Pristina Bazaar

A volunteer friend suggested visiting the bazaar in Pristina, so a small group of us went last week. I had no idea there was a bazaar in Pristina!

There was SO MUCH produce for sale, for prices even cheaper than what I can find in my village. (Fifty cents for a carton of strawberries, versus 1.50 Euro in my village.) You can also finds lots of other goods at the bazaar, everything from clothing and yarn, to household items, to cigarettes.

SO much produce! This was just one stall.
So delicious …
Dry goods, honey, and çifteli (2-stringed instrument)
Wall upon wall of cigarettes
We kept waiting for a box avalanche. It didn’t happen.

As far as I know, the bazaar is open every week day. You can find it here:

 

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My Favorite Photos from the Second Quarter

Without further adieu, here are my favorite photos from December 2017 until now. By my own method of counting, I have completed my second quarter of Peace Corps service.

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Peace Corps conference in December
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At the Po-E-Ze Competition

Vacation has started! #pristina #butnotforlong

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Eiffel Tower

London calling! #cheesy #tourist #london #england🇬🇧

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Chelsea and April, at a London Pub
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With Charlie, Chelsea, and Sierra, in Prizren, Kosovo

Serbian monastery in the snow. #peja #kosovo

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A walk in Pristina in February
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Happy kitty!

#Skopje #Macedonia #church 🇲🇰

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Fortress/castle from the Ottoman Empire, Skopje, Macedonia
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Traditional Kosovar clothing
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Visiting the Ecological Museum

April in Rome Favorite

April in Rome Umbrella Pines
Umbrella Pines
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Inside the Roman Forum
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April and Nicole at Costanza Restaurant, Rome
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Tim, Rachel, and April, in Berlin
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Easter Eggs
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Budapest

I am so excited to be able to send my grandpa a postcard from his mother's home country! #budapest #hungary #motherland

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Kosovo village Catholic church
My village in Kosovo
April Mirusha Waterfall
April at Mirusha Wateralls
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April, under a waterfall
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Anniversary dinner! Shay, April, Christian, Val, and Charlie

As always, thanks for reading! You can see my favorite photos from the first quarter here.

Welcome, Kosovo Group 4!

Kosovo is the second-newest Peace Corps country. My cohort is the third group of volunteers here. (If you’re curious, you can see a full list of Peace Corps countries, including the length of their programs and the number of their currently-serving volunteers, here.)

In a week, the newest Kosovo cohort arrives! The feeling I have is not unlike entering my senior year of high school. You know how things are so much better when you’re a senior, because you’re the oldest and you know everything and you’re excited for the future? That’s how I anticipate feeling in the coming year. One year of service down, one more to go!

I remember how I felt this time last year … my last week in the United States. My emotions ran the gamut from happy, sad, excited, scared, anxious, and hopeful.

Last fall, I created some blog posts in order to provide helpful information to the new cohort, as they were beginning to receive their acceptance letters. With only a week to go before they arrive in-country, I thought I would re-post the links to those posts.

Other posts that might be helpful:

Pre-Service Training

All About Kosovo

Teaching

Lesson Plans and Activities

Albanian/Shqip Language

Guest Bloggers (Different perspectives from my fellow Kosovo Peace Corps Volunteers)

Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Travel Within Kosovo

We are looking forward to meeting you, Kosovo Group 4!

Mirusha Waterfalls, Kosovo

April Mirusha Waterfall
April at Mirusha Wateralls

On Saturday, two volunteer friends and I visited Mirusha Waterfalls.

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Our trip was almost thwarted by the threat of rain. But by the end of the week, the forecast had cleared. I’m so glad we decided to go!

The hike to the waterfalls is a few kilometers. Along the way, we saw lots of beautiful wild flowers.

Canadian Thistle
Canadian Thistle

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When we reached this stream, we knew we were getting closer …

Stream Kosovo

And here’s the first waterfall!

First Waterfall Mirusha Kosovo

After that, we hiked up to a second waterfall. The path was steep and rocky, and at several points, we had to climb, using rocks to propel ourselves upward. The journey was totally worth it! We reached a second waterfall, and pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was the perfect spot to stop and eat our picnic lunch.

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The second waterfall …
Hiking women waterfall
Hiking women
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My companions  …
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Behind the waterfall, where we ate our picnic lunch
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Moi
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Oh, just chillin’ at the base of a waterfall …

Visiting Mirusha Waterfalls was one of the most relaxing, enjoyable times I have had in Kosovo.

April Mirusha Waterfall 2

Gračanica, Kosovo

“I really need to get out more,” is what I keep telling myself. I go to Pristina often, Peja occasionally, and everywhere else … never. Since I am almost halfway through my Peace Corps service (isn’t that crazy?!), I keep telling myself I need to make an effort to see more of Kosovo.

Last Tuesday was a national holiday, “Europe Day,” so we didn’t have school. I decided to take the opportunity to visit a friend in Gračanica, Kosovo, a Serbian village just outside of Pristina.

I talk a lot about Albanian culture on this blog. Albanians are in the majority here in Kosovo, so I have had more exposure to their culture. I was happy to have a chance to visit Gračanica and learn a bit more about Serbian traditions.

Where is Gračanica, Kosovo?

