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In the Balkans, there are the heavyweights, such as Greece, Bulgaria and Croatia, and then there are the modest ones, such as Albania, North Macedonia, and Kosovo.
Kosovo, however, retain the essence of the Balkan touch: diversity, colors, spontaneity, fierce identities, everyday aesthetics, and gourmet kitchens. Kosovo, whose international status is still subject to procrastination - which does not prevent the Kosovars from moving forward. It is not surprising to find an Ottoman heritage in Pristina, Pejë (Pec) and Prizren, and in Europe, the Kosovo plain is an area of hypersensitivity.
In North Macedonia, one feels a more peaceful climate: the painted mosque of Tetovo dialogues with the Central European decorative art; the frescoes in the Church of Saint Panteleimon, near Skopje, risk orthodoxy on the tracks of humanism. The cevapi, rolls of grilled meat, delight everyone. The traditional architecture of Ohrid points out the city; the lake on which it sits beats records of depth and age. The Sar mountains, protected by national parks, constitute a spectacular natural link between the three countries.
Albania. The east, around Korçë, viticultural and isolated weather, reserves excellent surprises for travelers. Tirana, on the other hand, has shaken off the greyness of the Hoxha years and is experimenting in all directions. What makes it eminently sympathetic and endearing. To travel in the Balkans is to take the risk of attachment!
The Bazaar Mosque is the oldest monument in the city, built in 1389 to celebrate the Turkish victory of Kosovo Polje (against a coalition led by the Serbian king Lazar Hrebeljanovic). A place of susceptibility therefore. Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror commissioned in 1460 the beautiful Imperial mosque, in the style of Bursa, very much in favor in the Balkans. The large hammam dates from the same period. The Kosovo Museum occupies an Austro-Hungarian building built in 1889; the ethnographic museum documents in a very attractive way, life during the Ottoman era.
SKOPJE, NORTH MACEDONIA
In Skopje, the Balkans are diverse, colorful, lively, and open to travelers. The medieval fortress dominates the city. A little below, the alleys of the old bazaar still lead to important Ottoman buildings, such as the Mustafa Pasha mosque (15th century) and the Daout Pasha hammam (15th century) which houses the collections of the national gallery of Macedonia, the tower clock (16th century), and the Church of Saint Savior (19th century).
A few miles from Skopje, in Gorno Nerezi, the 12th-century Church of St. Panteleimon contains admirable frescoes. The poignant realism of the representations sketches a humanist vein in Byzantine hepatism. The Matka canyon (and its lake fed by the Treska river) is a splendid natural site; there, you can bathe, and visit the caves.
OHRID, SOUTHWEST MACEDONIA
In Ohrid,visit the old town, narrowed at the foot of Samuel's fortress (10th century), with a string of square towers. From the medieval layout of the streets and a harmonious set of 17th-19th houses emanate a lot of picturesque and charm. Among the significant buildings, one notes the Greek theater (1st century); Saint Sophia Cathedral (11th-14th centuries); the Robevi house, a splendid urban residence from the 1860s; the Church of St. John of Kaneo (13th century), a small wonder of Byzantine architecture, where you can only get there on foot; the Saint-Mère de Dieu church Perivleptos (13th century), whose program of frescoes leaves you speechless: the painters Michel and Eftychios Astrapas worked there as worthy sons of Saint Luke!
Tirana is colorful city. Colors full of tone indicate to the traveler that Tirana intends not to be forgotten and wants to take its full share in the color chart of the nations. The monuments of the communist era structure the urban landscape. Place Skanderbeg, the inspiration rather drifts towards Mussolinian Italy but, very close, are the Xhamia e Et'hem Beut, the Et'hem Bey mosque, and the clock tower, splendid Ottoman achievements (early 19th century). Do not forget about the Tabakkane bridge (18th century) on the right bank of the Lana river, and the National History Museum that has celebrated Albanian culture since the Paleolithic.
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