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Impressions of Kosovo

There is no region in Europe more complicated than the Balkans, and Kosovo is no exception to this, quite the opposite. A melting pot of Islamic and Orthodox communities, anchored in ethnic belonging, Albanian, Serbian and other minorities. A long history of turbulence and violence, which has to a great extent wiped out the mutual trust and respect among ethnic groups. Not only in Kosovo, but in the entire Balkan region, it will take time and a long period of delicate peace to generate the crucial confidence among ethnic and national communities that minorities on the 'wrong' side of the border will be treated with respect and integrity, so that the existence of ethnic minorities does no longer turn into territorial claims or forced migrations on all sides.

Actually, it's not even as 'simple' as that. Take for instance the Battle of Kosovo of 1389, which is usually seen as a mere confrontation between Serbian defenders and Ottoman invaders. But, how do we bring into the equation that Bosnian, Greek, Bulgarian, Wallachian and other troops were fighting along on one or another side? Ah, the Balkans!

And yet, there is something magic about the Balkans, something which we also identify in Kosovo. The charm of pristine nature in the Rugova Valley, the simplicity of daily life, still very much secured in traditions, the fascinating way in which, through the centuries, neighbouring peoples have cross-fertilised each other's culture, language, kitchen and habits. The charm of the cobblestone streets of Prizren, an Ottoman city as if it had emerged from an 18th century time capsule, the magnificence of 14th century monasteries which have resiliently stood firm in spite of all violence surrounding them, and even the chaotic capital Prishtina where the street image reflects all influences, all occupations, all stages of hope, violence and renewed hope this part of the world has known. Now that this region is no longer in the news written by calamity and war reporters, Kosovo is absolutely worthy to be discovered in a spirit of this renewed hope, building on the rich assets its people, cities and nature have to offer.

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