Kosoverisimilitude

Hey, it was either that title or, “In the Land of Honey and Honeybees.” Which would be accurate, since 53 percent of Kosovars are under the age of 25. I like it very much.

So they love Americans here. Something about bombing Serbia in 1999, I dunno. And if you say you are a GI (not gastroenterologist), well you petty much won’t pay for a drink at all.

What’s that? Alcohol in a Muslim country? Actually, they brew their own. Peja – give it a shot (never mind that it is brewed in a town of the same name best known for an all-but-abandoned Serbian monastery). I actually met Clare, my couchsurfing friend, in the capital’s Irish bar. She’s from Belfast, so some sort of irony I suppose. I’m lucky I met her at all. I won’t go into all the specifics, but they involved me waiting in the wrong place, with no phone, at 10pm, and the only other contact I had was another American who gave me her number in passing that morning. The international community being small, everything worked out at the pub.

A quick respite to say that the foreign keyboards are back. If my y and z are backward, blame the game, not the plazer.

So back to Kosovo. It is a young country, and at times a little backward.

I took a few day trips from Pristina with some Czech friends. First to Prizren, which everyone says is the most pretty city, but really it is just so much quieter than Pristina.

Then on my own to Mitrovica, site of some 2004 unrest as it is the de facto border between Albanian Kosovo and Serbian Kosovo. Mostly as a sign of protest, a small group of Serbian soldiers have built an earthen wall across the main bridge, seen far right, though you can cross on foot. Sorry about the profanity, kiddos. The two groups really, really do not like each other.

One night we ended up teaching hip hop dancing to Roma children in a slum outside Pristina. Shakira in Albanian is delightful. I did not want my camera nicked so no photos, so you’ll have to also trust that we were joined by the American ambassador’s 19 year old daughter. What happens in a shanty in Pristina, stays on this blog, I guess.

Also a quick trip back across the border to Skopje for the second game of Vardar’s Champions League match. For 1.5 Euro, we joined the rest of the country in the biggest match in many years. Sadly, a diving save from the Belarussians in the dying moments preserved a nil to nil tie and advancement for the visitors.

A few more nights in Kosovo. Despite arriving at the not so fabled intersection of George Bush and Bill Clinton Boulevards [Jerry I am at the nexus of the universe!], I guess they did not like this guy.

Thanks Clare and Martina for hosting, cooking and guiding me for a week. Kosovo was a great experience. I know I know Mother Theresa left it to live in Calcutta, but remember that she is a saint and stuff. It is not that bad.

My Albanian is not so good, but apparently the tour companies tell you to break a leg.

A few housecleaning items: chess players in the park cheat no matter what country you are in. The burek is still lovely, and I save you the last bite as always, Chris.

I even cooked for myself once. Here we have al fresco Skopje, cooked on an outdoor summer kitchen, with a side of Skopsko and baseball.

Off to the beaches of Montenegro, where I plan to be straight chillin.

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MK in the MK

MK in the MK

Bulgaria’s tour begins and ends with a few churches. Sofia is not the most exciting town.

 

The architecture looks like Budapest, without the loveliness. There is an old bathhouse to prove my point. It’s easy when no one is arguing with you.

I followed the yellow-brick road…

To Lake Ohrid, the closest thing Macedonia has to a beach.

The pace is slow there.

Oh look another church!

The city is where the Cyrillic alphabet was invented. But you already knew that. Alas, the sun sets just about everywhere in the world I have found.

We tried to hike a mountain, but got lost.

Crossing on foot on the first day of Ramadan, but no matter, the restaurants in Albania were open for business. I think beach mentality should always trump G-d.

The hills above Skopje.

A big meow from Kosovo.

The Balkan Food (Christine) Edition

Like all other traveling bloggers, a perfunctory note to apologize for the dearth of postings. Adequate computer and adequate time are rarely found in conjunction. In fact, they are usually mutually exclusive.

We’ll’ start with the “Broccodeli” from a stunning veggie restaurant in Sofia.

They had great bread. Seen here are three kinds (also with accompanying Dane). One with walnuts, one with olives and sundried tomatoes, and one with acorns. At least, that was the translation.

Finally, a dinner of setan and curry rice.

Sure, in a pinch on a long bus trip, I have to go for the soggy mini-mart sandwhich.

But after making my way to the beach, the trout awaited.

Still, my main sustenance each morning has been burek with cheese or spinach or both. I’ve consumed them too fast for any photos. They are like crax.

We tried to hike at Lake Orhid but got off at the wrong stop. So, me and my Candian friend did what any opportunistic travelers would do. We hike 90 minutes to the Albanian border. Sure, it was the first day of Ramadan. One takes ones chances. Turns out travelers are exempt from fasting, so a Turkish coffee, ice tea, and not quite fried zucchini went down well after the hike.

I have had my first pizza, but I haven’t broken down fully – though as you can see all roads eventually lead to McDonald’s.

Back in Old Form

So I landed in Sofia with the usual traveler grogginess today. I bought a ticket at the kiosk by dropping some Russian knowledge, then jumped on the public bus to the city center. Pushed my ticket into the puncher and that was that.

Fast forward to halfway into the journey (hey, I did name my blog after Zeno’s Paradox, didn’t I?) and I see that other people are pushing in their tickets after boarding, then monkeying with the machine. A quick glance at my ticket and it looks surprisingly devoid of any hanging chads or other defacements. I’m not too worried, as I’ve definitely cheated the system in Europe before by not buying a ticket – to this day, an unblemished record of safe passage.

Well, you know what is next. The ticket checker lady boards, I see her coming my way, then a bit of really quick decision making. I decide that while her back is turned, I will repunch my ticket, and yes, there is a lever that when depressed officially hole punches the ticket. My sleight of hand needed work, however, as she immediately swung around and demanded 20 leva (about 12 bucks – the ticket I bought was 1 lev).

After some fruitless explaining that I had not meant to jip the system, we were at an impasse. She asked to see my passport, whereupon I showed her by the stamp that I had just arrived this morning. Still, a ticket was delivered to me for 20 leva. She needed her money, and I didn’t want my first minutes in Bulgaria to cost me one dollar per minute.

And who won the battle of obstinacy? I am writing you now, aren’t I? It’s good to be back on the road.