Wednesday, February 21, 2007

KLA Claims Responsibility for Explosions

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA in English, UCK in Albanian) has claimed responsibility for the explosion Monday evening that damaged three UN vehicles.  Supposedly disbanded after the end of the fighting, the group claimed responsibility via email although skeptics wonder if the claim is valid.  The email claims that the bombing was revenge for the death of two Vetevendosje protestors on the 10th of February.
The next Vetevendosje protest is scheduled for the 3rd of March and according to the spokesperson, will be peaceful but aimed at those responsible for the deaths of the protestors.  The spokesperson goes on to say that the group had nothing to do with the bombing and that the group "denounce violence that jeopardizes public safety".  <soapbox>Right, that's why you paint-bombed the government and UNMIK HQ three months ago and most of your protests have ended when police used teargas.  If that's not jeopardizing public safety, what is?!  Oh and by the way, bringing Molotov cocktails to protests is not a good indication of peacefulness! So if you plan on throwing any more of those during your "peaceful" protest forgive me for being a bit skeptical :-P</soapbox>

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Explosion Destroys 3 UN Vehicles & 1 Civilian Vehicle

An explosion around 2145 hrs CET last night rocked a residential area behind the National Theatre.  The explosion took place along the road that runs up to Germia park on one of the side streets near the old mosque.  Three UN vehicles and one civilian vehicle were destroyed in the blast while windows in nearby shops were blown out.  Fortunately there were no injuries reported.  Police and KFOR have not yet finished the investigation but it is thought that a device with up to 1kg of explosives was set underneath one of the UN vehicles and detonated.  The KPS spokesperson, Veton Elshani, said that it appeared that the UN Mission in Kosovo was the target of the attack.  Kosovo PM Agim Ceku is reported to have arrived on the scene shortly after the explosion and condemned it as a "criminal act".
There was also a report in Ferizaj that two doors of an Albanian man's house were booby-trapped with hand grenades.  KFOR removed the devices for later destruction.  In Mitrovica, a hand grenade was rigged to a excavator that was parked near a gas station.  The device was designed to go off when the machine moved but was found beforehand.

Meanwhile, over the weekend there were two explosions.  One in Pristina near Hotel Baci, located on the outskirt of the bullring, and the other in an international police officer's accommodation in Zubin Potok.  The explosion in Zubin Potok was rumored to not be an explosive device but some sort of firework.  Not much has been reported about the explosion in Pristina other than the vehicle of a KPS officer may have been the target.

The new rounds of status negotiations are supposed to kick off tomorrow in Vienna.  One senior Albanian negotiator has warned of a "new Balkan war" if self-rule is denied.  This and with the Serbian delegation diametrically opposed to independence does not set a very good course for the conclusion of the talks.  The Serbian parliament has overwhelmingly rejected the proposal from special envoy Ahtisaari.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day :)

Thankful Kosovo is not one of those places where radical Muslim groups attack shops promoting the holiday (such as in Mumbai).  Love is in the air and I'm sure the restaurants will be packed tonight with ladies toting bouquets of flowers (and maybe even a box of chocolates)!  It's a nice sunny day too, even though a bit windy, but the weather is almost perfect for the holiday!
The UN is facing criticism for the deaths of the two protestors over the weekend.  Official autopsy reports showed that the two men died of rubber bullet wounds to the head.  Information has been released that it was Romanian SPU (Special Police Units) that fired rubber coated bullets into the crowd.  PM Agim Ceku is continuing to say that police used excessive force during the protest but given the previous violent demonstrations and destruction of property that Vetevendosje has brought about, it may be hard to say that police should have acted differently.

It has been a pretty big surprise for most of us in the UN but the SRSG has formally asked the police commissioner, Stephen Curtis, to resign.  However, from what I know, it was more told than asked.  The SRSG, Joahim Ruecker, was not in Kosovo during the protests and says that he assessed the situation yesterday and that asking the commissioner to resign follows the principles of political accountability.  Interestingly though, the SRSG (Harri Holkeri) did not resign following the March 2004 riots when many were calling for such action.  Instead he remained in mission until May 2004 and then resigned due to "personal issues".  In fact, I think this is the first time that someone has had to step down due to "political accountability".

