Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Safety First in Kosovo

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Safety First in Kosovo

Article excerpt

Byline: ROBERT FOX

According to a new guidebook, Kosovo and Albania are now safe to visit. Robert Fox, who covered the Balkan conflict for the Standard, checks out the security advice YOU probably need a good guide, says James Pettifer, author of Blue Guide Albania and Kosovo. And, no doubt, this traveller might observe, someone who knows one end of a Kalashnikov rifle from the other. For most of the main routes, he advises: "Take a taxi or bus - don't bother with a private car. But you will need a four-wheel drive to get to some of the really interesting places in the mountains."

His book is a remarkable record of the events that have torn this part of the world apart in the past two or three years. He includes the collapse of the pyramid share scheme which set alight the flames of anarchy in Albania in 1997, and the fighting in Kosovo which saw the flight of nearly a million Kosovars two years ago and the massacre of nearly 10,000 Kosovar civilians.

It gives a comprehensive catalogue of the major cultural casualties of the wars of the southern Balkans. It is the first guide to put Kosovo together with Albania. "The most difficult thing was to balance the coverage of both sides, the Orthodox churches and the mosques," says Pettifer.

But he underlines the need for what he calls "security health warnings".

Quite easy and relaxed places are close to tricky and dangerous areas.

"A really beautiful place like Prizren - which is quite accessible - is close to some villages which are dangerous and should be avoided."

A surprising number of monuments and treasures have survived the continuous violence of the past 10 years, but there have been notable casualties. The crest of the great lord Ali Pasha, who played host to Lord Byron in Tepelena in Albania, has been lifted and not seen since. But the classical statues pilfered from the great site of Apollonia have just turned up in Corfu.

The worst single case of vandalism had little to do with religion or nationalism. …

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