Kosovo Stories and Tips

The Cult of Bill Clinton

Kebab Van Photo, Pristina, Kosovo

When the skyline of Prishtina finally came into view, I immediately started to think that I really should be spending more time in this country than just driving through it. I don't really know what it was, but I suppose it was just that general curiosity that drives all us travelers and that curiosity that drove me to the Balkan Peninsula in the first place. Prishtina is one of those places that I had always heard referenced, but never really imagined I'd be. It would have been a crime to not at least spend the night. The choice should have been obvious, but it still took me forever to decide. My mind flip-flopped, stay/go, stay/go, stay/go. Before I new it I was on the road out of town and toward the Montenegro border. Then it finally hit me. I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't stop. I turned around.

I had no map, no guide book, no list of hotels, nothing, but luckily Prishtina isn't that large of a city, only around 250,000, and finding my way around proved rather easy. From the ring road that skirts around the city, I saw a towering building with the words Grand Hotel Prishtina written on the sides. I decided that that was going to be where I would bunk, so I immediately set out trying to drive my way there.

At one point, while entering the city I turned a corner and was greeted by a gigantic (and I mean GIGANTIC) poster of Bill Clinton. It was the sort of poster that you imagine a dictator Muamar Qaddhafi likes to hang in order to remind his subjects who is boss. The poster, I discovered, was welcoming me to Bill Clinton Boulevard. I was literally in awe. I just stood there staring at this easily 30-meter tall poster of Bill Clinton. As I drove on I looked to my right only to see a kebab van titled, Bill Klinton Doner Kebab. Where was I? Having spent the last year bouncing around the world, I had experienced my fair share of anti-Americanism, particularly in Europe. It was a strange feeling to be somewhere where the U.S. was looked upon as a great liberator. I was soon to discover that Bill Clinton is a national hero in this country. A Bill Clinton cult exists in Prishtina the way Che has a cult in Cuba. Good old "Slick Willy" has his face plastered everywhere. All I could do was laugh. "If only all the neo-cons back home could see this," I thought. Around the world people burn the image of George W. Bush, but here in Kosovo Clinton is worshipped. It's the Republican Party's worst nightmare. I knew immediately that Prishtina was my type of town.

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