JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH LAVDI ZYMBERI FROM PRISTINA, KOSOVO!
Lavdi Zymberi was born in Gjilan but spent almost half of her life in Pristina initially as a university student and then as an employed person. Her family also finally moved to Pristina and made it a home for them. Lavdi blogs at Kosovo Girl Travels about her travels and also provide information on visa application for Kosovo citizens since their passport is weak and traveling almost anywhere requires a visa.
Republic of Kosovo, the youngest country of Europe, declared its independence from Serbia only in February 2008. It is also the smallest country in the Balkans but due to its excellent geographic location it is an important link between central and southern Europe.
The major ethnic groups here are Albanians, Serbs, Turks, Gorani, Roma, and Bosniaks. The flag of Kosovo displays the map of the country along with six stars, one for each of these ethnic groups. The only other country which uses a map on its flag is that of Cyprus.
Pristina, also called Prishtina is the capital and largest city of Kosovo. It is also a young city with many university campuses. Pristina has many faces, it’s war-torn, deeply rooted in history as well as modern. However, it is fast growing now with many government buildings, embassies, hotel and restaurant chains coming up in only a decade’s time.
How do you feel about living in Pristina ?
Pristina gives you a love-hate feeling that cannot really be defined. Living in Pristina has its advantages compared with the rest of Kosovo in terms of employment opportunities, living standard, networking, and connecting with the rest of the world; however, in winter times in the past few years the air has been extremely polluted, the traffic is insane at rush hours (yes, just like anywhere else – true) and it’s too grey for my taste. We need more colors!
When is the best time to visit Pristina?
In summer time, Pristina is emptier than usually from locals and other Kosovo people due to summer vacations; however, this is a good time to visit because of a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s warm enough (though you need a light long sleeves sweater for nights); secondly, it is a pleasant to walk around the city and enjoy the street food such as pancakes or popcorn or delicious old-fashioned ice-creams; and finally, there are still enough things to do and plenty of events to participate in.
Winter time is off-season and that for a good reason. The cold weather doesn’t allow space for enjoyment, the roads are not always properly maintained, and you can’t really enjoy the city (unless you’re okay with -20 Celsius or sometimes more).
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Pristina?
The city is relatively flat for tourists, namely the places they want to see are almost all within walking distance and manageable even without using any modes of transport. However, there’s public transport in Pristina that covers almost all of the city. Biking is not developed that much in part due to the terrain of Pristina (for permanent residents) and due to the lack of biking lanes.
As of 1 May 2019, there’s public transport between Pristina and its international airport Adem Jashari Airport on an hourly basis. The taxi option is still available; however, while you pay 3 EUR for the bus you’ll have to pay between 10-15 EUR for the taxi. To know more about the public transport options in Pristina, click here.
What are the top three must visit places in Pristina?
Top three must visit places in Pristina are the National Library; the Heroinat monument, and the Ethnological Museum.
The National Library has divided people’s thoughts for some time now; some consider it ugly while others are surprisingly amazed with it’s architecture. Designed by Croatian architect, Andrija Mutnjaković, this building is made entirely of iron and has ninety-nine glass domes. What many travelers fail to do is check the library only from the exterior and miss out on its beautiful interior architecture. Also, if you are interested in art, the the National Art Gallery of Kosovo is just behind the National Library.
The Heroinat monument, despite being just across the street from the famous Newborn installation, doesn’t get much visitors. But this is a very important point of interest as it is a tribute to all those women who were raped during the last war in 1999 against Serbia and, due to the patriarchal mindset and stigma surrounding them, are still not free despite the fact that Kosovo is freed from the Serbian regime for twenty years now.
Ethnological Museum is a complex of small, traditional houses turned into museum that showcase the traditional way of living. It is a very Instragrammable place. Located in Pristina’s old town area this museum exhibits costumes, utensils, ancient tools and furnitures common during the period when the Ottoman empire controlled Kosovo and much of Southeast Europe.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Pristina?
Kosovo is a small country which makes it perfect for exploring as in few hours you can reach, basically, any corner of the country.
Those who want to explore nature can head to Brezovica, Sharr mountains, or Bjeshket e Nemuna (Rogova). There are multiple trails for hiking, hidden lakes on the mountains, and great views that give one peace.
For natural rarity visit the Nerodimlje region which lies just a few kilometres north of Sharr mountains. The Nerodimka river originating here is the only bifurcated river in Europe which falls into both Aegan and Black sea. This point of bifurcation is a popular tourist attraction and is situated in a picturesque location amidst green vegetation.
