Bear Sanctuary, Pristina, Kosovo

Chelsea, my favorite Peace Corps volunteer*, had a recent birthday. Since she is a known bear enthusiast, a group of her friends got together and we took her to the Pristina Bear Sanctuary. (*She told me I had to write that.)

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Entering the bear sanctuary

Some restaurants in Kosovo used to keep live bears in cages as a way of attracting customers. The bears were poorly fed and kept in deplorable conditions. They have since been rescued and brought to the bear sanctuary to live (since they are too domesticated to be returned to the wild).

My fear was that we wouldn’t see any of the bears, but we saw quite a few!

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First sighting, a sleeping bear!
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Second sighting, two bears!
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Ahhhh!
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A close up

This bear was so roly-poly, I wanted to cuddle him. It’s a good thing they have fences up to keep people like me from trying to do that.

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A good lesson from a bear: It is important to stop and smell the flowers.
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Look. At. Those. Feet!
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Chelsea and the bears!
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Bear Biography
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Information about different types of bears
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Chelsea and a bear mural
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Friends walking the path

This blonde bear was a favorite. She kept digging and digging.

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Blonde bear
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A photograph of a bear in captivity. 😩
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A view of the sanctuary
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A bear enjoying the shade
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Leaving the sanctuary

As another friend pointed out, calling this the “Pristina” bear sanctuary is a bit of a stretch, as it is several kilometers outside of the city. We had to take taxis to get there — two taxis for 9 people for 40 Euro round trip. Our taxi drivers went to get coffee for an hour while we explored the sanctuary. That’s Kosovar hospitality for you. 🙂

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April at the bear sanctuary

The bear sanctuary was very well done — very beautiful, lots of good information, cute touristy stuff to buy, and a cafe and places for kids to play. I highly recommend visiting!

***

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Ecological Museum, Peja, Kosovo

As part of my language training the last week, we took an afternoon field trip to the Ecological Museum in Peja.

Ecological Museum, Peja, Kosovo
Ecological Museum, Peja, Kosovo

First, we saw two exhibits showcasing how things looked in a traditional Albanian home. Here is a living room. Men would be served beverages here. The long-handled pot you see in the left corner of the picture was used for washing hands.

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Next, we saw a kitchen. Families used to sit on the floor or low stools around a table on the ground, which is called a soffit. (Note: I am not sure if I spelled that correctly.)

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The clothing exhibit was probably my favorite part of the museum. This wool dress is 100 years old, and was based on an Illyrian design. The Illyrians are considered to be the first group of people to inhabit Kosovo and other parts of the Balkans.

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The following is an example of what women used to wear in Kosovo. (I must have asked our tour guide three times, “They dressed like this EVERY DAY?” It seems an outfit this elaborate would get dirty … )

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Here is what men in Kosovo used to wear. I was interested to learn the white cloth around their heads are actually burial shrouds. Men would wear their burial shrouds every day, in case they were killed.

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As someone who likes to crochet, I appreciated this display of old sewing/looming tools.

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The other part of the museum featured old coins and artifacts that had been discovered locally. I didn’t take pictures of those exhibits because it was dark in the room. (And honestly, I am just less interested in that stuff.)

Overall, my visit to the museum was enjoyable, and I learned a few tidbits about Kosovo that I did not know previously. Admission was only 1 Euro. If you ever find yourself in Peja, Kosovo, the Ecological Museum is worth checking out.

The 9 Most Important Words and Phrases You Need to Know When Traveling to Kosovo or Albania

Props to me for creating my blog longest title yet! Anyway, I thought I would be helpful and create a guide of important Albanian words and phrases to learn, just in case you ever find yourself in this part of the world.

I had written a previous post about how much Kosovars use the word “mirĂ«” (good). There are a million greetings using the word “mirĂ«,” but in my list, I’ve stuck with a simple “hello” and “goodbye.” The “mirĂ«” greetings get really confusing … I’m always saying good morning when I should be saying goodnight, for example.

If you ever find yourself in Kosovo or Albania and you are in doubt … just say mirĂ«! EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS MIRĖ!

Remember that.
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Sach Café Kosovo

I have been traveling back and forth to Pristina recently, mostly for reasons related to the Peace Corps (getting my Kosovo ID, etc.). Anyway, I thought I would write a post about Sach CafĂ©, a place I frequent whenever I am in the capital city. Sach is located on Bill Klinton Avenue (yes, that’s how it is spelled), just up the street from the former president’s statue. Sach is an easy pit stop on the way to/from the bus station.

