One of the biggest surprises for me in Kosovo was how staggeringly green it is. Even in the dishevelled streets of Pristina, you’re surrounded by hills and mountains and, most notably, a large national park – Germia. Deciding that Pristina’s bus system was too complicated for my delicate mind, I opted for the 45 minute walk to Germia (though if you’d rather take the bus, it’s #4 and costs €0.40. The bus stops at the car park just outside the park. It also waits a while to pick up passengers who want to go back to the city centre.
It’s a park that’s got a bit of everything really and it’s free to enter. There’s wide, open green spaces to chill and relax. There’s a restaurant there, a fountain, a play area (I got some funny looks). What appealed to me most was the gigantic forest and wealth of hiking trails that weaved from the park. It felt like a while since I’d done a proper, traditional hike so I was looking forward to getting properly close to Kosovo’s astounding natural beauty.
There are various signs which denote the hiking trails, though most of them are covered in graffiti which makes them pretty difficult to decipher. Therefore, the easiest trail for me to follow was the white and red circled one because these circles were painted pretty frequently on the trees. I had no idea where the trail would take me but it was the most obvious option and didn’t present me with any difficulties. There were offshoots during the trail which took you steeper and, presumably, to better views but I was only in standard trainers and had been warned against wandering off the beaten track in Kosovo so stuck to the designated trail.
The red and white trail basically looped through the forest. The heavy tree cover meant I got less views but more shade which was welcome on this hot June day. It wasn’t a strenuous trail at all. In fact, some people were completing parts of it with buggies. You don’t get any sweeping views over the hills – for those you’d have to venture higher up – but it’s a pleasant forest hike with the trees towering above you. Quite apart from anything, you just get away from it all. I crossed paths with a few other hikers on occasion but considering how busy the park itself was, I was left pretty much alone for the entirety of my hike. Even though I wasn’t really in the middle of nowhere, it certainly felt like it.
The trail eventually loops back onto a tarmac road (down which very few cars actually pass) which leads back to the park. I think it took about an hour or so overall for the entire loop. It would obviously take longer if you take some of the steeper ascents to get some better views. For me, the main joy was just hiking through a pretty much deserted forest in the middle of Kosovo – it’s not very often you get the opportunity to do that!
Perhaps the quirkiest element of Germia Park is the gigantic open air swimming pool that sits at its entrance. It would certainly have been a welcome sight had I tackled the more demanding hikes (and if I’d brought my swim shorts…). It’s separated from the rest of the park and there’s a price list on the front wall, but the man at the entrance just waved me through and said it was free. Although there were grey clouds looming by this point, it was still pretty warm and it was a Saturday so the pool was quite busy. I can imagine it getting packed on a properly sunny day, though it’s so enormous that I can’t envisage you’d ever have to fight for pool space.
It’s just such a bizarre sight to see this huge swimming pool sat amongst the rolling green hills and lush scenery. It’s the sort of thing you expect to see at a beach or resort but not hidden in this mountainous landscape. I enjoyed a €0.30 ice cream from one of the food stalls and lodged myself on one of the hills, gutted I hadn’t brought my swimming gear so I could go for a dip myself. I’ll definitely make sure I’m prepared if I’m ever in Pristina again…