“I dislike feeling at home, when I am abroad”- (George Bernard Shaw). Well said! Nothing could explain more than this phrase the true spirit of a journey… Oh I forgot, 1.8 million Kosovars are still not familiar with this phrase due to visa regime, and so was I, till YIHR gave me a chance to go and travel to some of the most beautiful places of Europe and I shall admit that this was the best experience ever, not for the reason that It was for most of us the first time having this kind of one month trip but for the spirit of the group (10 girls and 6 boys), the team leader that kept us motivated and willing-full to go through some beautiful experiences and so well organized agenda that kept us out of the issues that could effect in the overall journey effectiveness.
Being honest, I was not that much motivated of going somewhere abroad for weeks and having not a friend mine with me. At the begging everyone was giving ideas how to do our best to save as much time as we can, how to save money In order to travel more and see more, how to prevent the worst case scenarios and things like this. So in a word, everything was being pre-prepared. We were discussing details. Everybody was so excited.
We left Kosovo on 28th of July and headed for Berlin. For most of us it was the first time traveling with a plane. Sticking together as always we started finding gates. While waiting for the plane we took a nap or read, listened to music or chat. When we arrived in Berlin and the bus-driver that was send especially to take us (from the host organization “Robert Bosch Stiftung”), we were amazed of the clean streets, green parks round us, people driving safely and everything was in order. With this feeling that kept us thinking about our country we immediately started to make suggestions of how would Kosovo in the future be like this. Of course that thinking did not last longer.
So, we arrived at the place where we were supposed to meet with other students from Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and organizers from Robert Bosch Stiftung (RBS). After we introduce each-other and had a nice dinner at this big hall we walked to this lovely hostel called “Amstel”. We were divided into separated rooms with other students from the region. That was one of the many interesting experiences where I made good new friends.
The second day found us very busy. We jumped on busses and drove to meet with former EU member of the Parliament, Doris Pack. She is being considered as one of the few experts of the Balkan region, so it was very exciting discussing with her. Honestly speaking I got a little bit frustrated of the way she was talking about Balkan and she even forgot to say a word for Kosovo. That gave me motivation to raise my hand and make some points, raise some question and go further into topic discussion. After the meeting we were divided into group of 10-15 people and guided from one guy called “Local Heroes”. The objective of this activity was to show us a different view of Berlin. It was such an unexplainable feeling when we went by train to a place where emigrants form the first half of XX century used to spend the night. This shelter was build due to the will of some altruistic acts of good people. Many of emigrants could spent the night there and have a warm meal. This shelter or “Asylum” was divided in two separate segments for man and women with children. As happened in the 2nd World War this Asylum was used by Nazis for their program and after that was destroyed almost entirely. This visit gave us a very impressive feeling and served us as an unforgettable experience.
Berlin Wall was one of our destination. Even-though we were expecting something bigger, those remaining’s of the wall gave us a picture of how It looked like 25 years ago.
The funny thing was that we met some Albanians that where cheating on tourists while playing a stupid game which asked you to find a hidden small-ball that actually you could never-ever find.
By the night we took the train and were traveling round Berlin. We visited many beautiful places with historical back-rounds. After visiting and having fun it was the time to leave for Netherland.
We took the midnight train and we were thinking that we are headed toward the Netherland borders but actually we arrived at Koln ( a German city). We had a coffee there and left for Netherlands. As we arrived we felt the friendliness atmosphere surrounding us. As I read before, Netherland is the second state(after Denmark) in the world that produces all of its electricity from alternative ways. All green, ecological and friendly people surrounded us. We were not paying for buss-tickets and everybody was helping us. It was extraordinary to see children and 75 years old people driving bicycles and all of them speaking English fluently.
We were staying in Bungalows, in this breathtaking area with swimming pool and surrounded by lots of trees and other well-ordered parks. We just wanted to stay more than a month there. That place cannot be describe by words. We took a rest first day, swim in the pool and had some beers and the next day we took the train for Amsterdam. It was a Guy Parade being held there and it was something very new for us. We saw girls kissing and boys shaking each-other’s backs. Amsterdam was full of people from all types of backgrounds that day. We had beers and enjoy sightseeing by walking or taking the Boat Trip.
When we came back home we had a little party in the back yard of those ‘villas’. The other day we were walking the roads of Rotterdam. Everything was so beautiful.
After spending 3 days in Netherland (Reykjavik) we were upset to leave these paradise, but Bruges (Belgium) was waiting for us. So we took the train and went to Bruges. The weather that day was very warm. We put our luggage at some special rooms for locking personal stuffs and left for sightseeing. Bruges was amazing. Those western, medieval building styles left us speechless. We spent two days in Bruges and slept at the train station. It was a new experience for us to spend the nights sleeping in those sleeping bags we bought before departure. It was warm and pleasant after all. After two nights in Bruges we left for Paris.
Hungry, tired and a desperate need to have a shower we arrived in Paris. I should not forget to mention that Paris was our last place where we were going to stick together as a group. The hostel in Paris was the last one we booked previously. So as we arrived we took a sleep, had a bathroom and then together we headed to ‘Louvre Museum’. It was something you do not have a chance to experience in your lifetime, not even in the best documentaries. All those paintings, sculptures which resisted the historical pressure. Amazed with the Louvre we headed to ‘Eiffel Tower’ and spent most of the day there. I made the road alone since I wanted to enjoy the Paris streets as much as I could. In Paris I learned how to play “Pitanque” by the help of three old local men. After this we were divided into two groups, the first one was booking hostels the other one went to train station to book 15 train tickets. The next day we headed Nice. We arrived in Nice by 4:00am and went straight to the beach. One guy and I had a fresh swim and then got our sleeping bags and took a sleep. It was just amazing. We woke up after four hours and took the train to reach Rome (Italy). After changing many trains we finally reach Italy. As soon as we entered Italy we noticed that the way that train works in other parts of Europe distinguish from Italian way of operating. They were late, not clean enough, no clear signs to show the directions etc.
After we arrived we were sleeping in a hostel near the train station. Oh, the first guy we met in Paris and Rome was Albanian. It was funny when you told someone in Italy that you are from Albania – ‘Albanese’- the first thing they replied was sarcastic : ‘Ohhh Mafiiaa, no guns please. Take whatever you want..”. It happened to me a few times. I do not know if that is a stereotype or an perception build upon a reality. We enjoyed Rome a lot. Colosseum was just breathtaking. I went there twice. It had so much to see there. The ‘Forum’ near Colosseum was also so historical. Colosseum as many places in Rome fanatically hided the most fabulous construction of two-thousand years ago. Incredible but a little bit disappointing I left Rome. That’s because I was expecting more from the Rome city. Streets were so polluted and you could not find a market for miles. After three days, we left Rome. While everybody else was traveling more through Italy and other places of Europe, me and another friend decided to go back since we had to get prepared for exams. We took the ferry boat from Bari to Durrës (Albania). We spent a day in Bari. It was not much of a city but still, many levels better than the best city in Albania.
Saluting the Italy I left a ‘goodbye’ to Europe and I told myself that I am coming back as soon as possible.
A big Thank You goes to YIHR that made this happen and special thanks to Teuta Hoxha as leader of the grip which made this trip unforgettable.