Things to do in Prizren around the DokuFest
Watch the documentaries and shorts
Obviously, that is the primary reason to visit Prizren during the DokuFest. The selection of films is traditionally good and the program is divided in a number of competitive and non-competitive segments such as International Dox, Balkan Dox (the festival’s special treat), Human Rights Dox, Green Dox, Short Dox, Short Fiction, National Short Competition… In and outside the competition, the festival offers an insight into the recent, usually socially charged documentary production. This year’s focus was on truth and lies given in the festival’s motto “Truth Lies Here”. Also, this year’s program offered a selection of music documentaries, retrospectives (such as the one about the recently passed film radicals Agnes Varda, Jonas Mekas and Dušan Makavejev), special screenings and the VR.
The selection of venues is also interesting, as it varies from new and well-equipped cinemas like DokuKino and its marvelous rooftop plateau, old cinema Lumbardhi with a big summer stage and the multi-functional hall at the Culture House, to more exotic, open air places like Kino N’Lum, which is basically a terrace constructed over the Lumbardhi river or Kalaja, the medieval fortress overlooking the city. Careful planning and good selection of films and locations offer a perfect cinema experience.
Sightseeing and the surrounding area
Prizren is one of the oldest towns in Kosovo and most certainly the one with the best preserved city center. It is also a multicultural city with rich history coloured by Byzantine, medieval Serbian and Ottoman Turkish empires and the birthplace of the idea of Albanian statehood. It is not particularly extraordinary for the citizens of Prizren, especially the older ones, to be fluent in three languages – Albanian, Serbian and Turkish.
This is the place where a keen visitor can see monuments from and for different cultures, like the Albanian League of Prizren, several Catholic and Orthodox churches (especially Our Lady of Ljeviš, which is the only specimen of Gothic style in the Eastern medieval architecture) and mosques like Sinan Pasha’s that dominates the city centre, local museum located in the Clock Tower, Hamam that also hosts some of the DokuFest panels, Shadrvan Square with its fountain and many others. It is also worth noting that Prizren is not a city locked in past and that it is one of the rare places in the world where gentrification feels natural and not aggressive.
Prizren is surrounded by high mountains that can offer something for more adventurous tourists, but also something for those looking for natural beauties like waterfalls and viewpoints. In the opposite direction, one can find the town of Orahovac / Rahovec known for its wine. Last year the festival organized tours for guests and press to Stone Castle winery, complete with wine and food tasting, while this year it was reserved just for the invited guests. Some of us had the pleasure of taking part in the tour through the winery last year, where we took some bad quality photos by our mobile phones.
Eat, drink, get a nightlife!
DokuFest, in collaboration with its partners and sponsors, organizes receptions with food and drinks almost every day at various locations in the city center. But the non-accredited visitors should not be worried either: the food is diverse, easy (and at any time) accessible, there is plenty of it and prices are, in the European terms, laughable: dinner for five persons with wine cost us something like 40 € in total, and we were in a somewhat posh restaurant. Street food, usually consisting of meat (minced beef in different shapes and sizes), bread and season salad, can be found on every corner in small parlours and it is dirt cheap. The waiting time is a bit longer, but it is well worth it. Ones with the taste for sweets will enjoy the selection of oriental cakes and deserts, combined with traditional juices like boza or lemonade and wide selection of ice cream. Vegetarian and vegan options are scarce, though. But, hey, it’s Balkans!
When it comes to alcohol beverages, Kosovo, especially its western region, is blessed with good quality beer (Peja, coming from the nearby city of Peja / Peć), wine (both red and white) and rakija (brandy) from Orahovac region. The bars serve them cheap compared to European standards, so be careful not to overdo it.
In the terms of nightlife, note that the streets are crowded, really crowded night after night, regardless if it is weekend or not. It usually starts later in the evening and lasts until early morning hours. The reason for that is that a number of people born or with roots in Prizren live and work abroad, so they come there for holidays. Late July and early August is locally also known as “Wedding Season”, so the number of wedding dress shops in and near the city center now makes more sense.
Music might not be in sync with everyone’s taste, usually it is local, but some of Western radio hits might be heard blasting from cafes and bars. DokuFest organizes its sidebar of gigs and concerts, usually it the electronic music and hip-hop in its DokuNights section, but the favourite place for the festival visitors to spend their nights at is the Bar Aca. It is situated in the city centre near DokuKino, it offers friendly atmosphere due to its owner and waiters, the music is good and unobtrusive (different kinds of classic rock, mainly) and there is a chance to talk with other visitors, festival people and filmmakers in a relaxed atmosphere.