The trial of Albin Kurti has begun.  His detention time has been extended to 30-days by an international judge.  Kurti is facing approximately six charges ranging from inciting violence to endangering UN personnel.  The International Herald Tribune carries an article that describes why Kurti may be so popular with Albanians who face high unemployment and frustrations over the slow progress towards independence.  However, what is interesting is that analysts believe that Kurti would never be satisfied unless society itself was "crashing down around his ears".

Meanwhile, a political war of words is waging between AAK (Haradinaj) and PDK (Thaci) over the possibility that AAK may have supported Vetevendosje by arranging buses of protestors to come from neighboring countries (Macedonia and Preshevo Valley).  AAK officials rigorously deny the accusations that have supposedly been leveled by PDK leader Thaci.   Thaci has so far refused to comment on the accusations of AAK members that he made statements eluding to the fact that AAK had organized foreign protestors to come to Pristina over the weekend.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Great Questions!

I got two interesting questions in my email the other day.  The first was would I feel safe in Kosovo if I wasn't with the UN and the second one was about unemployment and if it is visible...below is my answer.  Thanks for the questions...they were really good!

I would like to come back to Kosovo after I leave just to see how it has fared after the status is determined. I don't discourage people from visiting although sometimes this situation is volatile. The events of this past weekend were tragic but it shows you just how quickly things can go wrong here when a large group of people are encouraged towards violence. I have been asking my mother to come visit me for a week just so she can see what it is can be difficult to describe Kosovo at times. It's modern but it also kind of old fashioned.

Unemployment is very high. I've heard figures as high at 70% although sometimes it is reported at 50%...whatever it is, it is high and it is visible. Each day I pass men waiting on the corners of streets. They sit there in groups of 8-10 with a tractor hoping that someone will come hire them for a day of work. Not only is unemployment high but the people that are employed earn very little. The UN pays its workers quite well but that is because the idea of the jobs is temporary. A normal police officer will make 250 Euros a month and a teacher/doctor can make as little as 150 Euros. The economic picture of Kosovo is pretty depressing and I know many people are hoping that once the status is finalized, foreign investors will come in and things will get better...but that will probably take a long time.

Around 800 Serbs gathered in the town of Strpce near Brezovica to protest against the Ahtisaari proposal.  The demonstration lasted about 30 minutes and was peaceful with no incidents reported.
As I mentioned yesterday, the blame game has commenced in Kosovo.  Local media is calling for the resignation of UNMIK officials such as the police commissioner, Stephen Curtis, and the deputy commissioner (there are a couple from what I know so I'm not sure which one).  A report on the events of the demonstration is expected in two weeks according to Kosovo PM Agim Ceku, who has been busy laying blame on the international police.

There are conflicting stories about the number of dead.  Two have officially died of their wounds.  Vetevendosje released information that a third seriously injured person had died but officials at Camp Bondsteel , KPS, and the Pristina University say that it is not true.  Information has been released instead that a third person is in a coma.

Vetevendosje is promising more protests in the coming month.  They state that their objective during the protest was not to target the government building or UNMIK but the "luxurious vehicles which are a materialization of the hard work of the people of Kosovo".  If they knew anything about the UN vehicles...they'd quickly find out that they aren't luxurious nor were they purchased from money from Kosovo.  Instead they were a donation from the country of Japan as part of their contribution to the Kosovo peacekeeping mission.  As for the government official's vehicles, well, that may be another story but it still does not give Vetevendosje the right to destroy property, whatever they say the intended target is.

Finally, the local newspaper Epoke e Re carries an interesting tale about how an international police officer supposedly tried to kill Albin Kurti but a protestor was able to steal the officer's weapon.  Um, right...