My favorite thing to get is the blended iced coffee. Sach even offers to-go cups (both are fairly rare finds here in Kosovo).

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So if you ever find yourself in Pristina, stop in for a coffee. 🙂 You can check out Sach’s Facebook page here.

Friday Gratitude

The temperature has climbed back up into misery, but here is a list of things I am focusing on to maintain a positive outlook.

I visited my new host family last weekend. On the day I was leaving, I had gone upstairs to brush my teeth. When I came back to my room, there was a chocolate bar on my bed. It’s like my new family knows me already! 🙂

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While traveling back to my site on Monday, I stopped in Pristina to have lunch with a fellow trainee. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Kosovar Mexican food, but it was good! I’ll go back!

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I am grateful that my time here is a shared experience, so I have others I can lean on when I am feeling down.

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Yesterday, we had our mid-training assessment and language exam. I was nervous about it, but everything went smoothly. And then I met some friends at the local pool. It ended up being one of the best days I’ve had since joining the Peace Corps.

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Have a good weekend, everyone! I’ll talk to you again on Monday.

4th of July Party on the 6th

Yesterday, we visited Pristina, Kosovo’s capital city. Technically, we were there once before, when our plane landed. But, we were immediately whisked away via bus, so we did not get the chance to explore the city.

We also got to visit the Peace Corps office for the first time yesterday. Upon entering the building, I insisted on getting my picture taken, because I am a big dork.

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Big Dork

I may have mentioned previously that Kosovo is one of Peace Corps’ newest countries. Our group is “K3,” meaning we are the third group of volunteers to enter the country. One of the coolest things I saw on the tour was a map of Kosovo, with all of the K1 and K2 volunteers’ pictures pinned to whichever city they live in. K1 volunteers are leaving soon, and K3’s photos will be going up on the map shortly! Tomorrow, I find out where my permanent placement site will be!

The Peace Corps staff threw us a belated 4th of July party, complete with an American flag cake (with Kosovo added as a star).

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Here are some fellow trainees enjoying their cake.

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We also took the opportunity to snap a photo of our language group.

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Next, we went out to explore the city. Our first stop was the top of a Catholic church, which afforded awesome views of Pristina.

I don’t know if you can tell from this photo, but Pristina is interesting in that there is the city, and then it drops off to … nothing and mountains. It’s very different from U.S. cities and their endless miles of suburban sprawl.

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Next, we toured the national library. After that, we were tired, so we stopped at a cafĂ© for refreshments. I am breaking my own “no food porn” rule to show you the delicious iced coffee (kafe me akull) I had. With all the hot weather we’ve experienced, I’ve been fantasizing about iced coffee. I thought I’d have to wait until I returned to the U.S. to find one!

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Next, we walked to Pristina’s famous “Newborn” sign. I am dissatisfied with the pictures I took, so I will return and take better ones to post next time. We did manage to snap another language group photo, though, with the letter “E.”

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Then it was time to leave. On our way to the bus station, we passed the “Hillary” store, where you can buy Hillary Clinton inspired fashions. No, I am not joking. One day I will return and take a picture of myself in a pastel pantsuit.

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Around the corner from Hillary’s store is a statue of her husband, Bill.

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And that concludes my post about Pristina. 🙂

 

Novo Brdo

On June 10, the Peace Corps trainees visited Novo Brdo. I was inspired to write about gratitude that evening, so I never got around to sharing my field trip experience. I’ve decided to write about it now.

What is Novo Brdo, you ask? Well …

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The fortress is under reconstruction, and is thought to have been originally constructed sometime between 1300-1400 A.D. Our guide said they recently had the soil tested, and it dated back to 1250.

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Here’s the Peace Corps, enjoying the view …

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Aside from the fortress, there are other sites to see. We visited Saint Lazar’s mausoleum. He was a Serbian Christian Orthodox saint. According to legend, if you flip over one of the tiles on the mausoleum’s roof, you will soon get married (and have a happy marriage).

I figured, what the heck …

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There is also an active mosque and a tower on the grounds. (I believe I heard there is a Catholic church, too, though I did not see it.)

Below is a picture of the tower.The woman on the left is a fellow Peace Corps trainee, while the man on the right is my language teacher.

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Here’s a picture of me with my friend Val, another trainee. We were warned to be careful of vipers in the grass. Yikes!

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Another one of my fellow trainees, Nicole, has some more beautiful pictures of Novo Brdo on her blog.