Kosovo and the rules on cheating part two

image

After checking out late of the poshest most expensive hotel in Gnjilane (40€) we thought we had an easy 50km to Pristine. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The 400m climb out if town was easy and we thought we would roll down the rest of the way but were instead confronted by a headwind so strong we had to peddle hard while going downhill. Then the were the drivers. With about average age of 26 you would expect Kosovan drivers to be bad, but not this bad! Finally getting to Pristine we were left feeling lucky to have made it and made a promise to get the bus to Skopje instead.
Second rule of cheating: cheating death = not cheating.

image

Road signs for tanks.

image

image

Central Pristine was a bit chaotic but otherwise nice. People seemed friendly and relaxed but most of the buildings are new. Everything from the smallest store upwards has a security guard but you wonder why, it’s very safe.  A relic of the war perhaps.
The picture above is one of Pristine’s most famous monuments, the Newborn sculpture. Each year it’s repainted with a different design, this year it’s flags if countries that recognise Kosovo.

image

image

image

Early evening we bumped into Andreas, who’s cycled 100,000km around Europe and agreed to meet later in the only Irish bar in town to swap stories. He has a FB page and website called cycleguide, check it out, especially if you can read German.
Later on in the night we met some freelance soldiers and went to a couple of bars with them, a few were decent but others quite twisted. It’s a strange world they live in. I just hope the Kosovo situation clears up quickly so they can move on.
On our way home we found a club packed full of Kosovans drinking and dancing, the music was great, it was good to see how much fun Pristine can be.

I chatted to several people about the situation with Kosovo and Serbia and to me it seems crazy that people fight over territory. I’m lucky enough to be from the UK, live in Austria and work in Italy for a Swedish company and I don’t want or need a country, Europe is my home. It seems inevitable that when these countries join the EU and people can move freely then fear will disappear and tensions will cease. All of these countries will join the EU within the next 10 to 15 years and for me it can’t happen soon enough. There are still disputed regions with Serbian majority in the north of Kosovo, I hope these can be given to Serbia, who cares about history, it’s what the population of those regions wants.

image

image

The bus into Macedonia was interesting with snow covered mountains and a not so friendly border guard. Kathi had a nice sleep as usual.

Advertisements

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.

image

Vranje was supposed to be our final stop last night.

image

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.

image

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

image

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.

image

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

image

At last a rainbow.

image

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

image

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.

image

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.
image

image