Serbian Biscuits in Kosovo

Tea with Strangers. Open-air Chinese tea ceremonies with strangers around the world.

“This is a story from Kosovo. As you know there’s an issue between Serbia and Albania, and most Kosovo is now populated with Albanian people, but the west part is more complicated, because it’s full of villages which are Albanian, Serbian, Albanian, Serbian, so all the way, all the roads – it’s a mix of population, and they mostly hate each other. And they have something which makes hitchhiking even more complicated over there – each car has a specific plate which is either Serbian, or Albanian, and depending on your plate, you can either go Serbian villages, or Albanian ones.

So hitchhiking there means that most of the time you have to hitch the first car which will take you to the next village 2 kilometers after, then they will say they can’t go further, so you have to walk 2-3 kilometers to the next village which belongs to the other community, and hitch from this one – so, one hitch, one walk. And each time, people invite you to their family, so you have to drink tea and walk, drink tea and walk. And you hear Serbian people saying that Albanian people are bad, and Albanian people saying that Serbian people are bad.

At some point, villages came to be more and more isolated, and I had to walk for 3-4 kilometers without meeting anyone. And the traffic was getting less, too. I only met one cyclist. He was an Australian, cycling from Germany to Australia. And we stood there and talked for half an hour, two aliens. Eventually, I reached the border, which was like a war zone. It was already night. And the guards didn’t know if I was a soldier attacking them, or just an alien arriving there, but clearly I wasn’t normal for them.

For 10 minutes, I wasn’t even able to give my passport to them, because they just looked at me. I asked if I could pass, but they were discussing between themselves if I was a threat or not. I gave them my passport. You have to be really careful when crossing the border here. You can go out of Kosovo into Serbia only if you were first in Serbia, and reached Kosovo via Serbia. Because for them, it’s still part of Serbia. So, if you do something like, for instance, Macedonia to Kosovo, you can’t go to Serbia, because for them you entered the country illegally. I did Serbia to Kosovo, so for me it was fine, but at the first border control they didn’t put the stamp properly.

So when I get my passport, it was even worse, because they saw the stuff, and for them I didn’t enter Serbia properly. So they started calling a lot of people, trying to see if I could pass or not. Going back wasn’t a good option for me. Almost half an hour passed. And what saved me at the end was that after half an hour of them discussing and making calls and me just waiting and not really knowing what to do, I just took a pack of biscuits out of my backpack and started to eat. And I bought this pack of biscuits in Serbia. They noticed the biscuits and were like “Oh, you really went to Serbia.” So I was able to cross the border – thanks to a pack of biscuits.”

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