Lighten Up for Lunch :)

It's time to lighten up a bit.  The past weekend's event are kind of depressing so a couple of us decided to head out for a nice lunch downtown at the de Rada Brasserie (UCK Street #50 - 038 222 622).  While the menu is not extensive, basically everything on it is nice.  I had the parma ham, mozzarella, and tomato sandwich last time I visited and today I tried the linguini with ham, cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes.  I even picked out what I am going to have next time when my friends got their dishes of fried chicken, red peppers, and rice.  In addition to the nice dishes, the coffee and tea is excellent and the desserts (cheesecake, lemon tart, or tiramisu) are deliciously wicked. 
The restaurant itself is in the style of a typical brasserie or a cafe on the streets of Paris.  The walls are tastefully lined with bottles of wine and old black & white photos.  The interior of the restaurant can get a bit smoky.  There were vents on the ceiling but maybe they were not switched on because my clothes still reek of smoke :o)  But I think if you don't mind the smoke too much and are looking for a nice place to sit down and relax with friends, de Rada is the perfect place to do it.  The wine menu is extensive, the service is good, and the acoustics are balanced enough that you don't have to shout at the person across from you :o)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Filing Taxes & A Summary of the Weekend

On a slightly lighter note than  the events this weekend, I have finished filing my 2006 taxes with TurboTax Online.  The software is really easy to use and you can pick the amount of help you need from $20-50 for the software and e-filing.  I've done my own taxes online since I came to Kosovo and TurboTax is the best!  The software knows all the rules about foreign income exclusions and will input your information in the correct lines on the 2555 form.  Why should you pay a whole bunch of money for a CPA in the US to do your taxes when you can do it yourself online?! (I know this is a shameless plug for the software, I don't get anything...but it's so easy that I hate to see people wasting their money on filing taxes!)
Summary of the Weekend Events
According to UN sources, the demonstration on Saturday had approximately 4000 people.  International and local police sealed off the area near the government building, not allowing access to PISG or UNMIK compounds.  Violence broke out when protestors tried to get past the police barricade.  Stones, sticks, and even a Molotov cocktail were thrown and some protestors tried to use a minibus to break the police line.  70 people were treated for mostly tear gas inhalation although six people did suffer from more serious injuries.  Two people so far have died due to injuries sustained during the protest (identified as Man Balaj Arben Xheladini, aged 30 and 35 respectively).  A third person is also rumored to have died but there is no verification.  Five international police officers and six KPS officers were injured in the protest.  Three UN vehicles were damaged and there were reports of damage to some buildings, but the locations were not specified.

14 protestors were arrested, 12 of which were sentenced to jail time of between 15-40 days.  The leader of Vetevendosje was also arrested but but he has not yet been sentenced.  Police did receive an extension of the time they are allowed to hold Kurti in custody.  Local police raided Vetevendosje's headquarters around Kosovo and confiscated computer equipment and documents.  Some people were arrested for resisting but a few were later released due to the fact that they were underage.

On Sunday, approximately 200 people held a candlelight ceremony at the government building in remembrance of the two men that passed away.  The ceremony was organized by Vetevendosje.  The funeral for Arben Xhelandini will be held today in Dragodan at 1600 hours.

The blame game is going on strong.  Some people blame the UN, others blame the local government.  Some Albanians in Ferizaj stole the UN flag from the municipal building and burned it.  Kosovo PM Ceku has made statements to the effect that police used excessive force and that the fault lies with aggressive security at the protest.

The KLA war veterans association is calling for the resignation of the Interior Minister, the police commissioner, and the deputy commissioner.  The AAK (Ramush Haradinaj's party) expressed regret over the violence and the "tendency of some individuals to damage Kosovo institutions", a comment directly aimed at Kurti's group.  The Unity Team (Kosovo negotiators) blame Kurti for creating the situation.

Albin Kurti, the leader of the Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) movement, said that the police provoked the protestors.  His statement was that there were so many rows of police that they were letting the crowd know that "they were prepared to intervene".  One must wonder then, if Kurti figured this out...why the heck did he push the people to try to break through the police lines?  He is reported to have made statements in front of the crowd to the gist of 'they aren't listening to us, lets go destroy things to show them we mean business'.  Kurti has previously refused to meet with a police representative before the protests saying he would not participate in any meeting where an UNMIK representative was present.  He goes on to say after the protests that he does not feel guilty but "the Police and regime should feel guilty".

At 1600 hours, news emerged that the Kosovo Interior Minister, Fatmir Rexhepi, has resigned following criticism for the handling of this weekend's protests.  Rexhepi said he felt a "moral responsibility" for the response by the police which has been criticized as excessive.  The Kosovo government spokesperson, Ulpiana Lama, has also resigned her position although some local media reports conflict by saying she has only taken a couple of days off.

