Prizren, the Picture Perfect Balkan Town

Prizren is the picture perfect Balkan town.  It’s cut in two by the Drini River; a graceful Turkish arched bridge unites the two halves of the town.  A 15th century Mosque dominates the riverbank.  That Mosque is built on Roman foundations.  At least 5 other minarets pierce the skyline.  The citadel overlooking the town was first built in the 4th century BC by the Illyrians and used, in turn, by the Romans, Byzantines and Turks.  Halfway up the hill sits a Byzantine monastery.  Another Orthodox church sits near the main town square.  Then there is the clock tower and Turkish bath.  Rows of low, red tile roofed shop houses make up the center of the town, separated by narrow stone paved streets, plazas, fountains and cafes.  Dark mountains loom in the near distance.  The sounds include river over rock, the call of the hoxha and Turkish dance rhythms mixed with techno.  People still wear traditional dress on market day.   It is the perfect Balkan town, except it is clean, its traffic is well ordered and after midnight it’s quiet.  It is what Albania would be like if it were run by the Germans, which, of course, it is.  Prizren is part of the German zone in Kosovo.

This paragraph is from a November 1999 letter after my first visit to Prizren, first impressions.  Now Kosovo is an independent country.  Cities are no longer run by Germans or any other occupying powers and on subsequent visits Prizren has shown me its less ordered and more chaotic Balkan side.




Tomorrow our blog visits two Armenian Monasteries with very different characters that face each other across a valley.  

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