I stop in Gjakovë for brunch – the byrek I adore - in a bakers/cafe. I can see the bakers working through an open door – and watch as they take wooden paddles to remove trays of loaves from the ovens, with old burn scars evident on their elbows.
A wedding goes past – lines of cars with Albanian, Kosovan and American flags flying, people in their finery hanging out of the windows waving scarves and blaring horns. While I sit in the baker’s, several of these processions go past – and I’m not clear if it’s the same wedding going past several times, or different weddings. Different I think.
Like in Wales, I pass road signs with the place names written twice – once in Albanian and once in ‘Europeanised’ language. Like in Wales, the latter name is often painted out or scrawled through.
The road to Prizren continues straight and gets progressively busier. I pass lots of roadside stalls selling watermelons and squashes, fruit, tomatoes and corn. There is a lot of new building taking place: all concrete and glass. There are many half built places with iron rods sticking out of cement walls like crazy hair sticking out of naked mole rats. God knows what these buildings will be – more garages or hotels? There seems to be little or no planning control with buildings placed higgledy piggledy amongst farming land. I’ve never seen so many car washes – and they aren’t lacking for business either.
AS I get closer to Prizren, the road changes from a gentle (and easy) down to a more steady incline. The last three miles into town are lit up like Piccadilly Circus – all flashing and colourful neon and plasma lights, motels, restaurants. I stop in a restaurant to check out hostels and reserve a bed – ‘M99’ looks good and cheap with rave reviews.
I arrive to be greeted by the owner, Edis (one of two brothers), who (once he’s shown me the dorm room and my bed) offers to show me around the town centre. A friend of his, who works at the hospital as a technical support person, joins us. I get a whistlestop tour of the centre of Prizren, laid out neatly either side of the River Bistrica – quite lovely and lively and self contained and separate from the vast sprawling suburbs. He shows me the stone bridge (rebuilt after the war) and Love bridge and a statue of yet another soldier holding a rifle – there is a lot of political history which I find difficult to follow (being deaf and with Edis’ accent) – but I get the gist. WE have a drink and share a meal and all is good. Edis is not married (otherwise he’d be fat, he said – and with no account taken of the fact that his mate sat next to him with a slight middle aged spread – no worse than mine – being happily married with two girls).
I find I have arrived at the same time as the International ‘DOKU-FEST’ is starting – I resolve to stay tomorrow and see a couple of films.