The next day the fog in the gorge had cleared and gave a spectacular view of the mountain panorama. Wow, what a sight for breakfast. We explored Valbona, where a lot is currently being built and renovated and decided on another hiking route into the mountains. We were once again rewarded with great views and encounters. During a break with a view we met a German hiking group. As it turned out two of them live with their children in Tirana, the others were visiting! We exchanged experiences and stories and made our way back to the valley together.
Our goal for the day should already be in Kosovo, because we wanted to go back to the interior of Europe to visit Kosovo and Northern Macedonia before we finally stay at the coast. At the border crossing we were already very surprised how fast the country and the people changed. Everywhere in Kosovo there was a lot of activity and the settlements and cities were very busy. Also the streets were suddenly better and that, although there was war and unrest here until 1999. Arrived in the city Peja we looked for ourselves on a mountain with the Shtepia Alpike Ranch a place for the night. The restaurant and the view are really worth an excursion if you are there. Even a climbing park and riding tours are offered there. Of course we wanted to use this. No sooner said than done, the next noon we started on horseback an exploration tour into the beautiful nature that surrounds Peja. The two horses, Rana and Rudi, were very well-behaved and also Martin as a riding beginner felt safe. The mountain paths are anyway only designed for step tours and the horses carried us well, the well known round tour through the forest to a beautiful vantage point. She waited there for a moment and then moved back to her home stable. For me as an experienced rider this was a very funny feeling, because we could more or less only “ride along”, without really being able to influence the direction and the speed. But it was better as if the horses had been jumping around wildly and we had had difficulties. It was a very nice and relaxed ride and my rider’s heart was happy again.
Basically one has to mention that there are no campsites in Kosovo. But wild camping was nowhere a problem. Many hotels and restaurants offer that one can stand on their parking lot and use the toilets. The hotel prices are quite cheap, but when travelling with a dog, one has to pay some attention.
After this nice experience on the Shtepia Alpike Ranch we drove into the gorge of Rugova. On both sides high rock walls rise into the sky and the road leads through tunnels, partly simply carved into the rock, and along steep slopes. At a parking lot at about 1900 m altitude we left the car and went on foot to the Kucisko lake. In Peja there is a tourist information, the Rugova Valley Tourist Information Center, with very friendly staff, who spoke super English and gave us great tips for the hike and the best excursion destinations and outdoor opportunities.
The ascent to Kucisko Lake was quite difficult, but worth it! The mountain lake lies in complete silence and clarity in front of you and the atmosphere there is wonderfully peaceful. On the way to the top we met many locals and Kosovars visiting our homeland and almost EVERY one spoke to us in German. The people here are incredibly open, interested and hospitable. Due to the war and the expulsion there is a close relationship to Germany, almost every Kosovar has relatives in the German-speaking area and it is still the dream and goal of many to leave for Germany, Austria or Switzerland and live there. We can understand that, because unemployment and corrupt government here limit life and perspectives, especially of young, cosmopolitan people. In the days we were there, there were parliamentary elections in Kosovo and there was a change of government. Since 1999, there have always been parties of former KLA members in the government who have not exactly advanced the country with nepotism and corruption. Now, with Albin Kurti and Vjosa Osmani, left-liberal politicians of the parties Vetevendosje and LDK are on the move and we keep our fingers crossed that the change of power will also bring about an upswing in the country and improve the situation of the young Kosovars.
When we descended from the lake we found many bottle dustbles, small mushrooms, which we enjoyed really well in the evening. Suddenly there was a knock and our “neighbours” in the parking lot, a group of four boys, invited us to join them. The four were so warm and open and we talked about our differences until late into the night, but above all about the equality between us. These encounters are always something very special for us, because they allow us to really get to know the country and its people, to hear what problems there are and what the dreams and goals of the young people are. Usually they are pretty much the same as ours: Travelling, living in a tolerant country and earning enough money to lead a self-determined life.
The day after, after the night had been quite cold in the mountains, we visited the beautiful patriarchal monastery Pec´ in Peja and then drove on to Prizren. And there it happened. I fell in love. Into the city, the people, the country. The small town Prizren, with its beautiful old town, the hustle and bustle and the many cafés and bars was somehow exactly my thing. They say whoever drinks from the fountain on the market square will come back. I immediately got another bottle bottled and firmly believe that it is true!