It is south east of Pristina (Kosovo’s capital city).

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My friend was a great tour guide, and even provided me with these informational booklets from the municipality. The information I share in quotes comes from these booklets. (They’re awesome — they even have traditional recipes listed. I might share some more info from them in the future.)

Gracanice Kosovo tourism boolkets

Our first stop was Ento Kuka, a restaurant that serves traditional Serbian food. I got chicken and potatoes.

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Gracanice restaurant 1
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Next, we visited “an archeological site of the Roman and early Byzantine city Ulpiana. It reached its peak development in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.”

I knew that Kosovo had once been under Ottoman rule (which is when much of the country converted to Islam), but I had never given much thought to its prior history. I was so surprised to learn that Kosovo has Roman ruins.

We saw the site of a church, public baths, and a cemetery.

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Roman ruins Gracanice Kosovo 2
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Roman ruins Gracanice Kosovo 4
Can you spot the sarcophagus? 
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Roman ruins Gracanice Kosovo 6
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Next, we visited the Gracanica monastery. My friend told me that there is an exact replica of the monastery in Chicago, Illinois. I used to live in Chicago, and did not know this!

Taking photos inside the monastery is not allowed. (It is really beautiful.) Here are pictures of the outside:

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Last, we visited the “Missing” sign. It is “the work of the artist Goran Stojcetovic … plastered with photos of missing and kidnapped Serbs from 1998 until 2000. It is a memorial against the crimes of the Serbian people.”

Missing Gracanice Kosovo

It was a very interesting visit and I am thankful to my friend for giving me a tour!

An Unexpected Trip to Hungary

I visited Hungary for the first time over this past weekend. I certainly wasn’t expecting to go on vacation so soon after going on vacation, but the opportunity arose and I took it. A friend asked if I wanted to meet there, and I said, “Yes,” and then, “Let me talk to Peace Corps.” One vacation request and 84 Euro later, and I was on a plane headed for Budapest.

I’m very close to my grandfather, and his mother was from Hungary. Visiting my great-grandmother’s home country was high on my to-do list while in Europe. I am so glad I got the chance to go!

Budapest (pronounced “Buda-pesht,” I learned), is a much bigger city than I expected. It is everything I thought Berlin would be (but wasn’t) — vibrant and artsy, with an edge to it.

My friend and I spent much of our time walking around the city. Keep reading, and I’ll tell you my favorite things about Budapest.

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Intermission during a dance performance of Dracula
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Palace of the Arts, lit up at night
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Morning walk along the Danube
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Food truck court
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I liked this deer.
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A 4-Euro lunch, and it was good! Yes, please.
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Cuteness abounds at the food truck court
Danube at night
The Danube in the evening
Szimpla Kert
A bad photo of Szimpla Kert … I encourage you to search for better ones on the Internet. Loved this space!
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Art Deco church on the “Buda” half of the city
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Museum of Applied Arts — so sad I wasn’t able to visit on this trip. Next time!

Tips and Observations About Budapest:

  • I wasn’t sure what to do my first night in the city, since I arrived before my friend did. After poking around on Google Maps, I discovered the Palace of the Arts was close to where I was staying. I went to a dance performance of Dracula, and really had a great time! Because it was a dance performance, I was able to (loosely) follow the plot, even though the speaking parts were obviously in Hungarian. And the dancers were wearing what I assume were traditional Hungarian costumes, which I got a kick out of seeing. Also, the price was right (only 11 Euro).
  • There is a little alley tucked into the city that leads to a court with food trucks. I got handmade gnocchi for lunch. 🙂 The food was good, cost about 4 Euro, and the atmosphere was really cute.
  • I had never heard of a “ruin pub” before my trip. I discovered that a ruin pub is a bar inside an old, rundown building, and that they are very popular in Budapest. My friend and I visited the largest, oldest, and most famous ruin pub — Szimpla Kert. My pictures of it stink because it was so dark inside (check out their website if you want to see more). It was HUGE and PACKED! There were so many rooms, with so many different options … a wine bar, a food bar, different lounges, and an outdoor space. The building was rough and decaying, filled with oddball trinkets and eclectic decor. While loud, busy bars are not my scene, I loved the space.
  • My friend and I tried to go to Szechenyi thermal bath (another thing for which I didn’t know Budapest is famous). We got there at about 3 in the afternoon. The place was packed. We would’ve had to wait for an hour or more to get in. Instead, we decided to buy a day pass at a local hotel, and use their thermal pool. It wasn’t much of a cultural experience, but we were determined to do something relaxing, and the hotel’s thermal pool was much less crowded.
  • We decided to have a traditional Hungarian meal on my last night in the city. Based on a local’s recommendation, we ended up at Mester. The food was excellent, and it reminded me of some of the meals my family makes. 🙂 (Nothing beats a hearty beef-and-noodle soup!)
  • Compared to other place I’ve visited in Europe (which, for the record, are Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Spain, France, England, Italy, and Germany), Hungary had the best crafts and homemade goods made by local artisans. We visited a little craft market, and I could’ve gone nuts buying things (I didn’t). I managed to rein myself in and only buy a few souvenirs for my family.

I loved Budapest, and feel like I could return and have new things to explore the next time around.