Nice sunset view as we pass over London, England, on our way to Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Shkodra, Albania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Hiking the Peaks of the Balkans, June 13-24!

Sunday, October 30, 2022

It doesn't take much for things to get out of control

We decided to do a little day trip up to northern Kosovo.

I'm sure most of you know about the war between Kosovo and Serbia. The conflict has been ongoing for centuries, and even now is only stable because of the NATO peacekeeping forces that are in the area. There have been recent problems at the border regarding license plates, which sounds trivial... but it doesn't take much for things to get out of control.

We made our way to the city of Mitrovica which is where much of the violence took place over the last 20 years. The city is split by the Ibar river running through it with Kosovar Albanians on the south side, and a Serb majority on the north side. This is despite the fact that the Serbian border is still another 20 kms north of here. This is still part of the problem. The Serbs who live here do not recognize Kosovo and still believe they are living in Serbia. 

Zvecan Fortress is on the north side, and we found parking near a playground. We still had to walk about 2 kms to get to the fortress.

The Monument of the Heroic Miners overlooking Mitrovica.

Scenery along the way.

We came to a small village where the road turns off towards the fortress. We passed by a woman about our age who was working in her garden. We smiled and waved, and said "mir dita", which is Albanian for hello, or good day.

We completely forgot that we are now in a Serb controlled area, and they don't speak Albanian here. They speak Serbian.

She was quick to remind us of that! 

Of course we didn't understand the majority of what she said, but we did eventually get that she was telling us "we don't say mir dita here, we say dobar dan.". She was friendly enough, but you could see she was firm about what she was telling us.

She asked where we were from, and we told her Canada. She kind of nodded her head as if she now understood why we were confused about the language!

Heading up the road towards the fortress.

So we're walking along this dirt road, and we hear a vehicle coming up behind us. Actually two vehicles. They were military trucks belonging to KFOR... the NATO forces patrolling the area.

The trucks had Hungarian license plates. It turns out that there are currently 27 nations contributing 3,762 troops towards the peacekeeping efforts. It's an interesting breakdown of the countries and numbers...

When we got to the turn off for the trail, the trucks had stopped and were talking to some guy. We went and read the informational sign.

The trucks left and the guy came over to talk to us. He was a German mining engineer working on the nearby Trepca mining conglomerate. But he was just out exploring that day. He said the troop trucks are just doing regular patrols looking out for problems.

Ruth and the view.
It was another gorgeous day!

Looking down on the Serbian controlled town of Zvecan.

Looking north towards Serbia.

At the top is a giant Serbian flag.

No wonder there are problems here. This area is part of Kosovo which has declared itself an independent country. Yet the people in this region of Kosovo still considers it to be part of Serbia. And in fact, this castle is a protected area. Protected by Serbia, not Kosovo. 

This may be oversimplified, but it seems to me they didn't draw the border in the right place!

Kevin, on what remains of one of the fortress walls.

The city of Mitrovica.

Ruth and the Serbian flag.

On the other side is the huge Trepca Mining complex.
It was shut down years ago by KFOR and NATO due to environmental concerns.

Part of the old wall.

We hiked back down to the car and drove the short distance to the river that separates the two districts. There, you would never know that divisions exist. A really pretty area, with restaurants and cafes on both sides, and a riverfront walkway and bike path.

Pedestrian bridge.

Reflection in the water.

The Ibar River in Mitrovica.

Getting late in the day.

What an interesting day that was. 

Today, we move down to the city of Prizren for a two night stay.

Record low deal on the Blink Video Doorbell.

And in Canada...

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