Sunday, November 12, 2006

The road to Prishtina

Hawley met our plane at the little Skopje airport and we got a taxi to the Hotel Kapistec, which she knew about from previous visits. It was very cute, filled with plants and homey little lace coverlets and scarves. We got one room with three beds – which turned out to be like a picture of the Three Bears’ house in the illustrated story book. It didn’t matter. We were so tired. There was no water in the place which after a feast of cevapi was a necessity so the proprietress gave us something as good, she told us. It was lime green – a kind of apple concentrate that tasted like Kool Aid and smelled like shampoo.

We slept late into Sunday morning then ate breakfast of bread, coffee and cheese and it was off to Pristina. Hawley had arranged for a driver so the accommodations were deluxe.

At the border between Macedonia and Kosovo the guard inspected our passports, especially Svjetlana’s Bosnian passport but also wanted to see work papers or ID cards from the Americans. Hawley’s Columbia University card seemed to calm whatever doubt he had about us going into Kosovo.

Wow. Prishtina is a gray, hard-core little city. It reminds me a little of Youngstown, except that it is filled with teenagers and 20-somethings and there’s all kind of building going on – the result of a war-induced housing shortage and an abundance of international investment. It is not a lovely city I suspect even when it’s not wintry.

The university has put up in the Hotel Lyon, another cute little place on a steep hill not far from the Centar across from the gigantic Ibrahim Rugova monument. He was the former president of the country, father of the nation, in some people’s view, because he stood up against Slobodan Milosevic in resisting Serbian rule . He died of lung cancer at age 61 earlier this year. A chain smoker, he always wore a signature tie with a scarf wrapped around his neck. Interesting leader.

Evliana Beriana the workshop organizer meets us to go over the schedule and drink more coffee. This trip will be a series of meetings in smoky cafes, so very Balkan.

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