Last wrap up!  Only about six months late.

Skopje is a quick drive from Pristina.  It took us about an hour and a half, maybe?  And that includes walking through passport control and taking a taxi from the Kosovo/Macedonia border to Skopje.  I love all the day trips you’re so easily able to take in Europe.

Skopje feels like two different cities, with the old side–cobblestone streets, cute restaurants and shops, old mosques and hammams, and the new side–wide, sweeping boulevards and walking streets, with new-old architecture.

The light was amazing during our Skopje afternoon/evening so some shots turned out rather well.

Old Town

Can’t get enough of these beautiful mosques.

Old Hammam

New Town

Porta Macedonia

Vardar River

Alexander the Great at Macedonia Square

Two pics of me because my hair looks amazing!


Must wrap up previous trips!

My last stop in Kosovo was Gjakova, A’s home town.  We didn’t get a chance to explore as much here so I don’t have many pics to share, but it is a cute, little town.  The older part of Gjakova has cobblestone streets and old buildings, but we were there in the dark so it was difficult to take good pics.  But if you’re in Kosovo, Gjakova would be well-worth a visit.

Gjakova: Clock Tower and Mosques

Gjakova’s Serbian Orthodox Church

Prizren was my favorite city that we visited in Kosovo.  It’s one of Kosovo’s largest cities and it has a great deal of old world charm.  It’s easy to walk around and see the sites and it’s best to eat your tasty Albanian lunch along the river, preferably in the sun.

Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hammam or Old Turkish Baths

Climbing to the fortress is definitely worth it, especially if you can catch it at sunset.  Be forewarned that it’s a steep climb!  But it provides great views of the city and the mountains.

Bistrica River
We ate at the cafe with the red umbrellas on the left by the river.

The picture below reminded me of something out of a James Bond movie.  The red and white striped building used to run the dam (which I don’t think is in service anymore) and the blue and white striped building is a sports center.

Communist Era?

Thanks to the film student who caught this artsy picture of us.

Sinan Pasha Mosque

Old Stone Bridge (per Wikipedia) over Bistrica River

The great thing about Kosovo is the myriad of day trips you’re able to take because its such a tiny country.  During my short visit, we took a day trip every day, which was fun.

The village of Gračanica is a Serb enclave just outside Pristina where you can find the Serbian Orthodox Gračanica Monastery.  Security is much more present in Gračanica than in other cities in Kosovo and as you drive through town notices indicate that video cameras are monitoring movements to deter violence and trouble makers.  It’s a sad reminder that reconciliation in Kosovo between Albanians and Serbs is a long way off.

Beautiful Wooden Doors to Gračanica Monastery

Beautiful Gračanica Church at the Monastery

The medieval fortress at Novo Brdo was next up, which allowed us to stretch our legs for a mini-hike.  Incidentally, A had never been to Gračanica or Novo Brdo so it was fun for him to explore, too.  I think more of the fortress can be excavated, but considering it hasn’t really been taken care of over the years, it’s in pretty good shape.

Remnants of Novo Brdo Fortress

This cute guy hung out with us for the afternoon. He was so friendly we wanted to take him home, but he had an owner and promptly deserted us when they called for him.

Beautiful Day. Snow on the mountains!

Very Old Mosque

Pretty sunset just outside of Pristina

Before going home, I made a quick stop in Kosovo.  To be sure, it’s not a tourist hot spot, but I had good reasons for my visit.  It was great to be in Europe and was a nice reentry to the U.S.  Kosovo is definitely a great place to visit, especially if you’re looking for off-the-beaten path tourism.  There is a lot to see and it’s a beautiful country with a great deal of history, particularly recent history.

Kosovo is the world’s second youngest country (the first is South Sudan) and they are proud of their independence.

Newborn: This sculpture was erected just before Kosovo’s declaration of independence on February 17, 2008 in downtown Pristina.

European cities always have a walking street.  Walking is so much more enjoyable and leisurely with no cars.  Pristina’s walking street is Mother Theresa Boulevard.  Did you know Mother Theresa was Albanian?

Kosova Republike! The slogan represents the self-determination movement (I think).

Even before the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992, Kosovo was mired in conflict with Serbia.  Many Kosovars have a long memory.


Reflection of Jashar Pasha Mosque

I think this is probably reflective of how some people feel about politics and life in Kosovo.

Jashar Pasha Mosque Ceiling

Old vs. New in Pristina

Stay tuned for pictures from some other cities in Kosovo.

That title sounds so dramatic.  Of course I’ll be back in Sri Lanka!  I’m just not sure when.  And I guess this was possibly the last Colombo sunset while living there, which makes me sad and teary.  But I have such beautiful memories of my time in Sri Lanka.  And the thought of those makes me happy.

Like the Fort, Slave Island has so much to discover.  It’s also an area that is targeted for massive renovations, but there are a lot of families that live in this neighborhood so I hope they are taken care of when refurbishment starts.  Fingers crossed.

Nippon Hotel & Manning Mansions. This has so much potential, at least from the outside.

Treasures on a side street.

(Thanks to my walking buddy for suggesting I take this pic!)