<soapbox> Any death during a demonstration is a tragedy but after this incident, it is time for the leaders of Vetevendosje to begin taking responsibility for their actions.  As I've mentioned before, most Albanians are happy with the proposal even with the concessions that must be given to the Serbian communities.  The leaders of the Vetevendosje group are nothing more than rabble-rousers.  As a government spokesperson said that there was no reason for Albanians to protest because things are going in the right direction.  Vetevendosje does not seem to have the interests of the majority of the Albanian community in mind.  Their ideas are unrealistic (a referendum for independence, no negotiation with the Serbs, and total withdrawal of the international community) and will never be achieved through the use of violence.
Violence is not the right solution to voice displeasure over the status proposal.  Deflating tires, defacing public property, and violent protests are no way to gain the respect of those who are working to decide the future of Kosovo.  And unfortunately, whether or not the group likes it, UN, the special envoy, and the Security Council are the ones that will convince the world whether or not Kosovo gains its statehood and eventual independence.  A statement from diplomats from the Contact Group condemned the incident and went on to say that "there is no place in Kosovo now or in the future for violence as a means to secure political objectives" and that groups that resort to violence only damage their cause in world opinion.  They also expressed their disappointment that the "Vetevendosje protestors decided to endanger the personal safety of the police and the integrity of the Kosovo Assembly building".</soapbox>

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Two (or Three?) Dead Following Protest

1200 CET:  Two people injured during yesterday's protest have died.  A crowd of 3000 Albanians tried to break through security barricades near the municipal government building, throwing sticks and rocks at the police.  Police responded by using tear gas and rubber bullets.  The international police commissioner, Stephen Curtis, made a public statement that the deaths were regrettable and urged the local police to conduct a fair and independent inquiry into the deaths.  He called the action of the protestors who tried to go past the police barricade a "wanton breach of security" and that the police were compelled to "take defensive measures to restore order".  Two other people are still in serious condition and have been transferred to KFOR facilities for medical treatment.
Kosovo leaders have been condemning the protest yesterday saying that the group's actions may have negative consequences on the process of forming a new Kosovo state.  The leaders have also asked Kosovo's citizens to remain calm and contribute to the stability of Kosovo.
An international worker from New Jersey, with possible Kosovo roots, has a large number of photos of the demonstration on Flickr.

1730 CET:  A candle lighting ceremony is being held at government building for the two people who died as a result of their injuries.  The road has been closed and it has been advised for UN staff to avoid the area.
1800 CET:  A demonstration has been announced in front of the student center.  About 100 people (although other agencies are reporting hundreds) are reported to have gathered for the candlelight ceremony on Mother Theresa.

2030 CET:  A demonstration appears to be occurring near the University as the intersection nicknamed "Suicide Junction" for its frequent accidents.  It is possible that the demonstration that started at 1800 CET may be progressing though town.  It has been said that a third person has died of their injuries.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Protest Day

1300 CET:  The main roads (Police Avenue, Mother Theresa) around downtown Pristina have been closed off to traffic for the Vetevendosje demonstration today.  Reportedly, the group is bussing in protesters from all over Kosovo (quite a few villages).  Quite frequently, groups will "purchase" supporters from the villages, paying them to come to the capital to participate in the protests.  Whether or not Vetevendosje has employed this tactic is not know but it has occurred in previous Pristina protests by other groups.
The demonstration is expected to begin by the municipal government building at the beginning of Mother Theresa street.  Often the group will gather around the building and the Skenderbeq statute in the square.  The protest is then expected to go from the government building down to the Grand Hotel and loop down to the UN Mission HQ.  The important thing to remember about the protests is that the Vetevendosje group has never actually filed for the right to demonstrate as required by law.  President Fatmir Sedjiu said that the group had the right to demonstrate but not the right to "destabilize" Kosovo...however, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea if the government starts making political groups follow the rules for demonstrations.  Why the local government does nothing to stop the group that often turns violent, is a question on many minds but no one seems to know the answer.  Because the paperwork to demonstration has never been filed, it is difficult to actually know what the organizers have planned and the path of the crowd.

