Day Ten. Culture of Kosovo

A beautiful sunny day and a break from the museum and the chance to take in some of the beautiful culture of Kosovo including a whirlwind tour of some of the amazing architecture.

We were up early and on the bus ready for a ride over to Visoki Dečani monastery, a fantastic active monastery which is a UNESCO world heritage site (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/724). The monastery was built from 1332- 1335 (in just 8 years!) by the Serbian king Stefan Dečanski and is also his mausoleum.

The monastery on a lovely sunny day

The monastery on a lovely sunny day

There were many gasps as we entered the building and saw the most beautiful 14th century paintings completely covering the walls and ceiling. It was absolutely breath-taking and we were kindly given a tour by one of the monks who spoke of the history of the monastery, shared details of the many paintings and told us about the life that still continues, with 25 monks living and working at the monastery.

Some of the beautiful paintings on the wall

Some of the beautiful paintings on the wall

After we had dragged ourselves away from the beautiful images we were welcomed to try some Raki, a powerful alcoholic drink which was delicious, if a little shock to the system before lunchtime! After many “thank yous” and a quick photograph we were off to our next stop to look at kullas of the region.

Kulla are traditional stone fortified houses which were normally built over three floors (although sometimes four). The fortified nature of the homes sees small windows and thick walls which would provide increased protection.

A traditional kulla

A traditional kulla

We travelled Kulla Mazrekaj, a 19th century kulla and the location of a previous Cultural Heritage Without Borders camp which had looked to carry out conservation on the building in 2004. We were suitably impressed and were allowed to take some time to sit in the mens meeting room on the top floor of the kulla and reflect on the space. Traditionally, men and women would have separate areas of the house- men being on the top floor and women below, but here we sat together and discussed our impressions of the day so far.

Taking some time to sit and reflect at the Kulla Mazrekaj

Taking some time to sit and reflect at the Kulla Mazrekaj

Another short bus ride and we were in Gjakova, where we had some time to sample some delicious Kosovan food for lunch and take a walk around the streets. We were also fortunate to have the chance to visit the Hadum Mosque, the oldest mosque in Gjakova built in the 16th century. We were lucky enough to be given a tour by Besfort, one of our Cultural heritage Without Borders colleagues who had worked to conserve the mosque.

The amazing painted motifs inside the mosque

The amazing painted motifs inside the mosque

He talked to us about the careful removal of layers of overpaint on the inside and outside of the mosque which revealed the most beautiful and colourful painted motifs.

Besfort discussing removal of overpaint (the grey patch has been left as an example of the surface that covered the original colourful paintings)

Besfort discussing removal of overpaint (the grey patch has been left as an example of the surface that covered the original colourful paintings)

It was a busy day,  but one that will stick in all our memories as a demonstration of the amazing cultural heritage of Kosovo and of the work to date that has already gone into caring for it.