Peć or Pejë – take your pick

Tuesday 26 to Wednesday 27 February

Peć (Serbian) or Pejë (Albanian) is a nice old city at the foot of some very tall mountains in the north-west of the country. It is a stepping off point for hiking and other adventures in the Prokletije Mountains, also known as the Albanian Alps. There is even a ski field.

As in many cities we spent a long time driving around narrow streets looking for parking for the hotel.

This hotel occupied the 9th and highest floor of the tallest building in the city and the views to the mountains were beautiful even though it was dull.

We walked down through the Old Bazaar and then to the city centre which was alongside the Lambardh River. Of course we found a Mother Teresa statue there, overlooking the square! We enjoyed local trout for dinner.

Peć was the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church between 1346 and 1766, and even today it is revered within Serbian Orthodoxy.

The following morning we visited the nearby Patriarchal Monastery of Peć, built approximately 1330 and female only. The police at the gate wanted to see our passports, which we thought was strange for a monastery. The grounds were beautiful but very wintry although we found some snowdrops, reminding us that this cold weather is not forever.

A Morus nigra, also called a black mulberry that is preserved in the monastery yard is said to be 750 years old, planted by Archbishop Sava II between 1263 and 1272

We could visit the Orthodox church in the monastery, but as always, no photos of the beautiful frescoes inside. A very serious old nun kept an eagle eye on us, just in case. This monastery is the greatest mausoleum of Serbian religious dignitaries – unfortunately that was lost in translation when we visited.

I have included a couple of photos found on the internet, to show the inside of the church.

Our drive today was to Prizren in the south-west of Kosovo with a couple of stops.

Visoki Dečani is a medieval Serbian Orthodox Christian monastery located near Deçan in the west of Kosovo. It was founded in the first half of the 14th century by the Serbian King Stefan Dečanski. The pink and white marble church was built in 1335. It is a beautiful church with stunning frescoes and iconostas, however no photos, although a couple are downloaded from their website. A young man acted as guard and guide. He told us he works one week on and one week off and returns to his home near Peć during his off week. We were the only visitors at the time, however he assured us it is very busy in summer.

This was another monastery that was heavily guarded, but by soldiers of KFOR, the Nato-led Kosovo Force. The soldiers on duty were from Moldova and they alternate with soldiers from Italy and Austria. They took Bruce’s passport and returned it when we left. Is the Orthodox Church so at risk by this mainly Islamic population?

They also asked us not to use our cameras, but photos on our phones were permitted. This had us rather intrigued as the meta data on a photo taken on a phone is far more informative than from our cameras, which don’t have GPS co-ordinates.

We continued on from Deçan to Prizren, but had to stop when we came across the amazing Ura e Terzive Bridge (Tailors’ Bridge) over the Ereniku River near the village of Bistražin. It was probably built in the 15th century and altered in the 18th century during the Ottoman period. The bridge is on a medieval route between Gjokova and Prizren and is more than 190 metres long with 11 rounded arches.

We attempted to find the mosque of Hadum built in the end of XVI century in Gjakovë, but a drive around the town in difficult traffic put us off.

The drive to Prizren was stunning as the town is surrounded by the Šar Mountains.