For my long study tour, I had the incredible pleasure of going to a little-known country named Kosovo. Before leaving, every time I told people where I was going I would either get dumbfounded stares, or people who tried to act way more geographically aware than they were. “Oh yeahhh, Kosovo! So wait, where is that again?” When I went, I didn’t know what to expect. But I left feeling so inspired and wishing I could go back there.
We were lucky enough to have a tour guide that was our age, so we got to hang out with him and his friends, and experience Kosovar night life basically every day. And apparently Kosovar people love Americans so much because we helped them in the war against Serbia. There’s a statue of Bill Clinton in Pristina and the country also celebrates the 4th of July. Every time we said we were Americans, we received a warm reception and even free stuff. One girl received a free block of cheese from a market we passed by, and during two different dinners the owners gave us free homemade vodka. Every meal we had included a salad, followed by a main course of all kinds of meat and potatoes, and then a dessert, that was usually either baklava or ice cream. This was the most well fed I’ve been during my entire stay in Europe.
But the highlight of my time in Kosovo was going to a mountain near Peja. We took a 25 minute hike and were greeted at the end by an elderly man and his farm. This man lives there with his family and they served us so much food. We had fresh milk and cheese, homemade honey and jam, spinach pies, cornbread, and mountain pairs. We walked around the farm a bit, stuffed ourselves with fresh, amazing food, and heard this man’s story.
Although we were able to meet with the UNDP, KFOR, and a number of politicians during our time in Kosovo, nothing felt more poignant than talking to the people of Kosovo. From the youth to the elderly, everyone felt so passionate about the state of their country. Some people were dislocated during the war and came back immediately after. And some people lost their loved ones during the war. But everyone we talked to cared about Kosovo’s future and were more than eager to share their homes with us. Although I hadn’t heard of Kosovo before this trip, this little country in the Balkans inspired me in so many ways.