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Once the cultural and intellectual capital of Ottoman Kosovo, Prizren is a handsome stone-built city replete with rambling cobblestone streets and a myriad of historic architecture. Located on a vital trade route between Europe and the Middle East, it flourished from the 15th century thanks to the flow of gold, silver, silk, copper, and other luxury goods. Today, daily life focuses on the Shadervan, an ancient urban square flanked by terraced cafes and restaurants, a throng of life and activity after dark. Ideal for strolling, its surrounding streets are home to a profusion of elegant mosques, hammams, bazaars, and other opulently adorned Islamic structures dating from the city’s heyday.
In the 19th century, Prizren famously became a hotbed of revolutionary fervour when the League of Prizren convened with Muslim religious leaders and clan chiefs to plan their resistance against the Ottomans. Their schemes for ethnic statehood never bore fruit, but the meeting signified the first organised expressions of Albanian nationalism. Today, the complex where the meetings took place is one of Kosovo’s most important national monuments.Read more
To a certain extent, Prizren’s Ottoman heritage has come to overshadow its much older history. Throughout the middle ages, the city served both Byzantine and Serbian Empires, flourishing with Orthodox churches, monasteries, and an extensive fortification that now quietly crumbles on a hill.
Prizren’s most impressive medieval structure is the Our Lady of Ljevis Orthodox church, an arresting 14th century structure that houses fine frescos depicting King Milutin, Jesus Christ, and the saints – it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. Sadly, the church and numerous other Serbian monuments – along with the entire Serb quarter of the city - were burned down or heavily damaged during ethnic unrest in 2004. For Prizren, the challenge of the future will be restoring and protecting all of its historical assets without prejudice.