The journey into Kosovo

Well yesterday was an interesting day, Kathi says the toughest mentally yet. We woke up in a hotel in Surdulica, Serbia in pouring rain already 45km behind schedule due to losing 20km a day for the previous 2 days. Normally this would not bother me but we didn’t really want to wildcamp in Kosovo as there is a small risk of landmines so we had to make it to Gnjilane or stay in Serbia, staying in Serbia meant there would be no time to visit Prishtine.

Anyway, we set off at 10 but were forced to take frequent stops for downpours and by 2pm had only managed 45km and it was still raining. The day looked bleak, we thought we had no chance of making it.

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Vranje was supposed to be our final stop last night.

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A quick break in the clouds and we set off, immediately taking the wrong road. Moral was low. Eventually we found the road but it turned into autobahn but rather than admit defeat we cycled past the road crew and onto the freshly paved autobahn which was only waiting for it’s grippy top layer. It was as smooth as glass and just for us, bliss! This continued almost to our destination, Bujanovac where for a short time we were on a horrible busy 2 lane road, the clouds really opened up and Kathi shed a tear or two. We knew we were close and pushed onto arrive at Bujanovac in torrential rain. 17km in 55 minutes!! Our best yet and from thinking we wouldn’t make it we now even had time for coffee and some food.

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Bujanovac, waiting out the rain in the last stop in Serbia before Kosovo.

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The gorge into Kosovo was pretty, we passed a couple of mosques and already kids were trying to stop us in the street, I was a bit apprehensive about where we we’re going. The border staff we’re friendly and that calmed us both down, I suppose the borders are highly regulated here.

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Afternoon prayer call at the mosque, strange hearing that in Europe.

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At last a rainbow.

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Finally the sun came out and we were in the beautiful Kosovan countryside.

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We arrived in central Gnjilane with lots of attention from passers by but everyone just wants to help. The average age of the population here is 26, the youngest in the world which is strange at first but the town just has loads of young inhabitants. We cycled inside the town for literally 20 seconds before a German-speaking guy on a bike rode up next to us and asked us whether we needed help finding a hotel, and then even took us there. I fixed my chain, which had a broken link, outside the hotel while Kathi went in to book us into a room and came back outside to tell me the room with a double bed, breakfast included, cost 40€ a night and we we’re allowed to keep the bikes inside. While she carried all our stuff upstairs, I was showed to a locked spare room where I was able to lock our bikes. It was perfect.

We then got a shower and went for a stroll, quickly figuring out that wd had taken the “young people coffee culture” not literally enough – there were loads of bars with young people, but nobody was drinking alcohol. Everybody had either coffee or coke. The upsides of a Moslem country I suppose.

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More of Gniljane.

We had dinner at the restaurant. Kathi ordered chicken with spinach (which turned out to be chicken bits on spinach pesto on top of rice with a side of chips. Not chicken and spinach.) and I ordered the local specialty which turned out to be mushroom sauce in a bowl of bread with a side of chips.
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