1545 CET:  Tear gas and rubber bullets were fired at the thousands of Albanian protestors as they tried to break through a police barricade.  One person was reported to be injured according to Reuters but there is no official count of protestors or injured persons yet.  The roads to UNMIK Mission HQ was sealed off from the protestors, perhaps to prevent any damage to the building like during the Flag Day demonstration.  International Civpol officers and Italian Carabinieri sealed off the roads with armored personnel carriers.  Approximately 500 riot police are reported to have been armed with water cannons near the government building.  I have to give it to those that planned the security for today...they did an awesome job of containing the protest to the government building area :)  It made my blood boil when I saw the face of my Mission HQ after the Flag Day demonstration...such tactics are unwarranted and immature :-P

1640 CET:  A crowd of protestors has attacked a UN vehicle parked on the street near Te Komiteti restaurant and is reported to be "trying to destroy it completely".  A couple minutes later, the car is reported to be damaged and KFOR responded to the scene.  UN Security had instructed staff to move their vehicles to "safe areas" this morning but I guess not everyone listened to the many, many messages that were sent out.  Security has again instructed the staff to remove their vehicles, particularly from the streets around the government building and OSCE HQ.

Movement in Pristina has been restricted and all staff have been instructed to stay at home.  So I guess there will be no trying out the new Home Restaurant in Sunny Hill :(  I guess tonight would be a good time to try one of my new recipes for desserts.  Forget dinner, life is short and I am way better at cooking cakes, brownies, and pretty much any kind of dessert.  One of my favorite recipes is for what I call "Death by Chocolate" which is a thick, small chocolate cake with a layer of dark chocolate frosting :oD

1745 CET:  Reports are coming out about the protest.  At least 20 people are reported to have been treated at the hospital after the crowd waving sticks tried to break through police lines.  Dozens of people are said to have been arrested in the demonstration as hundreds of Albanians started hurling rocks and bottles at UN police.  After the planned demonstration broke up due to the police action, smaller groups began to go around and attack vehicles.

1815 CET:  A count of 3000 Albanians has been estimated.  The demonstrators chanted "No negotiation, self-determination" and waved banners with the slogan of the Vetevendosje (Self-Determination in English) group.  The movement has stated that the plan does not meet the demands of the local population which they say deserves outright independence, not the package of statehood that special envoy Ahtisaari has proposed.  The group has stated that "freedom does not come in packages" and is criticizing Albanian politicians for participating in the next round of talks with Belgrade.

1900 CET:  USA Today reports that 70 people required medical assistance, most from being exposed to tear gas, although four persons are reported to be seriously injured.  The KPS spokesperson says that 15 people were arrested during the demonstration and eight officers were injured.  We still are under restricted movement and I can hear helicopters flying around since this afternoon.  While I was out with Smokey a little bit ago I heard a burst of gunfire.  At least one UN vehicle was turned over and had the windows smashed out following the demonstration when protestors broke into smaller groups and started going through the side streets.

2100 CET:  One of the people arrested in today's demonstration is rumored to be the leader of Vetevendosje, Albin Kurti.  This would not be the first time that Kurti has been arrested following a demonstration or prior to one.  A week or two before Flag Day, the offices of Vetevendosje were raided by police and Kurti was arrested for failing to appear in court to answer charges for a previous demonstration.  Most likely, if Kurti was arrested, he will be released tomorrow.  Breaking the law does not seem to carry the same kind of consequences that one might be accustomed to see in Western countries.

Friday, February 9, 2007


Woohoo!  It's Friday :o)  Look for Dj Vegas at the Phoenix bar tonight...I'll be rocking it up with some classic air guitar favs and slipping in a bit of country for the good ol' boys!  I'll be putting in appearances at the Phoenix every other weekend, alternating with Jimmy (he hasn't come up with a cool name yet...have to try to fix that!)
In political news, that status talks have been postponed as requested by Serbia until 21 February.  President Tadic promised that Serbia would have a team ready for the talks if they were delayed.  The EU's Javier Solano is rumored to have "upset" the Albanian government of Kosovo in accepting the delay in the talks.
Not everyone is putting their support behind the special envoy's proposal like the US and many EU countries.  The president of Slovakia has criticized the UN plan stating that it is disadvantageous for Serbia and the leader of the Slovak National Party has labeled the plan as a "pile of trash" and likened it to the Munich agreement that permitted Nazi Germany to invade Czechoslovakia.  Russia is warning that the independence of Kosovo could open a "pandora's box" where other people who are not given independence will question why the same situation does not apply to them.

