Spontaneity is one of the joys of travel, with no work commitments or bosses to tell you what to do, you can just get up and make a decision, that is how I ended up on a Soviet-era bus, heading for the picturesque town of Prizren.
Like all of the best spontaneous decisions, it started with the weather forecast, an idea and most importantly a chocolate croissant. I had booked 3-days in Pristina which in hindsight did seem a bit much, so with not much else to do, I quickly had a nosy around on the internet and decided to head down to the picturesque city of Prizren.
Usually, in most travel blogs, we’d now have a nice sort of jump to discussing Prizren, glossing over the weird and at times hellish ride there, but that’s not how we do things around here. So let’s head over to my favourite place in the world, an Eastern European bus station. Plenty of concrete and bloody hot inside, I don’t think I need to get into any more descriptive language than that. On the internet it said there were only a couple of buses a day to Prizren, but this was the Balkans after all and internet timetables around here were about as reliable as a Russian Olympians drug test. After consulting the paper timetable in the bus station, there turned out be loads.
Literally, they seemed to run every 30 minutes, so it was as if I was catching the train in my hometown. I headed over to buy a ticket and jump on board. Of course, this was my first mistake, turns out in Kosovo you don’t actually buy the ticket in the bus station. Instead you have to buy the tickets on the bus, but to get on the bus, you need a platform ticket, which costs all of 10 cents. So first you have to go to a man in a booth, give him 10 cents, he then gives you a small ticket that you go and hand to another man standing next to the door to the platforms. Classic Eastern Europe bureaucracy.
Searching for the bus, I felt like a true fish out of the water, I had no idea where I was going as the station was packed and buses seemed to be heading off in all different direction. I scanned the front of the bus and saw one which read Prizren and dived on board. Unlike the bus which had brought me to Kosovo, this was a full size one, with its air conditioning blasting at full pelt.
I settled into my seat and soon enough, bang on-time we left and we headed out into the Pristina suburbs. What I didn’t know then, but do know now is the fact there’s three sets of buses that head to Prizren. A fast bus, semi-fast bus, and slow bus, no prizes out there for guessing which bus yours truly had taken. My bus headed out slowly into the countryside, slowly filling up with people from all sections of society.
We first headed out through a small town called ‘Lipljan’ before speeding along an empty road to a rather wonderfully picturesque town called ‘Shtime.’ From there we headed down into a steep valley and the views were simply spectacular, we stopped off for a quick loo break and then descended down this windy road through the mountains.
Finally though, we arrived in Prizren after around a 3-hour drive, even though the scenery was truly stunning, and something I never would have seen from the motorway, I resolved to get the fast bus back to Prishtina the following evening. For now, though, as I jumped off the bus at the packed Prizren bus station, I had a whole afternoon to explore…
I had no idea what to really expect from Prizren, as this was a rather spontaneous decision after all, but I was pleasantly surprised, the main town had a river running through the middle (this always makes a city look pretty unless it is the River Thames.
The whole city had a distinctly Turkish feel to it, with the small cobbled streets, dominating mosque and old Ottoman architecture. Standing tall over the city is a large old fortress, and you know me and hiking, so within five minutes of arriving, I was already on the march up the hill.
It was a short but ridiculously hot hike up to the top, there was even a man with a hosepipe stood at the top spraying people to cool them down. Now that’s what I call service. The view from the fortress was simply stunning…
The stunning mountains crashing down into the equally as spectacular valleys reminded me a lot of the Swiss alps, though the glows from the red roofs of the city down below, gave the whole thing a much more Eastern European character. The fortress has a rather interesting and troubled history, built way back in the 11th century, it has been involved in countless conflicts and changed hands plenty of times over the years.
While I was there it seemed to be in the middle of a rather hodgepodge restoration, and with the workman having downed tools for their lunch break, I climbed up some rickety little bridge which they had built, to take one of the best photos I’ve ever taken.
After soaking in the truly amazing scenery, and I really do mean that, if you ever get the chance to spend a day in Prizren, I highly recommend it. You really don’t need more than a day to explore the city and in my opinion it is much more beautiful, at least architecturally wise, then Prishtine.
I spent the rest of the afternoon drinking in the scenery, exploring old churches and mosques, before enjoying a nice drink next to the river.
By this point, it was now time for me to head back, so I returned to the bus station,¡ and grabbed the first bus towards Pristina. I settled into my seat and then suddenly realized as we left town and headed up onto the mountain road, I’d taken the slow bus again! Oh well, at least I wasn’t in a rush, just sat back and enjoyed the sunset over the Kosovan countryside, sometimes the best plans are also the most spontaneous.