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Prizren

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Balkans : Kosovo : Prizren
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Prizren, in Kosovo, is a city of mosques and monasteries dating to the 14th century.

Get in[edit]

A view of Prizren looking down from city Castle

The best way to get to Prizren is by bus from Pristina (€4). Buses also arrive from Peja (€3) where the famous Serbian monasteries are located, Skopje (€9) and Belgrade ( 7 hours, 1 day bus & 2 night busses, run by Kosovo Albanian companies, cost about €10, stops depending on the route in Nis or Krusevac, Pristina and other towns on the road, information dates from February 2005). Most bus companies that run from Istanbul to Pristina continue onward and terminate in Prizren.

From Albania, there are two good ways:

  • From Tirana on the newly-constructed highway via Kukes. This masterpiece of civil engineering takes you over and through the mountains with dramatic views - about 3 hours.
  • A more adventurous route is from Shkodra via Lake Komani. Catch a furgon from Shkodra at 6:00 to Koman. Catch the passenger or car ferry to Fierze, then furgon to Bajram Curri. At Bajram Curri get another furgon to Prizren via Gjakovë, arriving in Prizren mid-afternoon.

Get around[edit]

Almost everywhere is within walking distance - the bus station is approximately 10 minutes walk from the centre of town. Taxis are available for hire.

See[edit][add listing]

Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George. Medieval Church of Our Saviour can be seen in the backgroud, on the hill.
  • Kaljaja (Prizren Fortress) is a medieval fortress where the capital of Serbia was once located. The fort was given its modern shape from the four and a half centuries it was controlled by the Ottomans. The fort has an amazing view and can be reached easily by following the path behind the mosque, via the old Orthodox Cathedral. An alternative and more scenic route is to hike up the hill from the riverside, (approx 4.5km / 1 hour.) On the hill side, follow the river East out of town to the Maresh district, past the site of the Dokufest camp. When you come to the end of the path on the hill side, cross the bridge and continue. The path will cross the river a second time then lead up the hill through the woods full of wildlife to the back entrance of the fortress, and you can make your way back to the town via the Orthodox Cathedral to the mosque. Open 24h, free.

Churches

  • Saint George Orthodox Cathedral is located in the centre of town, at the Shadërvan Square. It was completed in 1887, but was destroyed by an Albanian mob in 2004. It has been reconstructed since, and entrance is free. It is the cathedral church of the Ras-Prizren Serbian Orthodox Diocese.
  • Small Saint George Orthodox Church is located in the courtyard of the Orthodox cathedral. Also heavily damaged by fire during the pogrom in 2004, it has been renovated, and its XVI century frescoes have been conserved as much as it had been possible.
  • Saint Nicholas Orthodox Chapel is located opposite from the courtyard of the Orthodox Cathedral. It was erected in 1331, and heavily damaged in 2004. Some parts of the original frescoes can still be seen inside. If you wish to visit the chapel, you have to ask the sacristan from the Cathedral church to open it for you.
Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš.
  • Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš - UNESCO World Heritage Site, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, is located in the city centre, on the north side of Bistrica. One of the most beautiful examples of medieval Serbian architecture, it was erected in the XIV century (1306-1309) by king Milutin. During Ottoman rule, it was converted in a mosque. It was also damaged in 2004, but a group of Russian experts has been working on the restoration of the church's frescoes. The church is closed, and you can only visit it if you ask the sacristan of the Orthodox Cathedral to take you there (by foot, since it is very near) and open it for you, but remember it may not always be possible for him to leave his work. It is an interesting curiosity to note that among saints painted on frescoes you can also find Plato and Plutarch, as philosophers who, according to medieval understanding, "foretold the arrival of the Messiah" (it is unknown whether this fresco has also been restored, or tragically perished when an Albanian mob set fire to the church in 2004).
  • Church of Saint Nicholas near the Orthodox Cathedral has been destroyed in 1999, and its renovation was only beginning as of 2013.
  • Churches dedicated to Our Saviour (cca 1330), Saint Kyriaki (1371), Saints Cosmas and Damian (XIX c.) and Saint Thomas the Apostle (XIX c.) are all located under Kaljaja fortress. Damaged and nearly destroyed in 1999 and 2004, they are closed to the public.
Chapel of Saint Nicholas.
  • Holy Archangels Monastery is located less than 2 km south-west from the city centre, on the Bistrica River. To get there, just follow the Prizren-Doganaj road that passes along the river, under Kaljaja fortress (Attention: no sidewalk for pedestrians at certain parts). First you will see a mighty 450-year old plane tree and a mosque, after some time you will pass the scenic Prizrenasja Hydrocentral, and again some ten minutes later (on foot) you will see the entrance to the monastery on your right-hand side. The monastery was built by the Serbian emperor Stefan Uroš IV Dušan from 1343 to 1352. It was completely destroyed by the Ottomans in 1615, and its building blocks used to build the Sinan-Pasha Mosque in Prizren. Attacked and again demolished in 1999 and 2004, it currently houses just one monk, and the monastery complex comprises of a small chapel dedicated to Saint Lazarus, and newly built (2014) lodgings for the guests. Holy and wonder-working icon of the Virgin Mary of Prizren (XIV cent.) is kept in the chapel. Visit and stay in the monastery are free (donations for renovation and upkeep recommended), but there may be times when father Mihailo is away and the monastery closed.
  • Catholic Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, stands at the top of the stone street that leads from the Shadërvan Square and is undergoing restoration. It is the co-cathedral church of the Catholic Diocese of Prizren that covers the whole territory of Kosovo. It was built on the location of the Saint Demetrius Orthodox church in 1870.