The protest in Mitrovica was peaceful with a reported 10,000 Serbs in attendance (The Post Chronicle/Daily India).  Another source (Focus News - Bulgaria) reported 5,000 Serbs.  Whatever the number, it was the biggest gathering of Serbs since 1999.  The crowd marched to near the bridge and no incidents were reported.  Tomorrow Vetevendosje will demonstrate at 1400 CET.  I would not be surprised if there is some damage to property during that protest as there was three months ago.

After more than 24 hours, the power has been restored in my area around 1800 CET.  The power went off yesterday in Dragodan due to a technical problem.  Luckily the central heating runs on diesel in my flat so it wasn't too cold although I did start to worry about the freshness of the food in my refrigerator!  The landlord ran the generator most of the night so I was able to use the internet and watch TV...and not sit in the dark and curse KEK :o)  I guess this "technical problem" has occurred in other areas of Pristina.  I mentioned to someone in passing and they told me that the same thing had happened in the area where their office was located last week.  Maybe some sort of maintenance was being performed by KEK and they just didn't tell anyone...who knows...but I can tell you that not having power for more than one day is pretty miserable.  I had to take a cold shower!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Will Independence Be an Anti-Climax?

Reuters AlertNet linked a blog that asks the question of whether or not Kosovo's new status will be an anti-climax for the Albanian population.  I quite agree that many politicians who have only focused on gaining independence will suddenly have to take a look around their new "state" and will probably think "oh, my god...look at the state of the economy, unemployment, unreliable power..." and there will be a whole new set of obstacles facing the population of Kosovo.  I think that many people will be disappointed with the outcome of independence.  In speaking with Albanians, a great number have told me that many of their fellow citizens believe that independence will somehow bring an end to all the social and economic problems they have been facing.  And these people blame the Albanian leadership and politicians for trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes about the reality of the situation.
After lunch today, two colleagues and I went out in search of the Ahtisaari mannequin.  Unfortunately it has either been removed or is somewhere else besides by the government building.  But I did get many photos from around Pristina for my Only in Kosovo and General Kosovo sections of my Kosovo Photo Album.  Unfortunately it wasn't very sunny today (it's that depressing gray winter sky!) but I wanted to share the shots I got.  When the weather improves, I'll try to go walk around again :)  Thanks to Ed for the Vetevendosje photos!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Upcoming Demonstrations

There will be a series of demonstrations this weekend.  The first is set to occur on Friday in the Serbian enclaves.  From what I know, each one of the enclaves will have a demonstration against the Ahtisaari proposal.  The one in Gracanica is likely to interrupt the traffic to Gjilane for the day and if there is a good sized one in Caglavica or Lapje Selo, it may mean that Skopje Highway will be closed down.  The one in Mitrovica will be the most problematic though because the demonstrations usually end up with some sort of damage to UN property...but we will see!
On Saturday, Vetevendosje is calling for massive protests in Pristina.  From previous news articles, I believe that their goal is to again blockade the UN Mission HQ and prevent people from entering/exiting the compound.

There are reports of some rather nasty occurrences around Kosovo following the revelation of the status proposal.  A group of Albanians (unknown affiliation) are reported to have harassed Serbian residents of the Crvena Vodica village.  The group supposedly threatened forced expulsion stating that they were going to send all "Serbs to Serbia".  In Obilic, Serbian residents and police were allegedly intimidated by a group of Albanians whose slogan was "how much more do we have to pay you for independence".

