking up from the second night of clubbing in Pristina, we got on the bus to head to Prizren, a city in the south of Kosovo close to the border with Albania. Prizren is the second largest city in Kosovo with 180.000 inhabitants and is considered to be the most multi-ethnic with Albanians, Turks, Bosnians, Serbs, and Roma people all living and co-existing within the city. After one hour and a half on the bus, we arrived in Prizren where we met our guide for the day. The city looked very different from all other cities we have seen so far and in my opinion it has been the most beautiful city we have seen so far. Prizren is immersed in the nature and the mountains, it has very nice architecture and city structure, it hosts 34 mosques and a number of Serbian Orthodox churches, and is crossed by a small river.

After meeting the guide, we started a long and very steep walk towards a castle on top of the hill which rises above the city. The walk was very tiring, but once we got to the top the view was breath-taking as it was possible to see the whole city from there and it was incredible to see the amount of churches and mosques present there. While there I talked to the guide for a bit and he explained that interfaith relations are very good in Prizren, which is proved by the co-existence of both churches and mosques in the city. To give an example of this he mentioned how Muslims during these days (Ramadan) invite Christians at night to break fast together with them and enjoy some nice food in company. We asked the guide why he thought that there in Prizren interfaith relations were better than in other areas and cities of Kosovo. According to him, that is because people in Prizren have been living together and coexisting for many centuries and because of that they are used to living in a multicultural and multi-ethnic society. This was very interesting to hear as it resonated with what one of the officials from the organizations we met previously said to us. When asked what he believed Kosovo as a country could bring to the EU, he said that in his opinion Kosovo could bring true multiculturalism to Europe if they managed to resolve their issues. According to him, since various nationalities, ethnicities, and religions had been living in Kosovo for over a millennium, if Kosovars managed to overcome their troubles and all learn to coexist in peace, they could teach true multiculturalism to Europe, where migration is a more recent phenomenon but is still causing troubles and disagreements within national political discourses due to the othering of migrants.

After visiting the castle, we visited a church and a mosque in the city which were both interesting to see. We then had lunch at a Greek restaurant, after which we were given some time to visit and explore Prizren, which was nice to do as the city is very pretty. In the evening, we went to have dinner in a restaurant close to the Albanian border and then set off on the bus on the way to our homes in Pristina to get some sleep. We were however not done with the adventures for the day as on the way to Pristina we started smelling something strange and then saw smoke coming from the motor of the bus. The engine had some kind of malfunctioning and we therefore had to wait over 40 minutes for another bus in the middle of Kosovo. After the long wait the new bus finally arrived, but our troubles were still not finished as on the way to Pristina we were pulled over by the police and our bus driver was fined for speeding. Following this last hiccup we were finally able to get home and get some much needed rest.

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