Actually, I was bitten by the travel bug in Kosovo, in the former Yugoslavia during April, 2001. Why I ended up in a war-torn, United Nations soldier/peacekeeper-infested area (all 45,000 of them) as my first venture outside of Australasia is beyond me.But I loved every single second of it – and I went there for work!
Whilst it is a place most people know about for the wrong reasons, its publicity factor punches well above its weight division for a piece of real estate only 150 kilometres long by 150 kilometres wide. Unfortunately, large parts of Kosovo were littered with cluster bombs when NATO decided to kick out Slobodan Milosovic’s forces – making some tracts of land a great place to lose a limb.
The situation is stable now (that is, no one hears about Kosovo in the news anymore), but back in 2001, things were a bit dicey. There were numerous United Nations tanks like this one patrolling the streets. I’m surprised I didn’t have big guns pointed at me when I took this photo.
The Kosovo Landscape
And there were loads of blown up houses. Actually, make that blown up villages. I struggled to find the sense of this, but I could not understand how human beings could do this to each other. I’m not getting involved in the politics – this is what it is. The photos below speak for themselves. This is the result of closing all the windows, placing a lit candle in the ceiling, and turning on the gas in the kitchen.
This photo gives the term ‘cavity brick’ a whole new meaning…
In reality, whilst this may be hard to believe, it was pretty safe in Kosovo. I met great people from both Serbian and Albanian communities there, but it was sad to observe how people lived there.
Ironically, the most dangerous thing I came across in Kosovo was a substance called Rakija. It’s a home-made rocket fuel-like spirit thinly disguised as a drinkable alcohol – it reaches the methylated spirits end of the alcohol spectrum.
One can feel their entire body warm up from the inside out after only one shot of the lethal stuff.I am sure I sensed it strip an essential layer of lipids from my stomach lining. Rakija is distilled from fermented plums and surely must be the staple diet of many Kosovars.
I still possess a sacred bottle of Rakija that I purchased from Kosovo (see to the left).Not surprisingly, it still has the urine coloured Rakija contained within it.The bottle screams character because the Rakija is contained within an old wine bottle that had the bottom cut off to have a wooden cross inserted and then the piece of glass glued back on again.
The crucifix (devoid of a Jesus) floats around in the Rakija and there is a faded photo of the monastery stuck on the bottle which boldly states where this bottle originates.This bottle gives the term ‘home brew’ a whole new meaning.
See what I mean?
I think my time in Kosovo developed a perverse taste for places that most package tourists would avoid like the plague.I probably was a complete nutter for going to Kosovo, but the travel bug had definitely stuck its fangs into my rapidly expanding travel conscience.I loved every minute.
Even if the only word I had learned during my stay in Kosovo was Rakija.
This blog post is my entry into the Trip Wolf Bloggers Competition!