Meanwhile, the round of talks between Belgrade and Pristina have been scheduled for 13 February.  However, acting President Boris Tadic has requested a delay of at least 10 days.  Currently Serbia does not have a negotiation team as it was disbanded due to the expiration of their mandate

Traditional Eats in an Unusual Setting

Going out for dinner on Wednesday nights has become somewhat of a tradition this year for a group of my friends.  We normally can be found at Ciao in Caglavica but tonight we decided to try something different.  Mehana (Mexaha in Cyrillic) is a traditional Serbian restaurant that can be found near the monastery in Gracanica.  If you turn left after the bridge on the main road and just before the monastery, there is a small road that will lead you down to another bridge that crosses the "river" (it's more like a stream) will turn left at the bridge (it's almost a u-turn) and the restaurant is basically right in front of you.  You might not think it is a restaurant because it's just a big house...but there is a sign above the door reading Mexaha :o)  For the real traditional dishes, you need to call the restaurant ahead of time at 064 530 0000 or the owner Dejah (Serbian language is probably best) at 064 455 4755.

The traditional dishes that we had last night are a far cry different that the grilled meat selection found at most other Serbian restaurants.  We started out with Ivar (mashed roasted red peppers that is perfect for spreading on bread), corn bread (it was a bit hard...but maybe that's the way they make it?!), domestic cheese, Russian salad (that's the English name for it!), and a mixture of cheese and peppers in a spreadable paste.  After clearing the appetizer plates, out came the dishes of sarma (ground meat and rice rolled in cabbage leaves.  They were so big that I thought they were baked potatoes at first!) and Serbian goulash with mashed potatoes.  The goulash was not like other soupy types but rather was more like meat in a gravy sauce...and excellent!  Of course, we drank raki and vranac wine over the course of the meal.

The decor is nothing to rave about.  The restaurant has only been open for about a month and it looks like the owners just took the ground floor of a house and converted half into a seating area and the other portion into the kitchen.  The seating area is not large so it would be best to give a call ahead of time if you are planning on going with a group of people.  The other thing that I might caution people about is that towards the end of the evening it did get a little smoky as there was only one fan for ventilation but of course our company wasn't completely innocent in the cigarette department :o)  Still if you are interested in trying something new, I would recommend giving Mehana a try as the food was excellent and the service was quite friendly (the raki is not bad either! The guys say it is some of the better that they've had in Kosovo!)

If you are looking for information and/or telephone numbers to some of the best places in Kosovo, check out my Kosovo restaurant guide! I have a couple places that I've been meaning to check out (especially the new restaurant that the owners of Home opened in Sunny Hill!) so maybe there will be some more updates next week!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Cold Hands, Warm Heart :o)

I can no longer hold my silence on a matter that greatly concerns me :o)  I have just returned from the bathroom in my office and my hands are enclosed in chunks of ice! *hehe*  It's not really that bad but it does feel like it!  For some reason that I cannot comprehend, more often than not bathroom sinks in Kosovo do not seem to be hooked up to any type of water heater.  I do have to admit, it's not just the UN that doesn't hook up sinks to hot water sources.  In many of the restaurants I've visited around Kosovo I have found a lack of hot water in the bathrooms.
The UN embarked on a campaign about the necessity of washing your hands in order to be healthy last year.  But how do they expect people to wash their hands to kill the germs with freezing cold water?!  The problem is the same in our office "kitchen" (a converted storage closet with a sink and microwave).  There is simply no hot water connection so dishes are washed with cold water...not exactly what mother ordered but what she doesn't know won't hurt me!

I do miss my old container bathroom at Mission HQ.  Each bathroom had it's own little hot water heater and room heater...ah, the good old days.  Now I have to suffer with freezing cold water and a freezing cold seat :(  Oh, the lack of heat in our current facilities is also a problem that continues to plague me in our offices.  There is a small central heating radiator at the entrance to the bathroom but when the maintenance people were installing a fan in the toilet area, they didn't exactly knock out a perfect square in the window so there is a huge jagged hole in the window were the fan precariously hangs :o)  It makes things a little miserable during the cold winter months!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Smokey Escapes!

