Readers have been asking exactly where I am located / traveling, and seeing as I don’t have much to report today, I thought I’d provide a few answers.
I am currently in Pristina, capital of Kosovo. And was previously in Belgrade, capital of Serbia (where I will be returning later this journey). Back when Yugoslavia was a country, it was made up of 6 republics – Slovenia, Croatia, Bonsia and Hercegovina, Serbia, Monetnegro, and Macedonia. All of those are now successor countries. Serbia itself contained two autonomous regions, Kosovo and Vojvodina. Vojvodina is still part of Serbia; Kosovo is a separate entity, though its country status is disputed. Okay, so all of these countries which made up the former Yugoslavia are in South Eastern Europe, located on the Balkan peninsula, which has Greece at its bottom tip, and is surrounded by the Adriatic, Ionian, Agean and Black seas.
It is in the UTC+1 time zone, the same as most of Western Europe (except the UK and Portugal which are UTC). So, that is +6 hours from EST or +9 from PST for those playing along at home.
Of course, the political status of the Yugoslav successor states has been a complex issue, and Kosovo is the extreme example. I’m not going to review the whole history here as it's much too long and complicated for the purposes of this blog post. Suffice it to say that when the UN and NATO took control, they separated it from Serbia but did not grant it full independence, leaving status to be decided later, and in 2008 Kosovo declared independence. While it is not currently a UN member-state due to the contentiousness of this claim (there are concerns that China and/or Russia would veto), it is a member country of the World Bank and IMF, and has been recognized by 75 UN Member States, including the US, almost all EU and OSCE members, and all of its neighbors except Serbia. (This makes for some interesting travel issues as Serbia considers the border an internal administrative boundary not a port-of-entry, so there can be visa issues if you enter Serbia from Kosovo as you will not have a Serbian entrance stamp. This is resolved if you entered Kosovo from Serbia and are going back to the same place – hence my taking the bus from Belgrade and back again.)
Of course, places with contentious political status often have contentious naming / linguistic issues as well. See for example the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which entered the UN with that full long name because Greece opposed it being called simply Macedonia. So, in Serbian, Kosovo is Kosovo (Latin scrip) or Косово (Cyrillic); in Albanian (the primary language here) it is Kososva (or in some circumstances Kosovë). Pristina, is Приштина or Priština in Serbian, Prishtinë or Prishtina in Albanian. As you will have noticed, I have stuck with Kosovo and Pristina, as they are the standard English language spellings and as such are used by international organizations, just like I have used “Belgrade” for the capital of Serbia rather than the more accurate “Beograd”.