Day seven in the Balkans

The last day of our trip (day seven) was the least challenging since it was the shortest and all around or in Pristina.

Setting off at the (to us) late hour of 10 am, it was only a 20 minute drive to the site of the Battle of Kosovo which has been called “the cradle of the Serbian state”.

The battle  took place on 15 June 1389 between an army led by the Serbian Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović and an invading army of the Ottoman Empire under the command of Sultan Murad Hüdavendigâr. The battle was fought on the Kosovo field in the territory ruled by Serbian nobleman Vuk Branković. The army under Prince Lazar consisted of his own troops, a contingent led by Branković, and a contingent sent from Bosnia by King Tvrtko I, commanded by Vlatko Vuković.

The bulk of both armies were wiped out and Serbian leader Lazar and Ottoman leader Murad were both killed. However, Serbian manpower was depleted and had no capacity to field large armies against future Ottoman campaigns which relied on new reserve forces from Anatolia. Consequently, the Serbian principalities that were not already Ottoman vassals, became so in the following years.

In short, the Serbs lost, but so venerate their role in the battle that, as Yugoslavia broke up, they were determined to hold on to Kosovo even though the majority of Kosovans are ethnically Albanian. 

The memorial at the site only dates from 1953, so it was built by the communist regime. It was here on 8 June 1989 that the Serbian politician Slobodan Milosevic addressed a reported half a million Serbs in a call to Serb nationalism that is widely seen as the spark that set alight post-Tito Yugoslavia. Since the last of the three conflicts was in Kosovo, Kosovans say that this is where the war started and where the war ended.

Nearby is a different memorial with a different perspective on the Battle of Kosovo. It is the Tomb of Sultan Murad I. In 2005, Turkish money restored the building and added a small museum.

Back in Pristina in temperatures eventually reaching 28C, we visited the Cathedral of Mother Teresa, the National Library, the Fatih Mosque, and the Ethnological Museum. Along the way, we saw statues of national heroes Skanderbeg (1405-1468) and Ibrahim Rugova (1944-2006) and recognition of American presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush plus NATO forces for ensuring that Kosovo did not fall under the brutality of Serbian forces.  

At the unusually early time of 3.45 pm, we returned to the hotel for four hours of downtime – the first such period of the week’s holiday. 

One Comment

  • Janet

    Well, Roger, your holidays always do tend to take seriously the saying “A change is as good as a rest”!


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