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For many, Kosovo conjures up memories of violent ethnic cleansing. And yes, Kosovo has its share of burned-out houses, international troops toting semi-automatic weapons, and countless cemeteries lining the roads. Despite this, Prizren, a town in southwestern Kosovo, is perfectly safe for visitors.
Strolling along the Bistrica in Prizren’s charming town center, you’ll feel the buzz of the energy coming from the young crowds on the street. 65% of the Kosovar population is under the age of 30. From the main square, look towards the top of the hill above the town for the ruins of the old fortress wall and below that closer to town, you’ll see the neighborhood of houses burned in the 2004 riots. Those riots drove out what remained of the Serbian community in this part of Kosovo, and none of the ‘hood has been repaired. The neighborhood stands today as an ominous reminder of the town’s recent instability.
For more vivid accounts, try socializing with Prizren inhabitants. Ask a young Kosovar about the inspiration behind graffiti all throughout town (and Kosovo) that read “Jo Negociata” (No negotiation) and “12:44. Time’s up. UNMIK go home.” Or strike up a conversation with a friendly German KFOR soldier to gain perspective about the international military and human rights presence in Prizren and Prishtina today.
We highly recommend a field trip to Prizren for a most valuable lesson in recent history.
Wandering Cheapo Sunnia Ko is a wanderer at heart and primarily supports this habit as a teacher at Plovdiv University in Bulgaria. She is currently on a cross-Balkan trek from Plovdiv to Sibenik, Croatia, where she hopes to find the Adriatic as splendid and turquoise as she remembers it to be.