As I piled my things into a taxi outside of my hotel in Peja, Kosovo, I thought of nothing but how much I as dreading the two hour bus ride to Prizren. Even though I had been looking forward to visiting Prizren since I first read about it in my Kosovo guidebook, I had just finished my Peaks of the Balkans trek the previous day and had been sick for about the past four days. I woke up that morning drenched in a cold sweat and I could still barely keep any food in me. So the idea of a two hour bus ride to a new town and then trying to muster the energy to explore in 100 degree heat was not appealing.
As we approached the bus station, my driver asked me if I was going to the capital, Pristina. I said no, Prizren. Then he pointed to the station, which was completely empty, and explained that the buses were not running to Prizren because it was the day after the end of Ramadan – a major Muslim holiday and Kosovo is a predominantly Muslim country. But, never fear – my driver offered to take me to Prizren himself for just 30 Euro. Of course, my natural instinct was to think I was getting scammed, but the completely empty bus station (which had been packed with people and buses when I arrived just a week earlier) was evidence that he was telling me the truth. And really, 30 Euro didn’t seem like too bad of a price and the thought of a likely shorter ride in a comfortable taxi was pretty appealing.
So off we went.
It was just late morning when the driver dropped me at my hotel in Prizren. The guy behind the desk at my hotel could not have been friendlier and the view from my room could not have been nicer, staring up at the castle sitting above the town. Aside from the castle, there was nothing specific I wanted to see in Prizren – I just wanted to wander and explore the cultural capital of Kosovo – a city that has been around since the 11th century. So I relaxed in the air conditioned comfort of my room for a while and chugged down a couple bottles of water before finally setting out to see the town around 3 p.m. It was still quite hot, but a dry heat, so it didn’t bother me as much as I expected.
Using a map from my hotel and a suggested walking tour from my guide book, I wandered through the center of town, continuously thinking to myself “this is so cute.” From outdoor cafes to centuries-old mosques (many built in the 16th century) to the stone bridges crossing the shallow river in the middle of Prizren, I just loved it all. I barely remembered how sick I was.
After a couple hours, I was starving and decided to see what I could manage to eat at one of the cafes overlooking the river (that sounds much cooler than it was, the river itself was kind of a joke of a river compared to, say, the Chicago River). I started with a tomato and cucumber salad with cheese (similar cheese to what I loved in Bulgaria) and followed that with a steak and fries – all washed down with strawberry juice. For my first full meal in days, it was delicious – and fairly cheap at like 12 Euro total!
After a quick stop back to my hotel room and a stop to get a bottle of water, I started to make the walk up to the ruins of the medieval castle. I waited until after dinner to do so both in hopes that it would be cooler and because I wanted to see the sunset from the castle. There were a few signs pointing the way, but somehow I managed to take the back way up to there (which I didn’t realize until I left afterwards). But it was a short walk up and well worth it!
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you likely know there is nothing I enjoy more than good castle ruins – especially if they are up on a hill with a great view. The castle in Amasya, Turkey and the fortress in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria come to mind. This castle in Prizren did not disappoint! The ruins were quite extensive and the whole thing was just open to climb and explore. There were a handful of others there when I arrived, but the crowds seemed to grow as the sun started to set.
And of course, the views were amazing in all directions.
And I got to make friends with some locals and a super adorable kitten on my way down from the castle.
Sometimes there are places you visit that just immediately put a smile on your face and Prizren was one of those places for me.