Mosques

There are numerous mosques around town, but the largest, dominating the town center is the Mosque of Sinan Pasha.

  • Sofi Sinan Pasha Mosque - The Mosque of Sinan Pasha is one of the most important monuments from the occupation of Ottoman Empire in this territory. According to the inscription inside the mosque Sofi Sinan Pasha, built it for his co-citizens, on hijri year 1024 (1615), using the building material from the Holy Archangels Monastery, which the Ottomans demolished and tore to the ground the same year. The mosque was built with walls over 2 m thick, it contains more than 50 windows, and the minaret is one of the highest in the city. The mosque is very rich in ornaments of many colors and shapes. The interior of the mosque is decorated by arabesques and other decorations of flora and fauna in the baroque style. There are two layers of paintings in it, the paintings of the time when the mosque was built (17th century) and a second layer of paintings (19th century). In the entrance the mosque has a fountain, built by the founder. The mosque also used to have a madras and a library with numerous books of different contents.
  • Bajrakli Mosque - the 14th century Mosque of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, can be reached on the first left street infront of The Hamam.. Bajrakli mosque dates from 1566 and is possibly the most beautiful mosque in Prizren with ornate wood work and detailed blue-and-white paintings.
  • The Prizren League House - old complex where Albanian political organization founded on June 10, 1878 in Prizren. Albanian Prizren League officially started with gathering of 300 representatives of all Albanian regions. In the meeting there were also Bosnians from Bosnia and Sanxhak. The aim of the meeting was to form an autonomous Albanian state that would cover the otoman regions (vilajets) of Prizren, Shkodra, Manastir and Janina. The league was the first serious effort to create united Albanian region since the failure of Skenderbeg forces in medieval.
  • The Hammam (Turkish Baths) of Prizren is an early Ottoman-era monument in which oriental and local traditions combine. It was built in the heart of the city in 1563/4 by Gazi Mehmet Pasha, at the time when he was also building the nearby mosque. The hammam has two large and nine small domes and is separated into men’s and women’s sections. As one of the most precious hammams in South-East Europe, it embodies special architectural, historical, cultural and social values. Integrated for centuries in the lives of the citizens, it has become a symbol for the spiritual and cultural heritage of Prizren and its region. The building functioned as a hammam until 1944. It then served for cheese production, as a warehouse, and later the entrance area was used for cultural events. In state protection since 1954, the hammam was repaired and maintained until 1981 when it was left at the mercy of time. After the NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999, some limited measures were undertaken for the monument’s protection. It is located near the center of town, just up from the main post office. It is a distinctive complex of low brick domes. No longer used as public baths, the building is occasionally used for art exhibits, otherwise closed to the public.
  • The mostly destroyed Serbian Quarter above the city - from the center of the city, start heading up hill toward the fortress. You will see the remains of the walls on the crest of the hill - head up paths in that direction. There are no signs along the way.
  • Shadervan is the main square and a gathering point in the evenings and is surrounded by cafes, bars, restaurants and ice cream parlours. During the day this is an excellent place to sit and have a coffee, or have lunch and watch the town go about its business. The fountain in the center of the piazza is safe to drink from and is a central gathering point during hot summer afternoons. From about 9:30pm to midnight on almost every night in the summer the streets around Shadervan are crowded with locals walking the corso, meeting, chatting and drinking.
  • In August the town hosts the Dokufest International Documentary and Short Film Festival www.dokufest.com. During the Festival the town is full of people and various parties go late at night in the bars.
  • Filigran ShPK have a wonderful workshop where you can watch the magical process of transforming a rod of dull silver into lacy designs for brooches, platters, rings, wedding regalia and models of historical monuments. The pieces are welded together using mouth-operated blowtorches that seem to turn the craftsmen and women into dragons! Contact Faik on filigranpz@gmail.com to arrange your visit.

Around Prizren

The area around Prizren, particularly to the east and southwest is also scenic. Heading east from town toward the old Yugoslav ski resort of Brezovica takes you through the Zhupa National Park valley. There are numerous restaurants following the river along this route. The ski slopes at Brezovica are open and for skiing during the winter. The runs were once considered some of the best in Yugoslavia, and the site was a back-up for the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984.

To the southwest, toward the Albanian border the landscape is also dramatic. About an hour's drive from Prizren is the mountain town of Dragash. Although there is no skiing in the mountains surrounding Dragash, the area is beautiful. Friday is market day in Dragash.