Culture and history can be found everywhere, but I’d propose visitors to head to Gjakova and/or Prizren, both about 1.5 hour drive away from the capital city. Gjakova in the west of Kosovo, has until now the only Museum of Music in the country. Gjakova also hosts Çarshia e Madhe, the largest bazaar in the Balkans, approximately a kilometre long.
It will take you an hour to reach Prirzen from Gjakova by a bus and much less by a car. The cultural capital Prizren in the south of Kosovo, apart from being one of the most visited cities in the country, also has a lot to offer. Being a multiethnic city where all live in harmony, Prizren brings that mix of cultures against a picturesque mountain backdrop that is hard to avoid.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Pristina?
There are too many holidays and it’s very difficult to pick one and say this is the most celebrated one. No doubt, Kosovo’s Independence Day (17 February) is widely celebrated and the city gets decorated with Kosovo flags and all the city gets its festive colors and atmosphere. Despite being in a cold month, citizens take it to the streets and enjoy whatever program the Government prepares to celebrate it during the day and then continue to the bars and clubs to continue the celebration.
Other events that are widely celebrated are 28 Nëntori – Albania Independence Day and National Flag Day, Muslim holidays (Eid), and New Year’s Eve.
What is the most loved local food of Pristina? Is it a vegetarian friendly city?
The most loved local food is flija. Its preparation takes at least two hours but it’s totally worth it. As per sweets, there are delicious sweets in sweets shops or bakeries. One of the recommended places for sweets is Tartine Deli – it has fresh sweets daily and you’ll end up going again and again there.
Generally, Kosovo people consume lots of meat; however, there are vegetarian places to eat such as Babaghanoush and, in fact, any restaurant will have vegetarian dishes (some more than others). My recommendations would go for Green & Protein, Sonder, and Anise.
Where to head for shopping in Pristina?
There are a couple of shopping centers in the outskirts of Pristina where one can head for shopping. But there are also lots of small shops located in the Agim Ramadani Street that are at more reasonable prices. Additionally, Termokiss sometimes organizes flea markets and occasionally there’s one at Klubi M. Moreover, the Fushë Kosova market (next to ETC) that happens on Sundays has everything for everyone – it’s a big market that offers from old books to cars. Go check it out!
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Pristina?
The Goddess on the throne is Pristina’s symbol and also used for the municipal institutions. It is one of the most precious archaeological artifacts of Kosovo. You can find it in souvenir shops in various sizes, in hand-made crafts from Dhe by Granita, or at the airport.
Other local craft that I’d strongly suggest is purchasing tote bags, filigree bookmarks and/or any other products by Sa-punë, made by women of minority communities in Kosovo who will use the income to send their kids to school.
Which are the best streets of Pristina worthy of taking a stroll on?
If you’re looking for killing time and/or people watching, no doubts the Mother Teresa boulevard is a good start. From there you can head to the so-called ABC street – there are lots of cute little cafes. Or you can go towards the Pishat street – more coffee places and good restaurants. If you’re in the mood for some rakija head towards Kafet e rakisë. If you’re looking for street art, then head to Rruga B. For a leisurely stroll you can head to the Gërmia Park which is the largest park in Pristina.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of Pristina?
Saint Mother Theresa Cathedral’s Watchtower offers the best view of the city as it provides for a 360 degrees.
Would you suggest any shows in Pristina to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in your city?
There are four theatres in Pristina that offer a variety of cultural program: National Theatre, Oda, Kino Armata, and Dodona. In addition, Kino ABC and Cineplex in Albi Mall screen the latest movies. Pristina has also the Arts Gallery that occasionally has exhibits. Furthermore, there are lots of film, music festivals happening throughout the year in Pristina alongside with various Beer & Wine Fests or others that take place in the main squares or at the plateau of the Youth Palace.
The street art is mainly centered in Rruga B; however, one should be observant and notice street art almost anywhere they go.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Pristina?
Prishtina Bus Stops, available both for Android and iOS, is an app for transport which can be used to see where the local bus is; unfortunately, it only work for certain lines that have new buses.
Another app is ShoferilM – a local version of Uber*. There are no specific food or hidden gems apps but you can use the TripAdvisor, Google Maps and any other app that you’d use elsewhere or the best is to just hear it from a local!
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to Pristina?
Most of the tourists only pass by Pristina and don’t take their time to really feel the city. I’d suggest to at least spend two nights/three days in order to dig deeper and find the beauty beyond that first impression they create upon arrival. It’s not a beautiful city but it has beautiful, friendly people and an easygoing atmosphere that just takes you in.
* Disclaimer: I haven’t used it personally yet!