Kulla e Zenel Beaut, a Restaurant in Peja, Kosovo

“The Kulla,” as my friends and I call it, is one of my favorite restaurants in Peja, Kosovo (which also happens to be my favorite city in Kosovo. Other people may tell you that Prizren is the best city. Don’t listen to them.)

The Kulla has great traditional Kosovar food (as well as some American favorites, like chicken fingers). They also make a great house wine. 😉

kulla restaurant peja kosovo 2
Entrance
kulla restaurant peja kosovo
Nice atmosphere
chicken fingers kulla peja kosovo
Chicken fingers with awesome bread and dipping sauce
meat in a clay pot
Meat cooked in a clay pot, mmmmmm!
traditional albanian food
This dish has onion in it but it’s so good, even I will eat it!
skenderbag meat food dish
A Skenderbag … a popular food here in Kosovo. Meat is wrapped in cheese and then breaded and fried. Mmmm!
albanian clothing
Traditional clothing
albanian tea service
Vignette

rakia peja kosovo.JPG

I highly recommend this place! Stop by the next time you’re in Peja. 🙂

Photo Scavenger Hunt

When I asked my friends and family for ideas for this blog, my friend Whitney sent me a Pristina, Kosovo photo scavenger hunt challenge she found online. That was a year ago. Since I am going to see Whitney in a few weeks, I decided to finally do the scavenger hunt. Saturday was a nice day and I had nothing else to do. So, I hopped on the bus to Pristina to begin my challenge!

The clues:

  • If you’re passing by Mother Tereza pedestrian street, just have a look at this Albanian National Hero. [Answer: Zahir Pajaziti]
  • As an American, it’s kind of funny to see this statue. His name is spelled correctly while the street is not. [Answer: Bill Clinton]
  • If you’re tired of traffic and urban life, this is the ideal place to have a nice walk or take a dip in the gigantic pool without leaving the city. [Answer: Germia Park]
  • This kind or architecture will kill your eyes, but since it was listed among top 10 most ugly buildings in the world it is a must-see. [Answer: National Library]
  • This is the location where Slobodan Milosevic delivered his 1989 speech which ignited the flames of nationalism in the former Yugoslavia leading to a decade of war and ethnic cleansing. [Answer: Gazimestan]
  • Located in one of the few Ottoman style buildings in the city. It’s tucked off a side street but worth finding. [Answer: the Grand Hamam]

I had already seen three of the sites (Bill Clinton, the library, and Zahir Pajazitit’s statue, because it is located in front of a building that has two Airbnbs I’ve stayed at). But, in the spirit of the challenge, I visited all six places in one day.

I decided to start with the most far-flung of the six sites: Gazimestan. It is a monument that commemorates the 1939 Battle of Kosovo. To get there, I took a bus from Pristina’s central bus station toward Mitrovice, and asked to be let off at Gazimestan, which is just a short ways out of the city. I got off the bus and walked along a desolate, trash-strewn road in the middle of nowhere. As I approached the monument, two stray dogs ran up to me. Luckily, they were friendly, but they shook me up a bit. I got to the monument with my two new dog friends trailing behind me and handed my passport over to a very unhappy-looking guard. He kept my passport for safe keeping and I was allowed onto the grounds to take photos. I thought it would be disrespectful to take selfies at a war memorial, so no selfies for this clue.

Gazimestan monument Kosovo
Gazimestan
Gazimestan 1
Gazimestan

Apparently, this is a curse:

Gazimestan curse
Gazimestan

After I finished visiting the monument, I collected my passport, walked back down the desolate road, crossed the highway, and took a kombi back into the city center. In retrospect, I should have sprung the money for a cab or taken someone else along with me. [Total round trip from Pristina: 1 Euro]

The kombi let me off right in front of the Bill Clinton statue, something I pass every time I come to Pristina. My next clue: DONE!

Bill Clinton statue
I felt like such a tourist taking this photo …

I decided to go to the next furthest-flung clue, which was Germia Park. Lots of volunteers I had talked to had been there before, but I never had. (Not much of a park enthusiast, I guess.) I had heard that the pool is absolutely enormous. It is! Although, it was empty and blocked off this time of year.

Big pool Germia Park Pristina Kosovo
Really, really big pool
Germia Park
Me with the pool

[Total round trip from Pristina: 80 cents]

The bus back into the city center dropped me off very close to my next clue, the Great Hamam. I had a vague idea of where it was. I even had a map I had gotten from my Peace Corps safety and security manager. I still couldn’t find it. I asked four different people on the street for directions. Finally, I asked an older gentleman sitting on a bench, and he pointed at an ugly building across the street.

It was a good thing this notice was posted to the door. Otherwise, I would have doubted I was in the right place.

Grand Hamam
Heritage site

I was really disappointed by this clue. I thought the Grand Hamam would be beautiful. But no, it’s an ugly, dirty, white cinderblock building. (There is a really beautiful mosque next door.)

Grand Hamam Pristia Kosovo
Me in front of the Grand Hamam

After stopping for a refreshment at Trosha, my new favorite bakery in Pristina, I headed off to finish my scavenger hunt. I already knew where my last two clues were.

