Thursday, February 24, 2011

Roadtrip to Peje

Since I knew nothing about the political geography of Kosovo, I'm assuming you don't either, so here is a map to illustrate my tale:
Notice that each city has two names- one in Albanian and one in Serbian.  So we started the day in Pristina, where Peder lives, and drove two hours to Peje.  I like roadtrips, especially in new places.  Anna and I talked about how, many years ago, it would take people weeks to get across the ponds (Atlantic or Pacific), but having that time was helpful for them to process where they're going and where they've been.  When you can get on a plane and fly around the world in 12 hours you don't get that, especially since planes have started showing recently released movies that I really want to see.  I know that I was on a 6-hour bus one day and spent 4 hours in the car the next, but I'm actually really thankful that I had the time to take it all in.
The view from Peder's apartment

I thought about many things as I watched Kosovo pass by out the window.  The buildings I saw were all built with the top floor jutting out over the first floor creating an overhang, balconies without rails.  They were taller rather than wide and for the most part stood alone.  The landscape was hilly with short brown grass as per winter, with small patches of snow here and there. The road was of varying conditions, from pavement to mud.  We passed cemeteries, a paint-ball course, rock quarries, and many, many American flags.  There didn't seem to be any real towns, just the similar tall building which could have been homes or businesses.  They were too far away to tell.

It is very strange to be in a place that was filled with violence and genocide just a few years ago.  You think twice about the things you see, and wonder what happened to make it that way.  We passed rubble that Peder said had been Serbian homes.  They were destroyed so the Serbs would never come back, and the destroyed buildings still haven't been cleared away.  We saw a church that had been bombed and all that remained amongst the wreckage was a corner wall.  The steeple sat upside-down on a pile of rocks.

Just outside the city of Peje is the Peja Brewery.  We literally passed by the factory, and did a U-turn to see if they gave tours.  It being a Saturday, they were gracious enough to have a Marketing Director and Graphic Designer who spoke English show us around.  The factories weren't running that day, but we still walked through the whole assembly line, from bottle making to labels, to bottle filling.  The brewery has an interesting history.  It was started as a state-run operation (because it definitely is the government's responsibility to make sure everyone has enough beer!), and is now co-owned by Slovenian investors ("47%").  I'm thinking I may have to someday return to do research and write a book... Our tour guide was so wonderful.  He took us back to his office and offered us drinks and free souvenirs (see the picture down at the bottom- free t-shirts!).
The Peja Brewery which we toured.  We never did find out whether this is full of beer or not...
Label machine

After the brewery, we continued into the city of Peje.  Peder met a friend at a coffee shop that we had heard about, called Sweet Bean.  It was started about a year and a half ago by an American couple, who we met while enjoying an amazing latte.  The couple are around my age and said they started it to teach young people about entrepreneurship.  It was a lovely place and my possibility-for-the-future Spidey-sense was on fire.  Isn't it everyone's dream to move overseas and open a coffeeshop?
I like taking pictures of my coffee

Our original destination was the Patriarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church, 2km NW of Peje.  To briefly and inadequitely sum up the past 20 years in Kosovo, many regions are hostile to Serbs, so NATO Italians guard the premises. It is considered a very holy site, but I don't think the patriarch actually lives there most of the time.  Inside the walls are a church and the living quarters, a garden and a stone river.  The  nuns and clergy who live there keep the grounds kept, grow grapes, and keep bees.  The church has been partially renovated, and the frescos inside were beautiful.  Oh, there is also a gift shop.
Inside the church
Outside the church
Just hanging out in an Italian-guarded Serbian Orthodox patriarchy
Anna and Peder

After leaving the patriarchy, we continued on the road going westward into the mountains.  The road goes through a canyon next to a river.  The whole scene was majestic:  the snow and trees high up, and the different rock textures from the mountains.  It was dizzying.  I think it would be an amazing place to hike in warmer weather.  We had dinner on the top of a skyscraper in Peje before driving back to Pristina.
Amazing view

This will go down as one of my favorite days ever, I think.  And finally... our t-shirts from the Peja Brewery!

Peja souvineers!

1 comment:

bookwurm70 said...

So interesting about the American flags. When I was in Albania last November they said Albanians love Americans because there are many Albanians in Kosovo. Didn't see any Americans flags, though.


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