1. There’s a war going on
Not true anymore. The Kosovo War between Albanian rebels and the Republic of Yugoslavia ended in 1999. These days there is still some tension between the Albanian majority and Serbia (NATO troops still guard isolated Serbian monasteries around Pristina), but the war as it stood is over. Kosovo got its independence in 2008 and has now been recognised by most UN member countries.It’s even on the International Olympic Committee.
2. It’s dangerous
While the scars of war still exist, they’re fading fast. The vast majority of old landmines from the Kosovo War have been cleared, conflict with Serbia has eased considerably and the majority of the country is busy looking to the future. Kosovo has the youngest and fastest growing population in Europe, with major cities like Pristina expanding day by day. All that’s required for travelling there are common sense and a little sensitivity. That’s it.
3. We’re not allowed to travel there
Travel warnings for Kosovo advise caution, but they don’t say not to travel there (except in some areas of the country, check with your relevant government department). It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the current political climate, which is why a group trip in Kosovo makes the most sense. You can travel with a local leader who has their finger on the pulse, and you’ll be informed well in advance if there is any unrest on the horizon.
4. There’s not much history
Even though it’s Europe’s youngest official country, Kosovo has an old soul. Rome conquered the province in the second century BC and ruins of their cities can be found at sites like Ulpiana. Since then it’s been ruled by Bulgarians, Byzantines, Ottomans, Serbians, Hungarians and (recently) Kosovars themselves. There are 13th-century mosques, old churches, Ottoman-style bazaars and crumbling ruins dotted throughout the country – more than enough to keep a history buff happy.
5. The people are unfriendly
Don’t mistake conflict with unfriendliness. The people of Kosovo have earned a reputation in recent years as some of the friendliest in Europe. Ask directions and it’s not uncommon you’ll be led all the way there. Invitations to family meals are common. It’s probably Kosovo’s exposure to international visitors: after the war over 200,000 international workers came to help the country get back on its feet, and the locals have never forgotten it.