One of my biggest passions is traveling. Differences between cultures, styles of architecture, music, and food have always fascinated me. Meeting new people is also enjoyable, especially when they are sociable. Their different histories, hospitality, but in some cases even some unpleasant encounters, reminds us of how much we are different and similar. Throughout my life, I was fortunate enough to have the chance and visit a number of countries around the world. However, for the purpose of this blog I want to share my experiences while visiting a number of countries in the Western Balkan region and my wish for visiting others as I believe that it is the best approach to break down any prejudices.
I’ll start with Montenegro, as it is the first country I have visited outside of Kosovo as a child, and the first city I visited was Ulcinj, as a popular destination for Kosovars at that time. You have a nostalgia for childhood, memories of that age, or an envy that why you can never again have such a simple life as then, which makes you want to visit these places again. Consequently, after not having been back for years, I went back to Ulcinj in summer during high school, but now with my friends, when pleasure had another dimension, other demands but yet Ulcinj still left a good impression on me. In continuation, few years later I have visited Podgorica, Kotor, Niksic, Budva, Cetinje and wish to visit Durmitor National Park.
Regarding Albania, I was about 17 years old when I first went on a summer vacation with friends. At that time the highway that connects Kosovo and Albania, did not exist. I remember it took us more than eight hours to arrive in Durrës, the closest beach. When I remember those years going to Albania, and compare them with the highway that has been built years later, I can’t believe how now I can travel more frequent and to more places, because the road is faster and convenient to travel. Besides Durrës, since I have visited Tirana, Vlora, Saranda, Dhërmi, Kruja, the wonderful lake of Koman, Gjirokastra, Shkodra, Kruja etc. Nonetheless, in the list of places I want to visit in Albania are: Theth, Pogradec, Berat, Valbona, Korça.
My first experience visiting Macedonia for the first time was different, as I visited first as a refugee in 1999. Thus, my first encounter with Macedonia was very memorable. I arrived in the village of Çegran in Gostivar. I remember a huge camp with endless white tents, where if you did not memorize the number of the tent, you may get lost. After few years, I visited Skopje and Tetovo. I also want to visit Ohrid, Struga, Bitola, Mavrovo and Kumanovo.
I’ve been in Serbia, or more specifically Belgrade for the first time in 2013, participating in a regional event related to a project. Since then, I’ve been to Belgrade several times, always for trainings, conferences, etc. I consider it one of the most beautiful cities in the Balkans. In addition to Belgrade, I have only seen Niš. I want to visit Novi Sad, Novi Pazar, Uvac River.
When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, I have a different experience. I was not able to see this country as for me as a Kosovo citizen, I need a visa to enter. It sounds ridiculous whenever I remember that both citizens need visas to enter each country. Nonetheless, I have seen the city of Neum. This happened last year, as I was driving to Venice in Italy. To get there, I had to go through Croatia. The position of Neum is interesting, as it almost divides Croatia in two and it has a coastline of 20 kilometers (the second shortest coastline in the world), for then to enter Croatia again. It means passing two border points within a few minutes. Nonetheless, as I was going there, I stopped to see the only city in Bosnia and Herzegovina where I could go with a Schengen visa without applying for a special one. It was really a delightful city. But of course, I hope that soon I will visit Sarajevo, Mostar, Srebrenica, Banja Luka and other places.
Although, there is still a long list of places I want to visit in the Western Balkans region, I consider myself to have seen a good number of them so far. I’d suggest that everyone uses every chance to visit the region. There are so many beautiful places and things to see and explore. Traveling and visiting each other’s countries will help us all to connect better and understand each other. It will help us break down the stereotypes and prejudices that have inhibited us from prospering. The one thing that we owe to ourselves as a young generation is to see the countries of our region with our own eyes and make our own judgment.
Author: Migjen Krasniqi