Day 33 Thanks to the tailwinds, we were averaging 18mph. To take advantage of this, we cycled directly to the capital, Pristina. We made the 20 mile journey in little over an hour – a perfect way to end the day. The outskirts of town were full of concrete tower blocks and chaotic roads. But, the traffic jams led to modern buildings and big plazas. After dropping the bags and bikes off at the hostel, we went for a quick local dinner – meat in different forms, accompanied with fries and salad. We were wrecked, so went straight to bed.
Day 34 I wasn’t aware snoring could sound like a fog horn until I slept in this hostel. A fellow Brit, who we shared a room with, was the culprit. He was well known in the hostel for his nightly noise; the only person that didn’t know was the man himself, aka public enemy numero uno. — The walking tour wasn’t on, so we created our own. We went up the tower at the Mother Theresa cathedral, which rewarded us with incredible panoramic views of the city. There’s something nice about seeing the previous few day’s cycling route from a bird’s eye view.
We then visited the famous library, which was less impressive on the inside than the outside. In the library, I desperately needed to relieve myself, so I found a bathroom on the third floor. However, there was no toilet, only a hole in the floor. My initial thought was: ‘It's a long drop’. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised the toilet was out of order and I’d just urinated into a hole in the floor.
I blame the sleep deprivation.
The second half of our self-guided tour took us to the Bill Clinton statue on Bill Clinton Boulevard. Kosovoian’s celebrate Clinton as he helped the country gain their independence... The tour ended with a trip to the history museum, which wasn’t any more than a few pieces of war memorabilia. Most of the museum was closed. Walking around the city we were confused as to how the country had got the title of ‘second poorest in Europe’. And, how it has a 38% unemployment rate. The restaurants weren’t cheap and every single one was full, no matter what time of day. Most people looked as if they’d just walked off a catwalk, primed for an Instagram snap. There were more new licence plates than anywhere else in the Balkans (ex Croatia). And, the centre was contemporary, modern and looked like any other Western European capital.
We later learnt that the unemployment rate isn’t accurate as most don’t register their work. The UN and EU provide humanitarian aid, which helps with individual income. And, relatives work in Switzerland or Germany and send money home. Apparently, the average Kosovoian can live well off 400 Euros per month. However, I struggle to believe this is true for Pristina. We were also told that there’s a big pressure to look good and appear more affluent than the reality. Without reading too much into it, I’d assume this has to do with the fact that the average age in Pristina is 25, making it the youngest city in Europe. The city is a really interesting place – not because there’s alot going on, there isn’t. But, it feels like a contradiction. It’s a city which goes against its country's economic statistics. Most capital cities around the world hold wealth, but Pristina seems to have a bigger disparity from rural Kosovo than other capitals and their rural counterparts. After talking at length about Pristina and Kosovo, we ran into two backpackers staying in the same hostel, so we joined them for beers and pool.
We left at 11am and powered through Kosovo. The route was mostly downhill and along main roads, so we averaged 16mph, the fastest ride of the entire trip. Endorphins were high.