Buy[edit][add listing]

There are a few traditional crafts that are still practiced in Prizren and the surrounding area. The most traditional craft for Prizren itself has always been filigree. Very ornate pieces are made for traditional local weddings, but more simple pieces are available in any of the shops that line the road leading into town. There's also a great shop at the end of the stone bridge, on the opposite bank from the main mosque.

Market day is Wednesday. The town fills up with merchants from all of the surrounding villages. In addition to crafts such as wordworks, there are also cheap mass produced tchotckas and knick-knacks.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Prizren is well known in Kosovo for it's barbecue restaurants (qebaptore) which are everywhere - your meal will be cooked right before your eyes. You can also find sweets such as baklava and tullumba, which are traditionally made in Prizren. Most restaurants are located in Shadervan and the surrounding area.

  • Ambienti is in the center and offers a nice view to the town. Walk east from Shadervan, and the restaurant is up a slope overlooking the river. International fare at modest prices.
  • ODA offers menu food and is right next to the Stone Bridge.
  • Besimi restaurant in Shadervan for well priced barbecue and some international dishes.
  • Pauza offers traditional food, wine, raki, picas, spaghetti, salads, soups and cafe with new interior design. Contact 044/49 243415 or 044/49 218188, the opposite way of Kep Institution.
  • Sharr in Brezoviza (near the National Park) 10 miles from Prizren has lamb and traditional pastry (flia).
  • For traditional sweets try Shendeti (near Shadervan), which also sells Boza (fermented cornflour drink)

Drink[edit][add listing]

There are many coffee shops, bars and pubs in Shadervan square and surrounding areas. Behind the Sinan Pasha Mosque there is a nice bar called Qarshia and the bar in the cultural centre with a great courtyard/terrace has a good view.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Turkish style baths located in the center of Prizren

Its only in August during Film Festival Dokufest when you may find it difficult to find accommodation.

Budget

  • Prizren City Hostel, Ilaz Kuka nr 66, 00386 49-466-313, [1]. 3 minutes walking distance from the city centre. Hostel can accommodate a total of 33 guests and has 4 floors. It offers rooms for 1,2,3 or 4 people, private and mix dorms. Showers and toilets on each floor, 4 of the rooms have private bathroom. Central heating, a multi-purpose room with a WiFi internet access, laptop and a fully fitted guest kitchen. All rooms have WiFi access, TV and air conditioning. Dorm rooms from €11.  edit

Mid Range

  • Hotel Albatros, Rr. Besim Shala (Nashec), +37744400313, [2]. checkin: 14h; checkout: 11h. Set in the historic touristic town of Prizren, the elegant Hotel Albatros offers an outdoor pool and an a la carte restaurant with a selection of wines. All units come with air conditioning, flat-screen TV and free Wi-Fi. The centre of Prizren is 1 km away. You can admire views of the nearby mountains from the terrace on the 5th floor. E-mail : info@hotel-albatros.net, for booking. €25. (98,) edit
  • Pension Oltas - small hotel/pensione near the Catholic Church (someone should be able to direct you from the church.) Single rooms €25 per night, double rooms €35 including breakfast and laundry. All rooms have private bathroom, cable TV, air conditioning, fridge and wifi. The rooms are very clean and quite nice. Computers with internet access available at reception. Reception is closed between midnight and 8am. oltas_pension@hotmail.com, +377 44 113 252, +381 29 231 628
  • Hotel Pik-Nik is very reasonable, and the owners and staff are more than willing to cater to your every whim. It also has a beautiful restaurant and upstairs rotunda and seating for privacy. The restaurant menu is filled with traditional Balkan cuisine, and serves the best calzone in Prizren.
  • Hotel Tirana is located downtown and it costs around €35 per night. +37744216155
  • Hotel Alvida (10 minutes walk from bus station or 5 minute using shortcut) +37744217167. Single room €20 , double room €25, family-room €40 (double bed and 3 single bed.) Breakfast costs €2 extra. The staff are very hospitable and the hotel is very clean.
  • Hotel Residence (8 minutes walk from bus station) +37744256774
  • Hotel City (10 minutes walk from bus station) +37744952392
  • Bujtina (downtown) +37744113252
  • Hotel OK (5 minutes drive from bus station) +37744131761
  • Hotel Therande in the centre of town

Get out[edit]

Mini buses to Pristina (€4 paid on the bus) leave from the main road out of town.

The main bus station has services to Kosovo (almost everywhere, usually via Pristina or Gjakova), Macedonia and Albania. In the summer months there are buses to Ulcinj (Ulgin) in Montenegro.

Visit the old Serbian village of Velika Hoča and taste their famous wine.

The bus to Tirana stops at the kiosk outside the bus station at about 5:30 and 16:30. It is a through bus from Pristina, buy your ticket on the bus (not in the bus station). It is not recommended to take a taxi to Albania unless you are with a known and trusted local.

Buses to Skopje at 5:30 and 9:00, cost €9.

Buses to Istanbul cost €50.


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