Gift Of Sultan Murad: Kosovo
KOSOVO IN THE HEART OF THE BALKANS IS DECKED WITH MOUNTAINS AND PLAINS AND ADORNED WITH RIVERS AND STREAMS. THIS COUNTRY, WHICH HAS OPENED ITS HEART WIDE TO CULTURE, HISTORY AND NATURE TOURISM, IS EUROPE’S YOUNGEST COUNTRY.
Stretching as far as the eye can see, Kosovo Field bore witness to several great wars in history. After the first Battle of Kosovo Field, fought here in 1389, the territory was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire and remained Turkish soil until the Balkan War of 1912. Becoming part of Yugoslavia in 1943, it came under United Nations control in 1999 and remained so until it finally declared its independence on February 17, 2008.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
The multitude of languages spoken in Kosovo points to a cultural richness dating back to the uniquely Ottoman tradition of empire. Together with the Albanian language, Turkish, Bosnian, Serbian and Romany are spoken in the country. We begin to explore this spanking new Balkan country from its energetic capital, Prishtina. Construction and restoration work on every side strike the eye in this city, a sign of the dynamism engendered by independence. Turkish firms, of course, also have a substantial share in the rapid development initiative under way here. The Kosovar youth that throng the streets are full of hope for the future, and Kosovo in turn believes in its young people. “Our country is not populous,” say the people of this land of just 1,800,000, “but we are full of hope and energy. We are going to rise quickly!”
INVITATION TO KOSOVO
Named for Nena Tereze (Mother Teresa), who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her humanitarian work, a pedestrian thoroughfare runs through the heart of Prishtina with its population of 600,000. Another major avenue that intersects it is named for former U.S. President Bill Clinton. A statue of Mother Teresa stands at the city center. Another of the city’s prominent monuments, Newborn, was erected as a symbol of independence. Prishtina also boasts some surprisingly modern cafes. And the food served in the city’s restaurants and cafes is tastier and of higher quality than you might imagine. Plus, the city’s shopping centers promise a rich variety at convenient prices. We hasten our steps toward the quarter of Madrasa, where there are numerous sights worth seeing such as mosques, madrasas, a bath and a market as well as examples of civilian architecture, all from the Ottoman period. But the most striking structure in this part of the city, where you will feel as if you are in an Anatolian town, is the 26-meter-high clock tower, also an Ottoman legacy. The Mosque of Mehmed the Conqueror, aka the Great Mosque, was built in 1462. Erected at the behest of the sultan, the mosque has been renovated from tip to toe by TİKA (the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency). Immediately next to Kosovo’s oldest Ottoman mosque stands an historic bath. The Yashar Pasha Mosque opposite dates to 1835. On either side of the two mosques stand two historic mansions which house the Fine Arts Academy and Kosovo Museum today.
CITY OF TOLERANCE
When in Prishtina, be sure to explore the neighboring countryside. Just 21 kilometers north of the city is Kosovo Field, where the great battle was fought. A mausoleum for Sultan Murad I stands on the battlefield along the Mitrovica road. We head now for Kosovo’s second largest city, Prizren, where there is certainly something to see. Church and mosque, Christian and Muslim, live side by side in Prizren, cheek by jowl in the same apartment building on the same street. Writer Fahri Tuna, Balkan Consultant for the Governor of Edirne Province and a man who knows Kosovo well, says that Prizren has more mosques than any other city in the Balkans: “Don’t be deceived by the six-pointed star you will see frequently in the Kosovo mosques. It was used by the Ottomans and is known as the Star of Solomon.” Continuing our tour of the city, we cross the historic Stone Bridge and come to Sinan Pasha Mosque, a 17th century Ottoman monument and virtual icon of the city. Namazgâh Mosque, a mark of Mehmed the Conqueror’s conquest of the city in 1455, and the mosque known in common parlance as the “Kırık” or Broken Mosque for its unusual architecture, are some of Prizren’s other treasures. Even such a brief tour as ours suffices to show that there are warm, friendly people in Europe’s newest country. They await your visit.
WINTER TOURISM’S NEW ADDRESS
Encircled by high mountains, Kosovo is ideal for mountain climbing and winter sports as well as honeymooning.
Popular for their ski resorts and mountain holidays, Brezovica in the Sharr Mountains and Bjeshkët e Namuna, the “Accursed Mountains” of the Rugova region, are among the country’s touristic treasures.
CHOFTA AND CHEBAB
In addition to mouthwatering dishes like “chofta” (kofta), “chebab” (kebab), pasha chofta and güveç stew, Kosovo’s roast lamb, moussaka, and “ayvari” made of roasted, mashed red peppers are also famous. The area’s cheese, yoghurt, rice pudding and tulumba pastry are worth trying, too.
THE PARIS OF TREKKING
As well as the city of Gjilan in eastern Kosovo and the city of Peć, home of the father of the late Turkish poet, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, in the Bjeshët e Namuna range to the west, the Gora region in southern Kosovo’s Sharr Mountains and the Pashtrik (Sarı Saltuk) Mountains offer natural landscapes of stunning beauty for everything from trekking to canoeing.
Tahir Efendi, the father of poet Mehmet Akif, who penned the words of Turkey’s national anthem, was a Kosovan. Writer and director Gani Müjde, artist and writer Münib Engin Noyan are Kosovan, too. Ali Sami Yen, founder of the Galatasaray Sports Club and Ali Şen, businessman and former president of Fenerbahçe Sports Club were also known to be Kosovan. Families of artists Suzan Kardeş and Candan Erçetin and journalist Fehmi Koru are Kosovan as well.
Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Prishtina-Istanbul flights daily. Departure times are 7:35 a.m. and 7:10 p.m. from Istanbul and 9:05 a.m. and 8:40 p.m. from Prishtina. For information: www.turkishairlines.com