In early 2008, Kosovo separated itself from Serbia, but it'll be some time before it's ready for an influx of visitors. Battered first by ham-handed Soviet-era architectural planning that often replaced historical sites with concrete-box-style construction and later by the Balkan conflict in the 1990s, there's not much left to see—what remains standing sometimes comes with warnings to look out for unexploded ordnance.
Like Serbia, Kosovo once was part of the now-defunct Yugoslavia, a nation originally cobbled together after World War I from territory inhabited by Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Kosovo is the ancient birthplace of Serbia and rich in national history and tradition, but today its population consists primarily of ethnic Albanian Muslims. When ethnic rivalries began to tear Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s, Serb nationalists began a brutal campaign to "cleanse" Albanian Muslims from Kosovo that continued after a peace accord in 1995 brought the wider Balkan conflict to a close.
A NATO-led peacekeeping force finally imposed an uneasy peace in 1999, but the calm has been heavily tested by Kosovo's declaration of independence. Many Serbs are enraged, as they regard Kosovo as a province that rightly belongs to Serbia. (Although many Western nations have recognized Kosovo, its independence has been officially disputed by Serbia, Spain, Russia and more than a dozen other nations.) International forces remain in Kosovo in considerable strength to keep order; the fledgling government is being administered by the United Nations, for now.
The Sar Mountains are home to tourist and ski resorts in the relatively calm south and southeast, but travel to and from Kosovo could be complicated by confusion about entry and exit protocols and leashed hostility on the part of some of its Balkan neighbors. Even nations that have recognized Kosovo haven't yet established embassies or consulates yet, and some neighboring countries won't honor entry stamps affixed by Kosovar border officials. It's not advisable to try to enter Serbia from Kosovo, as border posts and checkpoints have been attacked repeatedly.
The main towns in Kosovo are Pristina, the capital, and Prizren (a city of many mosques, the burial place of Serbian king Stephen Dusan, and home to a wealth of craftsmen who specialize in embroidery and in creating gold and silver articles). Mitrovica, a divided city in the north that includes a large Serbian enclave, is a flashpoint that's best avoided for now. Since independence, it has been the scene of occasional pitched battles between U.N. peacekeepers and angry residents who preferred Serb rule.
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