Hiking Dragash, Kosovo: Brod to Mount Cule

Mountain shepherds, enormous Sharri Dogs, free roaming horses, pristine babbling streams and dramatic mountains are just a small taste of what awaits you in Dragash.  “I’ve lived in Kosovo for 9 months and I had no idea there was anything this beautiful,” said a friend as we stood in the middle of a wind swept mountain pass barely an hours walk from the road.  Unfortunately, comments like this are all too common. This one was made by a woman who lived just a 30 minutes drive from where I led a small group on a hike through the sharp green Sharri Mountains in Dragash Municipality. Located in the southern end of Kosovo, Dragash is an oasis of untouched natural beauty and traditional villages sandwiched between the borders of Macedonia and Albania. Ignored by the Yugoslav government, the area never received development money for tourism despite its wealth of flora, fauna Read full article…

3 Strategies to Help you Succeed and Travel the World

Recently I’ve seen a movement towards people trying to become travel writers so that they can travel. Sounds reasonable. They have a dreamy ideal of hitting the road on a company’s dime (or a hundred dollars, if you factor in compound inflation since the term was first coined), rafting down rivers, eating French cuisine in France,  bushwhacking through cultural backwaters, and writing about it all in just a few hours of work. When I left home eleven years ago I had my own dream. I wanted to be “That Guy.” You know, that guy who can land anywhere in the world and make a living. That guy who is creative, resourceful and good with his hands (yes, he’s shockingly handsome too). I’m talking about a mix of Macgyver, without the mullet, and Liam Neeson’s character in Taken (such and awesome movie). We’ve met this person so we know he exists. Read full article…

World Cup in Kosovo: politics and football

Almost everything in Kosovo boils down to politics, and this is true for soccer (yes I’m American) as well.  Kosovo is not in the World Cup, which is to be expected from a country that is only recognized by 65 nations and who is in a diplomatic stalemate with Serbia-which is in the World Cup- over its independence. With the majority 90% Kosovar-Albanian supporting independence Serbia is not likely to win too many World Cup supporters except for those from the Serbian enclaves.  So the question which country garners the most support? Make no mistake, just because they don’t have a national team in the tournament, it has not dampened the excitement in Prishtina as a hundred cafes, bars and betting halls play each match to crowds of supporters. To help answer my question, I decided to enlist the support of consumerism. I spent the day crisscrossing the winding streets of Kosovo’s hilly Read full article…

Road Rules: Travel Photo Contest Friday 8

Update: The winner is Claire! The picture was taken in Kosovo while driving down a normal road. The signs are left over form the heavy NATO presence in 1999. While KFOR is still here helping with policing, the tanks are now all gone. Claire blogs over at First-Time Travels. She has a great blog about traveling in the Philippines and around the area so go check her out. Welcome to Travel Photo Contest Friday where each week I post a beautiful picture (at least I think so) from my travels and you guess where it is. The first person to guess where this picture was taken (Country only this time) will win a link back to their blog with the anchor text of their choice in this post (keep it clean and relevant). Leave your guess and recent post in the comment section below. Dave won last weeks competition of two monks in Galle Read full article…

Hiking in Letnica, Kosovo: A Black Madonna, abandoned villages and the old Croat miller

The road ends at the small Kosovar village of Letnica on the border with Macedonia. The white church of the Black Madonna watches over the town from a small hill. The large church only magnifies the empty feeling of the town where only about 100 people are left. Dirt roads snake into the town in between dilapidated stone houses. Despite the abandoned air the town is surrounded by forested rolling hills, giving the area a peaceful feel. The twittering of songbirds floated through the air as we climbed the small hill to the church. If the town was ever to have a crowd we found it as four men sat outside the church socializing and taking in the surrounding views. A middle aged man reeking of raki (the Kosovar equivalent to Italian grappa) shadowed us the whole way, pleading for money and trying to be best friends the way only Read full article…

Should you give money to beggars when you travel?

Sitting outside on the patio of a small Kosovo cafe, a beer held at the ready to celebrate the end to another perfect day, we were suddenly descended on by six scruffy small children. Pitiful eyes pleaded with us for money as they spread out amongst our group begging. We ignored them in turn and somehow they managed to look even more desperate. I know, it sounds horrible and trust me it feels horrible. I have been traveling a long time and the scene is the same in most developing countries I visit. The orphans in Hanoi reciting their memorized English phrases, the legless beggars in Cambodia, the woman with her newborn child hanging limply from her breast as she begs amongst stopped traffic in Sri Lanka. We weren’t a group of normal travelers, instead we were all seasoned development workers, used to working in harsh environments with marginalized and Read full article…

Kosovar and Serbian Border Crossing: what you need to know

I handed my passport to the Serbian police officer. He scowled, not from the encroaching cold, but because I was American and had Kosovo visa stamps. Thankfully, I also had a Serbian entry stamp so there was nothing he could do but waive me through. A few kilometers down a windy country road I reached the Kosovar border checkpoint. Normally when you cross borders you only have to worry about a valid passport (don’t forget it needs to be good for at least 6 months), and your visa. With Kosovo and Serbia things get a bit more complicated. There is an ambiguous international legal rational for Kosovo; a battle in the Security Council between the US, Russia and China over sovereignty and self-determination; a unilateral declaration of Independence by the Kosovar Government (supported by 65 countries in the world, but not the UN); and the blanket denial of that independence Read full article…

Behind a NATO checkpoint: Kosovo’s Visoki Decani Monastery

Handing over our passports to the Italian NATO troops we waited in the crisp winter air to enter. The secluded canyon exuded peace and tranquility, at odds with the tank barriers, sandbag bunkers and matching barb wire. We weren’t crossing a boarder, or even trying to enter a military base. We were there to visit Visoki Decani Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site and probably the best preserved medieval church in the Balkans. Nestled in the embrace of western Kosovo’s Decan Canyon, surrounded by grapevines, chestnut trees and bucolic pastures the abbey is a lovely two hours drive from the capital Pristina. Ten years since NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign and accompanying peacekeepers, tensions are still evident between  Serbians and Albanian Kosovars. Many of the Serbian cultural heritage sites have a NATO protection force camped on the perimeters. However, at Decani tensions are much lower and it offers a model of Read full article…

Mirusha Falls, Kosovo

In October I moved from Sri Lanka to Kosovo. Coming from Colombo the streets of Pristina, the capital city, seemed orderly and quaint. The city is a mix of historical Ottoman era mosques, drab communist housing, and new buildings catering to the ever present contingent of international development workers. There is a fantastic cafe scene and a variety of international restaurants that I have not found in other developing countries. A major downside to the city is the pollution due to, a dinosaur of an electrical plant spewing cheap coal fumes over the city and the use of the cheap coal in family stoves to stay warm. Escaping the city is easy though, and Kosovo is blessed with abundant nature and is ringed by amazing mountains. You just have to be careful to stay on the paths as unexploded mines still lay hidden in the undergrowth. Taking advantage of the Read full article…

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