This is Zahir Pajaziti, the first commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Zahir Pajaziti
.

Zahir Pajaziti 2

My last destination was the National Library. I’ve defended this building on my blog before … I don’t think it’s ugly! It’s unusual and, as my parents pointed out when they visited Kosovo, in need of some repairs. But still, I like it!

National Library Pristina Kosovo
Me at the National Library

This turned out to be a fun day. I got to see new places in Kosovo (and I also realized I don’t have many pictures of myself at touristy places here). Thanks for the photo challenge, Whitney! (Sorry it took me a year to do it.)

Amsterdam: the Fun Side

Here I am in Amsterdam!

April in Amsterdam
“A” is for “April” … and also Amsterdam 🙂

One of my missions while in Amsterdam was to eat at Dunkin Donuts. I was surprised to see how fancy the donuts are.

dunkin donuts amsterdam
Cookie Monster and smiley faces … whaaaat?! So fancy!

We went to a place called the Cheese Museum, where you can freely sample all different kinds of cheeses. It was heaven.

colored cheese
Mmmmmmmmm!

My friend took me on the commuter ferry at night so I could see a different view of the city. 🙂 It was lovely.

night ferry amsterdam
Amsterdam at night

My friend claims I made her walk through the red light district twelve times a day. (She is exaggerating somewhat.) In my defense, the red light district is centrally located and we had to cut through it to get to other places. 😉 Riiiiight …

condoms amsterdam
Who says safe sex can’t be fun?
magic mushrooms
I did not go in here …
sex palace amsterdam
.

Thoughts and observations about Amsterdam …

  • Like Sweden, bikes are EVERYWHERE! Be careful when you are crossing the street.
  • Getting to the city center from the airport is super easy via train and only costs around 5 Euro.
  • The Anne Frank Museum (see: Monday’s post) sells out weeks in advance, so plan way ahead if you want to visit.

Side note: I visited both the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, but found myself wanting to just absorb everything and not be concerned with taking photos. I think I saw most of Van Gogh, but the Rijksmuseum is huge! I could return and see things I didn’t on my first trip.

Amsterdam: the Serious Side

I spent last weekend in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and wanted to share some highlights of my trip with all of you. Rather than break my trip into chronological order, I decided to show the serious side and then the fun side of the city. I did not want to post my photos of my visit to the Anne Frank house alongside my photos of Amsterdam’s red light district.

So, on the serious side … (Some of my observations may seem kind of obvious, but I really did not know much about the city or country before I visited.)

My friend and I took a guided canal boat tour around Amsterdam on my first afternoon there. I may have fallen asleep for part of it (I’d had an early flight, and the boat was so soothing!) but I did manage to learn a good deal about the city.

house boat amsterdam
House boat

If this hadn’t been pointed out on the tour I’m not sure I would have noticed it on my own, but many buildings in Amsterdam are pitched forward or crooked. That’s because the city was built on filled-in swamp land, and the houses rest on sand (and they shift). Once I learned this, I could not stop seeing crooked buildings everywhere!

leaning building amsterdam
Notice how the red-roofed building leans forward from its neighbor.

Houses in Amsterdam tend to be tall and steep, and many buildings have hooks hanging from the roofs to help move furniture up through the windows.

Amsterdam moving hook
Moving hook

I also learned that the Neterlands is the world’s largest exporter of petrol, even though they don’t produce petrol.

Furthermore, I learned that Amsterdam is below sea level. Gates have been constructed out in the water to keep the North Sea from flooding the city.

amsterdam canal
A canal at night

***

“Most parents don’t know, really, their children.” — Otto Frank

My friend and I visited the Anne Frank House the next day. As you might know from reading her story, the annex where she and her family and four other Jews hid was raided after two years and they were split up and sent to different concentration camps. Only Otto Frank, Anne’s father, survived. The picture that moved me most was of Otto Frank as an older man and was taken when he went back to see the annex many years later (around 1979?). I will never forget the image of him standing in profile, looking at the empty attic where his family had hidden.

anne frank
Anne Frank House Museum
anne frank photos
Anne Frank
bookcase anne frank
Bookcase that hid the annex

The museum’s final exhibit is a video montage of different public figures talking about what Anne Frank’s story has meant to them. As actress Emma Thompson said: “Her would-haves are our real possibilities.”

Crochted Christmas Lights

Crocheted Christmas Lights
Crocheted Christmas Lights

My mom recently told me about a cute crochet project she’d seen — Christmas Lights! I decided to make some for her as a surprise (but then I ruined the surprise by telling her about them).

I followed this easy pattern. The project was easy, just a bit slow and tedious. I am pretty happy with the end result, though.

A string of crocheted Christmas lights
I don’t have a mantle …
Crocheted bulb
For scale

Umm … Merry Christmas in February?

