The taxi driver informed me of a couple of fun facts during the short, rainy drive from the Pristina bus station to my hotel. First, he told me that 70% of the buildings in the city of Pristina, capital of Kosovo, were built since 1999. He did not say why. I did not ask.
He tells me that Kosovo is 92% Albanian people. He doesn’t mention the 6% that are Serbs. I learn that Kosovans speak Albanian, and think about united with their neighboring Albania. No one mentioned that 6% of the country is violently opposed to the notion. I’ll have to see what they think about it when I visit Serbia.
As we approached the hotel, he told me that the people of Kosovo love Americans. Not so much America, as Americans he made clear. He pointed out the statue of Bill Clinton and the US flag flying over the bust of Madeleine Albright. Could it be linked to 1999.
The driver wished me a pleasant stay, and charged me 4x the normal fare. It’s good to be liked.
With most of Pristina less than 24 years old—think about that, most of the city is younger than I am—it is new and modern, with terrible traffic to prove it. It is filled with cafés where folks sit and talk, ashtrays full and cups empty. There are utility crews digging up streets. There are derelict cathedrals. There are shops and shopping centers selling knock-off Nike and North Face. Yep, a modern city.
One thing is missing, though: Cats. Bulgaria and North Macedonia were awash in stray cats. Pristina has none. They do, however, have stray dogs. I am reliably informed that the dogs I see lying about the streets, will become more aggressive when they get cold and hungry. Best to avoid the winter, I suppose.
The people in Pristina do indeed like Americans. They admit a preference for an American accent and try there best to imitate it. Almost all the people speak English, and are exceedingly friendly. The hotel clerk insists on upgrading my room after a minor mix-up in the reservation. A barber tells me about his English girlfriend and, when I see him the next day, insists I sit and chat about my time in Pristina. And all of them tell me that I must visit their home towns. They are much nicer than Pristina, they say, but with not as much to do.
I believe them, but with only 2 full-days (plus 2 half-days) there isn’t much I can do about it. When I return to Kosovo, I will have to visit other towns.