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Kosovo is a country that is recognised by 66 other states, including the USA and most countries of the European Union. On the other hand it is not recognised by important countries like Russia. Serbia claims Kosovo as a province of Serbia, and has appealed to the International Court of Justice over this claim. The process of this appeal is still ongoing.
In antiquity, the Dardani - a Thraco-Illyrian tribe, inhabited the territory roughly corresponding to present-day Kosovo. In Late Antiquity, the region witnessed considerable migration and ethnic flux. Subsequently, what used to be Dardania became part of the Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian and Serbian empires. Following the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, it became part of the Ottoman Empire; this brought the region into close contact with the Middle East and subsequently introduced Islam to the population.
During the late 19th century, Kosovo was the centre of the Albanian national awakening. In 1912, the Ottoman province was divided between Montenegro and Serbia, both of which became part of Yugoslavia in 1918. During World War II, the majority of Kosovo was part of the Italian occupation of Albania, followed by a Nazi German Occupation before becoming an autonomous province within Yugoslavia.
After the Kosovo War and the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the territory came under the interim administration of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), most of whose roles were assumed by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in December 2008. In February 2008, the Assembly of Kosovo declared Kosovo's independence as the Republic of Kosovo. Its independence is recognised by 69 UN member states and the Republic of China (Taiwan). On 8 October 2008, upon request of Serbia, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution asking the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the issue of Kosovo's declaration of independence. A non binding verdict was reached in July 2010, which ruled that the declaration of independence was not illegal.
The county is landlocked, between Albania on the west, Montenegro in the northwest, Macedonia in the South, and Serbia to the north and east. The country is almost 11,000 square kilometres big and most of its terrain is mountainous, the highest peak being Đeravica at 2,656 metres above sea level. There are two main plain regions: the Metohija basin located in the western part of the Kosovo, and the Plain of Kosovo in the east. The main rivers are the White Drin, running towards the Adriatic Sea, the Sitnica, the South Morava and the Ibar in the north. The biggest lakes are Gazivoda, Radonjić, Batlava and Badovac. Almost 40% of Kosovo is forested and over 50% is agricultural land.
Kosovo can be divided in 7 districts and 30 Municipalities.
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Kosovo, like most of the Balkan countries, has a moderate continental climate. Summers are usually hot and dry with temperatures frequently hitting 30 °C or (much) more. Winters are usually cold, with frost at night and snow common for a few months. Still, warmer winters might see temperatures above zero for weeks on end.
Pristina International Airport (PRN) is the main gateway by air to Kosovo.
Around 20-25 airlines (a few of which are charter airlines) serve the airport. The main destinations are Ljubljana, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Geneva, Zürich, Vienna, Stuttgart, Tirana, Rome, London, Zagreb, Berlin, Cologne, Budapest, Podgorica, Copenhagen and Istanbul.
There's a train to Skopje (2½ hours, 2 times daily) from Pristina.
International buses serve much of Europe, including Skopje, (1½ hours), Tirana, (6 hours), Istanbul, (20 hours), and Sarajevo, (10 hours), mostly from the capital Pristina. From Peja there's an overnight bus to Podgorica (seven hours). Alternatively minibuses and taxis go to Rožaje in Montenegro from outside the Peja bus station. Buses to Serbia include the one from Prishtina to Novi Pazar (3½ hours, 4 times daily) and Belgrade (two times daily). There are also buses from Prizren to Tirana, now taking just around 3 hours along good tarred roads.
Regular buses operate between Pristina, Prizren and Pec on a half-hourly basis.
The Euro (ISO code: EUR, symbol: €) is defacto used as the currency in the country. One Euro is divided into 100 cents, which is sometimes referred to as eurocents, especially when distinguishing them with the US cents.
Euro banknotes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500. The highest three denominations are rarely used in everyday transactions. All Euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides throughout the Eurozone.
The Euro coins are 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2. Some countries in the Eurozone have law which requires cash transactions to be rounded to the nearest 5 cents. All Euro coins have a common design on the denomination (value) side, while the opposite side may have a different image from one country to another. Although the image side may be different, all Euro coins remain legal tender throughout the Eurozone.
Albanian and Serbian are the official languages according to the new draft Constitution of Kosovo. Although the Albanian spoken in Kosovo is a dialect (Gheg Albanian), the official standard Albanian is used by official institutions.
Kosovo has strong Islamic/Turkish/Albanian influences, but alcohol is still widely available. Strong liquor like raki is usually available at most restaurants and bars, as is wine. A very good beer is Peja (made in the city with the same name, also called Pec). It is a light lager beer and is great on those hot sunny summer afternoons on a terrace in Pristina, Pec or Prizren.
Other drinks include the famous yoghurt drink Ayran, which is a little sour, but goes well with pastries.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Kosovo. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Kosovo. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended.
Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. It is also recommended to have a vaccination against tick borne encephalitis when you go hiking and/or camping for 4 weeks or more in the period of March to November.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also: Travel Safety
Kosovo keeps on ringing a bell of unsafety, but nowadays there are no problems at all and travelling around is as safe as elsewhere in Europe, if not safer. Recently though, there were some small problems along the border with Serbia, so check beforehand if crossing the border. Otherwise, the cities, countryside and roads are generally safe and there are no problems whatsoever.
See also: International Telephone Calls
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