Like most Balkan cities, Pristina was a small and dusty market town until fairly recently. The city suffered bombing in the Second World War and again during the 1999 Kosovo crisis, but unfortunately suffered most damage to its cultural monuments due to socialist planning. In the 1950s, demolition of parts of the old centre took place in the name of building a new socialist city – publications at the time boasted that “old shop fronts and other shaky old structures are quickly disappearing to make room for fine tall, modern-style buildings.” The lovely little Catholic Church was demolished, as was the region’s largest covered market, a mosque (which made way for the Iliria hotel), the synagogue, a hamam bath house and many Ottoman-era houses. The rivers Pristevka and Vellushka were hidden beneath concrete. This all goes to explain the apparent dearth of charm. Despite all this, it’s pleasant to stroll around the former bazaar area, taking in the lively goings-on at the markets or watching the mosques fill up at prayer time. A lovely traditional 18th century house set in a walled complex with several other buildings is the only original building left in the old bazaar area. Once owned by Emin Gjiku, a nickname for Emin Gjinolli, whose family owned the house, the complex was turned into a museum in 2006. The house narrates about the traditional architecture typical for the region, and showing the separate guest and family parts of the house that are filled with exhibits on clothing, birth and burial rituals, handicrafts and more.

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