“Kosovo to Montenegro Detour”

We leave Paradise in the mountains of Bogë, Kosovo to go back down one of the deepest and longest canyon in Europe. We passed mountain flowers and rushing waters,as we wound through the chiseled our cave tunnels. One cave is so dark that we drive blindly, as our eyes could not adjust to the darkness. It was like plunging into the devils cauldron so dark, that exiting is was like seeing a wedding dress made of moonlight. The insides are just ragged rocks with no other support. Seeing the canyon from this direction, it was like we had not been there before. 

We left late, because the cabin was nice in every way. They said we could stay into the afternoon and we did. We head to Montenegro border. We did not have a negative COVID test, so we were turned back. Feeling defeated, we head back down the windy road to find a hotel and make a plan. 

The next day, after calling several hospitals, no test kits were available. We then headed to the capital of Kosovo to their hospital. 

After many people giving broken English directions, we end up in the COVID ward with sick people everywhere. Nurses are running towards us directing us out. 

After more misdirected steps, we find the proper place. We are removed and placed in another room and an English speaking doctor came downstairs to talk to us. They don’t do travel testing, normally, but he opened the doors for us, to get it done for free. We had a slew of people start the process. We each sat down on an alcohol-sprayed laden chair and a long swab is pushed through both nostrils to the back of our sinuses. I start thinking in some part of my brain the COVID we were just in contact with now has two weakened spots to invade. Luckily we don’t fear something we already have had; six months ago

It seems funny we must test for COVID in a place with a lot of sick people all around. I really don’t want to get it again, but the science doesn’t state it inevitable, so we feel we are good. 

We found a little cabin on the outskirts of Pristina, to stay two nights and wait for our results. 

We go back to the hospital, the computers are down. About two hours later we get our negative tickets to ride. We did it!

“Kosovo 🇽🇰 ~The National Library of Kosovo in Pristina”

This was the only site, besides the Bear Sanctuary we were interested in seeing. Big cities usually do not appeal to us, due to the congestion, noise levels, and lack of photographic scenes. If there are significant site to see, we will make the effort in most cases; just not to overnight if we can avoid it.

As we suspected, the library was closed, but unfortunately, there were huge banners hung all over the outside of the building, so we could not see the unique architecture; the reason for going. The building is still very cool, but the photos lacked detail we wanted to see on the structure.

The National Library in Pristina, Kosovo was designed by Croatian architect; Andrija Mutnjakovic opened in 1982. The library, with its 73 small domes, was supposed to be the focal point of the complex of university buildings. 

When Mutnjakovic was commissioned to design a library for the ex-Yugoslavian province, the tension between Albanian and Serbian Kosovars was already palpable. Looking for a unifying symbol, he came up with the cube and dome, common features of the Ottoman, Byzantine andIslamicarchitectural styles that define the appearance of the region.
The author’s architectural concept was deeply influenced from architectural regional elements such as cube and dome, two main geometric shapes coming from byzantine and ottoman tradition very present in the Kosovo. Ninety-nine domes of different sizes are distributed in unique order, creating the dynamic structure with multiplied elements of different size. Metal grid used as sunlight protector helps create pleasant environment for readers within the library. It acts at the same time as decoration element coming from Kosovo filigree, relating closer the building with local tradition. 

From above, the library looks like a motley cluster of cubes, varying in size and height, rather like a village. The domes supply even, natural light to the reading rooms. The cube shape contributes to the compactness and the sense of protection, which is further reinforced by the aluminum net of hexagons that is draped over the building.

By the time NATO intervened in 1999, Mutnjakovic’s library had become the commando headquarters of the Serbian army.

The National Library of Kosovo is broadly considered to be one of the ugliest building in the world.  Sure, if you only consider the outside of the building without proper context, it would be easy to jump to that conclusion.  But such would be rather reductive, ignoring the thought that was put into designing it; mainly by including the many domes, reminiscent of Albanian hats). 
Not my photo, but the aerial view is quite interesting
The banner campaign
Also in view from the library grounds was this old mosque
…..and, a bell tower from a Christian church

“Kosovo 🇽🇰 ~Bear Sanctuary in Pristina”

In a remote, forested spot beyond the village of Mramor, this sanctuary houses European brown Bears that were rescued from captivity, by the charity “Four Paws.”
All the bears here were once kept in tiny cages as restaurant mascots, so although they’re hardly out free in the wilderness, the spacious, semiwooded enclosures of today are so much better than the conditions they were once kept in.

What a great stop, to see beautiful Brown Bears, which are indigenous to the Balkans Peninsula. We weren’t sure if the sanctuary would be open, but it was; masked required inside, but not outside. Plenty of locals were visiting as well. There was even a two-year old birthday party going on in the park-like setting near the restaurant.

The Bear Sanctuary Prishtina was established in 2013 by the Austrian NGO Four Paws, in cooperation with the Kosovo authorities, to provide a safe haven for rescued “restaurant bears” in the Balkan countries
The barbaric custom of keeping bears, often cubs stolen from their mothers in the wild, to become restaurant mascots in filthy, cramped cages. This was the attempt to lure customers to eat in “their” restaurant. This practice became quite widespread in Kosovo and other countries in the region.
In 2010, following a rising number of protests, Kosovo made it illegal to keep bears, privately. During the following four years, the authorities, in cooperation with Four Paws, confiscated and transferred all former restaurant bears to the Bear Sanctuary Prishtina.
The Bear Sanctuary Prishtina is now home to 20 rescue bears. Some of the furry residents were transferred from neighbouring Albania, where many bears are still being kept in appalling conditions today.

The good news is, these bears have been rescued from a less than desirable life in captivity. They are well cared for and live in a beautiful sanctuary, where they get to be bears. Some were stolen from the wild as cubs, so they may not know how to be bears, but they are free and protected, now.

Each bear at the sanctuary has its own story, and they are all heart-breaking. The rescue bears used to be kept in miserable conditions in tiny cages, some of them for more than a decade, and they all suffered from inappropriate diet and various forms of abuse.
Some of the bears still suffer from behavioural disorders, such as compulsively pacing back and forth. This behaviour derives from their previous lives where they were not able to roam freely or have any space in their small cages. It is good to learned that rehabilitation efforts have considerably reduced this kind of behaviours.

We were happy to visit and pay to see the bears. All for a good cause, to rescue more of them.
The Sanctuary is very new and modern. It is clean and as big as around 50 acres. It was way to hot in the day, to be out for more than the hour I was, but I got to see many bears, though we did not go the whole way around the sanctuary. Its quite large and not shaded. So be prepared with a hat and some water. It helped.
Since these bears were taken from their mothers, in the wild, they can never live in the wild again, as they do not have the ability to survive, without human assistance. They are now free and no longer mistreated, so its the best life they can have
The hike in is mostly uphill, and not shaded, As hot as it was, we wondered if we would see any bears out, but we did see several. They have such thick coats, but they all looked like they get to get wet in their pools, regularly.
Each Bear has some info on them. Where they were born; which part of the Balkans and how old they are.
This cutie crossed our path
Bunnies can jump this far. Who knew?
Many other animals can jump, too!