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It is midnight at Pristina

Published : Saturday, 8 June, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 439

It is midnight at Pristina

It is midnight at Pristina

(18.11.2023 Pristina, Kosovo)
I quietly sneaked out of my hotel. A cool drizzle welcomed me out in the open. Mid November in the Balkans was fast pacing to harsh winter. Aroma of the air felt refreshingly chilled and fresh.

My brisk footsteps abruptly annoyed two stray dogs sitting right in front of the statue of the Albanian warrior Skanderbeg mounted on a roaring horse. The dimly lit tall minaret of an ottoman era mosque, standing in the far left appeared sharp in the likes of a silent sitting hawk monitoring my every move.
The elegant whitish-grey mansion - once the former Hotel Union Building, now houses the designer brand United Colors of Benetton stood alone at far opposite - similar to a Balkan aristocrats abandoned property.
I took a right turn stepping into Ibrahim Rrugova Square, Pristinas main public square. Lined up trees on both ends are fast turning bald with heaps of dead leaves scattered here and there.

Chained piled-up chairs in front of cafes, empty benches, closed shops, kiosks, closed shutters and dimly lit buildings on both sides welcomed this midnight wanderer. It was an invitation of a queer mixture of wintry darkness, silence, emptiness to get lost in mystery and imagination - somewhat ricocheting that famous Edgar Allan Poe saying - "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and dreary".

However, for this Bohemian, it is an old practice to explore a city in the dead of night when all creatures except owls of the forest, bored policemen, vagabonds and street urchins and stray dogs of the city are awake or perhaps in a slumber. It is only then when a city unfolds in its silent and salient character.

While silence and darkness are the key elements of midnight, what is there to look for?

The brisk answer is far too many things.

Things I search varies from smells, ushered voices, unheard stories, sleeping and forgotten smiles to anguishes, buildings to statues of legendary figures echoing of the past, present and to whatever comes in your mind.

However, the newborn capital city of Kosovo is not quite highlighted as one of the Balkans attractive cities in tour guides but the diverse group of people - Albanian majority to known-unknown ethnic minorities makes Prishtina a curious small city.

Its city dwellers, museums to mosques, shopping malls to eateries to cafes, and even the menus handed out at restaurants is all about embracing diverseness.

Beauty of the world, in many ways, lies in the diversity of its people, gastronomy, drinks, medley of nature and of course getting lost amid an abundance of imagination in the midnight. And walking all alone along empty streets in the midnight, in anywhere is no different.

Here in Pristina the midnight too felt young, fresh, indecisive and uncertain of the morning, quite similar to the countrys history and struggle for wider global recognition. The city has evolved and come a long way from a 10th century sleepy village to a classical Roman Empire town, then a strategic ottoman outpost to a Yugoslav socialist metropolis. The citys identity struggle finally ended with the birth of an independent Republic of Kosovo.   
While the sufferings and joy are all there, what you all need is to know how to sense it in the empty dark silence.

A small capital city enveloped in so much diversity and fusion in languages, identities, foods, buildings, houses to fashion, entertainment and heritage - it appeared challenging to pick and choose one single item to link and define Pristina.

This city surely lacks the all-out glamour, glitz, opulence, an appealing nightlife to London, Paris, New York or Moscow, but it has its own inherent character. The light-minded, happy-go-lucky type of city dwellers, mostly young and coming out of a diverse background makes Pristina a seemingly cosy town.   
At best, I can compare Pristina to the box of assorted sweets I buy from my favourite sweetmeat shop in Dhaka. It is a mix of at least a half a dozen of sweets 2-4 pieces of each variety, until a kilogramme is filled.

The dilemma, however, I always struggle in picking and preferring one over the other. Once I gobble down a variety, it gets instantly vanished and then begins the next struggle.

Whatever, midnight never lasts for long and there is no point pro-longing and then wiping out the charm of it.

While the night remains, better get back to the hotel and enjoy the silence by re-living that epic Francis Bacon line - silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom. Adding further, silence - both a noun and a verb hardly exist in chaotic Dhakas whatever hour.

None had ever said that nights were only meant for sleeping.

The writer is with the Daily Observer

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