Of all the towns in Kosovo, Prizren has a distinctly quaint feel about it…
It could be the ancient cobblestone narrow streets, the richness of detail in the church stained glass, the engravings on the walls of mosques, the centuries-old bridge, or the breeze blowing through your hair as you look down from the castle.
This slideshow is a call to UNESCO to make Kosovo part of its family as we cherish the beauty of Prizren, which has suffered great damages from decades of war. Through yoga poses inspired by historical landmarks, monuments, and landscapes of Prizren, we call upon UNESCO to accept Kosovo as a member. To remember that only in unity, we can educate, build, and preserve what we create peacefully.
This is the heart of the Monumental Complex of the Albanian League of Prizren made of several buildings that initially served as teaching rooms and libraries and were later used as administrative offices for the Albanian League of Prizren in the 19th century. Much of the complex was demolished in the 1950s and 1970s, with the intention of “modernizing” the city, a recurrent issue which all cities in Kosovo have faced.
Still, some remnants of handwritten documents, antique weapons, and paintings of historical and political figures of the league have survived the claw of ‘modernization’. You feel as if you’re gently taken back to the old days once you step inside the complex.
Among the various traits of Prizren are numerous wells and ancient drinking fountains. We open our hearts in empathy through the Fish pose (Matsyasana) to honor the people of Prizren who remained resilient across centuries like a steady stream of water.
Through the alleyways in Purvottanasana, we ended up at the Musa Shehzade – House (Residential Building) in the “Old Saray” street.
While this was the first time visiting in person, the house had a familiar feel, as recalled from stories told by my father and uncle playing with their mother in this garden.
A recognizable trait of the house are its high surrounding walls, which were built through a sound-proof technique in the early 19th century as protection from the piercing of foreign enemies. While today the house serves as the Ethnological Museum of Prizren thanks to its architectural and artistic values as well as political history.
The owner Musa Shehzade, who was one of the descendants of the family that built the first dervish tekkes in Prizren, served as the first mayor of Prizren. He also led the Second League of Prizren in 1943, which aimed to defend and unify the ethnic Albanian territories.
While his dedication to preserving the Albanian culture and identity, led to his murder, and the whereabouts of his ashes are unknown even today, we honor what has been left to us through his work with the Warrior III (Virabhadra) fierce warrior pose.
In the main room of the second floor, also known as “Oda” there are relics from 19th century dwellings. The unique design of the helmet of the renowned Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastrioti (Skenderbeu), who led the Albanians on its quest for independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, has been embellished as part of the three chimneys in this house, one in the ground floor, and two in the upper floors.
What is astonishing about this creation is that displaying such ornaments distinct of the Albanian culture was prohibited under the Serbian-rule in Kosovo. Thanks to the disguised portrayal of identity, only locals could distinguish the details of the helmet engraved on the upper portion of the chimney. To the rest, this seemed as only a continuation of the adorned woodwork of flowery ceilings, cupboards, and walls around the house.
After walking by the 200-year old Tree of Marash, you will pass the Musa Shehu statue and the turbe (tomb), whose the ruins of have yet to be uncovered. Through the Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana), which is characteristic of improving proprioception (the sense of position in space), we call upon UNESCO to acknowledge Kosovo’s position as a new member in the organization deserving of its place.
We have been able to hear the voice of the wind speaking of the resilient castle of Prizren (Kalaja) all the way from the Byzantine era. Old writings speak of the castle’s beauty, such as the “De aedificiis” (On Construction) by the Byzantine Chronicler Procopus of Cesar, who mentioned the ‘Petrizen Castle’, as one of the forts renovated in ancient Dardania.
The present day Kosovo was known as Dardania in the 4th century BC under Illyrians, who are regarded as predecessors of Albanians. Every era has left its mark on the Prizren castle. At times it was draped with fences and fortified walls looking over the town as a way to protect the people and the territory.
During the Ottoman Empire, it was home to a Hamam (public baths) and a mosque. Nowadays, it turns into an open cinema every summer during the Dokufest International Film Festival, which brings to Prizren thousands of art and film lovers.
As the body unites in Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana), we show gratitude towards those who have preserved and prevented the destruction of beauty.
As a new UNESCO member, Kosovo and its people will find the balance needed to educate, preserve and foster sustainable development and intercultural growth for a peaceful future.
(Photos by Rina Hapçiu)