Lights
Christmas, Christmas time is here …

Market in Tirana, Albania

I took these photos a while ago but never got around to posting them. I visited a farmer’s market the last time I was in Albania. Fruits and vegetables abounded, but I was also surprised to see other goods for sale. I really wanted to buy an antique clock (isn’t the one with the owl cute?), but the 30 Euro price tag was too steep.

vintage clocks Tirana market
Antique clocks

goods for sale tirana market

Though sheep’s head soup is a delicacy, I have never seen it or had it served to me (though my host family eats mutton). I was surprised to see sheep’s heads roasting on a spit (bottom row).

roasting sheep heads Tirana Albania

I’ve had chicken cooked in a clay pot (see below) in Kosovo, and it is really good!

earthenware Tirana Albania
Clay pots for sale
orange tree Tirana market
Orange (?) tree

I am not someone who visits farmer’s markets with any regularity, but Tirana’s is small, clean, not at all crowded, and had a variety of foods and goods for sale. I will definitely be back!

Q & A About Serving in the Peace Corps in Kosovo

Hello! A potential new volunteer recently emailed me some questions about serving in Peace Corps Kosovo, so I thought I would use them to create a blog post. At the end, I also included a question that a friend recently asked me.

1) How safe do you feel in Kosovo? Fairly safe. Have you ever felt threatened or in danger? The two worst things that have happened to me are: 1) A student threw a rock at me as I was crossing the school yard, and it hit me on the back of my shoulder. Three students were suspended for a week as a result, and I no longer teach their classes. 2) I was taking a walk one morning, rounded a bend in the road, and came upon a large, angry stray dog. It approached me several times and barked at me, but it eventually moved on. I would say I find environmental concerns (stray dogs, lack of seat belts in cars, lack of adequate nutrition and exercise, and exposure to second-hand smoke and air pollution) more worrisome than my experiences with people here. I mostly feel safe around Kosovar people. Do you think a self defense class would be a good idea? I think taking a self defense class is always a good idea, and is something every woman should do.

2) How hot and cold does it really get there? I am from the Midwest, and weather in Kosovo is like the weather in the Midwest. It gets very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. A major factor here is that central heat and central air conditioning are rare to nonexistent. Do I need to bring a long down jacket for winter? Yes, absolutely! Are the summers too hot for jeans and a T-shirt? I don’t wear jeans in the summer because it is too hot. I recommend wearing long skirts, linen pants, capri pants, etc. Some people wear shorts, but I would recommend dressing more conservatively here than you might in the United States.

3) Have you gotten placed next to any other Peace Corps volunteers? My first year here, I had two site mates. They didn’t live in my village but they were only a ten-minute drive away. They are both gone now. This year, I am alone at my site. The next-closest volunteer is probably an hour away from me by bus. However, I see other volunteers all the time in Pristina. Kosovo is small so I wanted to know if it is pretty standard to work at a school with other Peace Corps volunteers. Volunteers are never placed at the same school, even if they live in the same village.

4) Do you have daily access to fruits or vegetables? Mostly (kinda?) yes. My host family eats peppers almost daily. Sometimes, we also have cabbage or pickled vegetables. There is not much variety, however, in vegetables or in meals in general. If you are curious to know what I eat, you can read my 5-Day Food DiaryHow much of a say do you have in your diet? Almost none. If I say that I would prefer to eat less of something (like sugar or bread), will the family take extreme offense to that? No, not at all, at least in my experience. I think it is important to be honest with your host family about what you will or will not eat. For example, I hate onion and my host family knows this. If my host mother makes something with onion in it, she will make me a smaller, separate portion with no onion.  Can I just buy my own food and cook my own meals? You will negotiate the meal situation with your host family and yes, some volunteers do cook their own meals.

5) How often is it considered appropriate to shower in Kosovo before it becomes rude (as in your host family gets irritated with you for using up amenities)? I shower and wash my hair every day. As far as toiletries go, I buy my own soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Having good hygiene has always been important to me — it’s just a part of who I am. I compromise on plenty of stuff as a volunteer, but I am not willing to compromise on maintaining good hygiene.

I think volunteers (especially in the beginning of service) are really nervous about being seen as “weird” or doing something offensive, but remember, you will be a foreigner in Kosovo. You are bound to do things that are “weird” because you come from a different country with a different culture. You are not going to perfectly blend in. As long as you aren’t being deliberately disrespectful or offensive, do what makes you happy. Is [showering] every other day excessive? I don’t think so.

6) What has been the hardest cultural aspect for you to adjust to in Kosovo? All of it has been a huge adjustment. As far as the hardest thing, I would say that because Kosovo is a patriarchal society, experiencing the way women are thought of and treated has really been hard. I also hate all the smoking!

7) My friend Dana (hi, Dana!) recently asked me how many Americans are on staff here in Kosovo. All Peace Corps posts (meaning, host countries) have to have three Americans on staff: the Country Director, the Director of Programming and Training, and the Director of Management and Operations. All other staff members (administrative assistants, medical staff, IT director, accounts payable/receivable, program managers, small grants manager, supply chain manager, and drivers) are from Kosovo.

As always, I hope my answers are helpful! Thank you for reading.