Ugh, it's a Monday!  It's trash day as I was putting it outside, Smokey saw a dog across the street digging through the consulate's garbage and got all excited.  He ran out onto the street and yanked the leash so hard that it snapped off his collar.  Then he tore down the road like there was a herd of rabid cats chasing after him.  I nearly caught up to him in one of the nearby construction lots but as soon as I was close enough to grab him, he decided to play with me and took off again.  As usual, it was his "you can remember this as the day that you almost caught..." (just like Capt. Jack Sparrow!)  Anyways, hopefully he didn't annoy anyone at the consulates while he was running around.  Fortunately I hadn't fed him yet so he quickly returned home and allowed the landlord's son to put him upstairs until I was able to leave work to put him on the balcony.  From now on, I will have to make sure that his leash is firmly in place before letting him out the door!  And luckily he didn't find any cow manure or any other fragrant things to roll in up in Dragodan, unlike Gracanica :)  So I don't have to worry about immediately tossing him in the shower for a bath when I get home...he didn't smell worse than his normal dogginess (of course, it doesn't help that he is panting in your face when you do try to evaluate his scent!)

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Albanian High School Students Stone Serbian Elementary School

A group of Albanian high school students returning from classes stoned and broke windows in a Serbian elementary school.  In a separate and unrelated incident, a Serbian woman was stabbed in North Mitrovica and the perpetrators were seen fleeing to an ethnically mixed neighborhood.  The woman was stabbed outside the Red Cross building where she worked.  The stabbing incident is still being looked into by KPS and it is not yet known if the attack was personal, economic or ethnically motivated.  In another unrelated but ethnically motivated incident in Peja, an Albanian male assaulted a Bosniak male. 
Meanwhile, following the unveiling of the status proposal, Serbia rejected the proposal almost immediately following Ahtisaari's presentation in Belgrade.  Pristina's Albanian government has for the large part accepted the proposal which puts them on the road to independence. However, approximately 200 members of the LDK party gathered to draft a document against certain parts of the proposal (most likely the decentralization portion). While the "I" word is not actually mentioned in the proposal as thought, the proposal does give Kosovo all the characteristics of an independent and sovereign state.
Approximately 30 Albanian members of the national party, registered in Albania, held a peaceful demonstration in Podejevo that called for unification with Albania, with the slogan "one language, one flag, one nation".  The group displayed both Albanian and American flags during the demonstration.  An additional 40 Albanians joined the march after it had begun.

The Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) group is calling for protests on 10 February in Pristina.  I still have to find the Ahtisaari mannequin.  I haven't gotten up to the government building before dark yet :)  The group has been seen around Kosovo handing out pamphlets calling for support for the demonstrations.  In addition to calling for the demonstrations, Vetevendosje has also been handing out information and hanging up posters against the proposed decentralization.  The group held a peaceful protest in Mitrovica in front of the OSCE headquarters denouncing the lack of sovereignty in the proposal and criticizing the protection of Orthodox heritage and minorities.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Unveiling the Proposal

1030 CET:  Today, the status proposal will be unveiled by Special Envoy Martii Ahtisaari in both Pristina and Belgrade.  While many of us are unsure of the timeframe, movement in downtown Pristina has been restricted from 1300-2000 hours on Police Avenue.  Demonstrations are expected no mater what due to the fact that the Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) group doesn't believe in the negotiations and the proposal is not expected to please everyone. 
In Serbia, acting Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has publicly snubbed Ahtisaari and is refusing to meet with him to receive the proposal.  Kostunica insists that the special envoy should have waited until the new government is formed and that he is only a caretaker until the new government is formed.  Instead, acting President Boris Tadic will receive Ahtisaari and his proposal.

1200 CET:  The meeting between Ahtisaari and President Tadic is reported to have lasted a mere 45 minutes.  Details of the plan are going to be posted on the UN's website at 1600hrs.  The plan calls for another round of negotiations to be carried out but the deadline for the talks to begin is 13 February.

1500 CET: has summarized the important aspects of Ahtisaari's report.  There are six proposed Serb municipalities (including one in N. Mitrovica).  The Serbs will be allowed to continue cooperation with Serbia-proper in addition to receiving financial and technical support.  The new "state" would have two official languages: Albanian and Serbian.  Additionally, some 40 Orthodox heritage sites will also be given protection under the proposal.  The Albanians will need to develop a flag and emblem and national anthem of their own that must reflect the multi-ethnic characteristics of Kosovo.  A new security force will also be built with around 2500 active members and 800 reserve members that will be responsible for crisis response, explosive disposal, and civil protection.

1600 CET:  Click to see the Executive Summary of the Status Proposal.