Sunday, 28 April 2013

Winter's grip


Time to return from Kosovo to Scotland, with wistful thoughts that while spring - or even summer - has come to Kosovo, it certainly hasn't arrived in Scotland.  Along the banks of the Lumbardhi River in Prizren the pavement cafes will be busy.  A quick check on the BBC weather site shows temperatures there in the mid 20s.  Here in Scotland, the forecast is for a high of 8 degrees.  It is almost May, and there are virtually no leaves on the trees.  A few cautiously unfurling chestnut leaves in sheltered spots, but overall the trees still look as they did in February.  

We drove north on  Friday evening into sleet and snow, and a curious grey landscape around the Drumochter Pass.  The shot above is taken heading towards Dalwhinnie and into an ominous blackness.  The camera on the pole at the left of the shot is a traffic cam which feeds into the Traffic Scotland website.  Looking at the feed today (it's the A9 Drumochter North cam at this link), the snow has disappeared, leaving a landscape of wintry brown.

 Looking west along Loch Garry, below, a similar blackness.


The new snow cast a strange grey coating over the heather.



Now, after a morning of rain here on Speyside, the sun has come out.  I'm about to go out for a walk to see what signs of this pent-up spring I can find.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Last glimpses of Kosovo


These really will be the last glimpses, before I return to things Scottish.  But Kosovo is not yet widely visited, and having experienced it I wanted to show something of its current-day reality.

Above, and the two pictures below, the Sinan Pasha mosque in the town centre.  Built in 1615, it is in active use for worship today.  My two female companions and I were welcomed inside, without the need to cover our heads.  I thought the juxtaposition of the advertising sign and the mosque in the shot above was also notable in this respect.  Prizren mingles mosques and churches, crammed in beside each other.  We visited a cathedral under restoration (I am ashamed to say I can't remember its name), where we stood in the candle-lit interior listing to a nun having a singing lesson.  




Below, the Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hamam, a turkish bath dating form 1575.  It's in need of restoration - one call on funding among very many in this new nation.


A view down the Lumbardhi river, spanned by the 'stone bridge' dating from the 16th century. The bridge was washed away in 1979 - the river is tremendously fast-flowing even during the dry period we were there - and rebuilt in its current form. 
 

The Turkish influence is evident in tea, nargile pipes, and many bakeries selling baklava.


The pesky hobbits turn up everywhere.  As long as I don't have to sit through that film again...
 


The street on which our hotel was located, just out of sight at the bottom of the road. 
 

A typical snack food - seeds and nuts in various coatings.  Very tasty, and much healthier than Scottish snacks.
 


A small town we passed on the way south to Prizren.  Note the futuristic mosque minaret. 
 


And finally, leaving Prizren, with its backdrop of stunning mountains. 
 

Kosovo is far too complex a country for me to try to sum it up on the basis of a week's stay.  My overwhelming impression was of the people - welcoming, open, friendly, hopeful, striving for the future.  It is a young nation in terms of age of population - there are various estimates, but around 46% are aged under 25. I'm involved in only a very tiny part of their building for the future, but I feel privileged to be contributing.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Glimpses of Pristina


On my recent work trip to Kosovo I was in the capital, Pristina, for two tantalizingly short overnight stays.  A jumble of impressions, mostly in twilight or darkness.  However I did manage to capture two important landmarks in this newest of nations.  Above is the 'Newborn' monument.  It was unveiled on 17 February 2008, the day Kosovo declared independence. For the 17 February anniversary this year it was painted with the flags of the nations which recognise Kosovo as an independent nation.  As of 16 March they number 101. 

 Below, the futuristic library of the University of Pristina.



I failed to capture the statue of Bill Clinton, on Bill Clinton Boulevard.  Next time.

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