The Castle Hotel. It also has so much potential, and I’ve even seen the inside of this one! 

Malay Mosque

Bus Stop!

Ok.  It’s time to speed through my last bits of Sri Lanka so I can move on to other adventures.  I want to post these last pics so that I remember my adventures.

I loved my walks in Colombo.  They were hot and not always pleasant.  But I always made different discoveries.  Back in December 2011, the Dutch Hospital finally opened.  It’s located in the Colombo Fort area, or Colombo 1, and is part of an effort to make Sri Lanka more tourist friendly.  It was a welcome addition as it expanded the restaurant options in Colombo by about five.  Score!  Long before it opened (maybe a year ago?) I stumbled upon it being refurbished.  It’s such a pleasant place and one not to miss if you are in Colombo.

Outside the Dutch Hospital

Inside the Dutch Hospital, prior to refurbishment. With the World Trade Center in the background. Modern vs. Old. Nice.

With the opening of the Dutch Hospital, Colombo’s Fort area is rapidly gentrifying.  I believe it’s only a matter of time before the area returns to its glory days.

Cargills in the Fort. Soon to be renovated?

Colombo Fort Police Station. With the World Trade Center in the background. Modern vs. New. Again. Cool.

Farther into the Fort, you’ll be in Pettah, the market area, and stumble upon more interesting sites.  Like the street devoted to dried fish.  Smells amazing, lemme tell you.  I believe this area is actually Colombo 13, but I’m not sure.

This is definitely Colombo’s most interesting mosque.

A peep inside of Colombo’s most interesting mosque.

Beautiful Church Doors not too far away from the mosque.

I wish, wish I had gone to Kalpitiya earlier in my time in Sri Lanka.  It is one of my favorite places in Sri Lanka and it’s only a short drive from Colombo.  To be fair, Kalpitiya has only recently become a tourist spot so it was not as well-known when I first arrived.  But I think it’s been discovered now.

My first trip there we stayed at Dolphin Beach, which I would HIGHLY recommend.  How awesome is it to stay in a fancy tent!  We also didn’t wear shoes the entire time we were there (except when the sand was too hot to walk on!) and they have brick oven pizza.  What more could you want?  The oversized swings mean your able to laze about or read or simply relax.  Love.

Kalpitiya Sunset

Kalpitiya is located in Sri Lanka’s Puttalam District, which has a large Muslim population, but also lots of Christians and Hindus.  We drove the 40 km to Kalpitiya town and the number of mosques, Hindu temples, and churches along the way is remarkable.  Surprisingly, almost no Buddhist temples.  The Kalpitiya fort looked so interesting, but it’s used by the Sri Lankan Navy so unfortunately we couldn’t go inside….maybe in a few years?

Family Day at the Beach

Kalpitiya is home to a few wind farms so giant windmills dot the landscape.  Some people think they’re an eyesore, but I find them kind of peaceful and beautiful.

Kalpitiya Windmills

Two big draws of Kalpitiya are dolphins and kite surfing.  We did go dolphin watching, but it just wasn’t our day as we only saw a handful of pods.  As we say in Sri Lanka, what to do?  Kite surfing is typically done on the lagoon and while we didn’t go, it looks fun.

Kite Surfing in Kalpitiya Lagoon

We also stayed at Divyaa Lagoon, which was a bit of an interesting experience thanks to the Sri Lankan mafiaso who were also staying and the fact that our room wasn’t quite finished.  To be fair though, we stopped to see if they had room and told us the room wasn’t finished.  I’m sure it’s quite nice now.  It was fun to have such two contrasting experiences–Kalpitiya beach and Kalpitia lagoon.  We walked around the lagoon to watch the kite surfers and also encountered these beauties.


I ended up going to Kalpitiya for one more visit and stayed at Bar Reef, part of the Alankuda resorts (the website is very cool).  Bar Reef was also fun, especially because they were able to accommodate a big group of us in one villa, but I did prefer Dolphin Beach.  Fortunately, Dolphin Beach and the Alankuda hotels generally cooperate with each other and even though Dolphin Beach doesn’t have a pool you can often use the pools at Bar Reef, Udekki, or Palagama Beach (which had my favorite pool).

But really, go to Kalpitiya!  It’s beautiful!

Time to wrap up my time in Sri Lanka!  I did a ton of traveling in my last few months.  The new southern highway made it so much easier to go South, which meant that I was there more in my last four months in Sri Lanka than I was during the previous year and a half.  Win!

I became obsessed with passion fruit over the last few months.  This tasty concoction was at the Fortress.  I think it was iced tea, lemonade, and passion fruit juice.  Tasty, but very sweet.

Passionate Fruit Juice at the Fortress

One of my favorite spots–Dondra Lighthouse!

Sri Lankan coast from Dondra Lighthouse

These Buddhist monks at Pigeon Island Temple in Matara were wholly unimpressed that I spoke Sinhala, even after I told them that I learned from a fellow hamuduruwo.

Pigeon Island Temple in Matara

There’s not much left of the Matara Fort, but what is there is well-preserved.

Matara Fort

This mosque is right of off Galle Road.  It’s beautiful.

Matara Mosque