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Trip Report - Kosovo , The Newest Country

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My husband and I just returned from an incredible two weeks in the Balkans; one week in Kosovo and one in Dubrovnik. This was our second trip to the area.

It was a wonderful time to be in Kosovo; there was still very much an atmosphere of celebration. Banners over the street, huge billboards congratulating their new independence. I haven't seen so many American flags since 9/11. The gratitude that the Kosovars have for the US is heartwarming. I can't think of any country that loves Americans more than Kosovo does! While we were there there was sporadic violence in Mitrovica, about 30 miles north of Prishtina, but none anywhere else we traveled.

Kosovars have a tremendous amount of work ahead of them. They, like Bosnia, were hit hard during the war. They still don't have electricity 24 hours a day. There are almost no street signs. Garbage and trash is everywhere marring the beautiful countryside. It's a cash society; almost no one takes credit cards. Give a taxi driver 5 Euros for a 2 Euro trip and he won't be able to make change (ditto stores, hotels). Many houses are only partially completed. The owner builds as much as he can until his money runs out then when he has cash, he continues to build. Not surprisingly, houses take many years to complete.

But Kosovars know they have a lot of work and they're ready for the challenges. Many changes will require a change of mentality (don't litter). Others will take a change of infrastructure (create landfills; improve roads). Corruption is fairly widespread and will need to be dealt with.

But Kosovars are without a doubt the warmest people we've ever met. We have hosted some Kosovar students in the US this past year and we were welcomed into their homes as family and fed like royalty!

We ended up not driving from Prishtina to Dubrovnik. Instead we flew out of Skopje, Macedonia. We just couldn't figure out a way to get from Point A to B (not uncommon in the Balkans). As the Hertz lady in Prishtina told us, there aren't enough rental cars in Kosovo for one-way rentals, and I wasn't up for mountainous driving anyway, especially with crazy Balkans drivers! We also didn't want to take a chance driving long distances with a Kosovo license plate. The flight on Croatian Air connecting in Zagreb was a good choice.

We look forward to more visits and watching them develop their new country.