Prizren is a town with around 70,000 inhabitants, and it is a true open air museum, one of the most beautiful towns of Kosova. It is situated on the slopes of the Sharr Mountains and on the banks of the river Bistrica. Thanks to its preserved architecture, this town with houses built under the Kalaja is a special curiosity. It is rich in dwelling quarters and houses with balconies facing gardens full of foliage. Numerous narrow, winding streets cut the whole town up, giving the town an oriental physiognomy. The craftsmen of Prizren are well known for their beautiful gold and silver articles, embroidery, the Prizren cloth, knives, and other folk handcrafts, trades which Prizrenians have preserved throughout the centuries. Since the end of World War II, Prizren has developed into a modern town with food processing, textile, pharmaceutical, and metal processing industry, at the same time efforts have been made to preserve its ancient architecture.

A view of Prizren. The Sharr Mountains are in the background,
while the Bistrica River flows through the town.

Prizren was established at a convenient locality as an important trading town, through which passed old roads towards the Adriatic coast and the interior of the Balkan peninsula.

Graves and artifacts of Illyrian Dardans were found in Prizren's vincity, which shows that the area of Prizren has been inhabited since ancient times. It was for a while the center of the Serbian Empire. During the Byzantine rule, Prizren was known as Prizdrian. The Ottomans occupied Prizren on June 21, 1455, and that is when the oriental urban development of Prizren began. From all the cities of Kosova, Prizren has best preserved the architectural physiognomy of the past.

A view of Prizren from the Kalaja

Overlooking the town, on a hill that dominates over the Prizren plateau, is the Kalaja (Fortress) of Prizren (Kalaja e Prizrenit). The fort dates from the 11th century and was built to protect Prizren from attacks. Kalaja is a true labyrinth of underground tunnels. The Ottoman Turks occupied it in 1455 and kept soldiers in it for centuries. Kalaja today fits into the old town setup.

The Bajrakli Gazi Mehmet Pasha's mosque is the oldest monument of Islamic art in Prizren. The inscription above the entrance states it was built in 1561. This mosque has a square base and numerous windows, while the main veneration niche (mihrab) and the pulpit (mimber) are made of marble.

A hexagonal mausoleum (medresa) has been built in the courtyard of the mosque which Mehmet Pasha earmarked as his grave.

Mehmet Pasha's Turkish bath in Prizren

Mehmet Pasha also built a Turkish bath in the town, which is built of cut stone and large bricks, in extremely harmonious proportions. The interior is divided into two parts: the baths for men and the baths for women.

Sinan Pasha's mosque in Prizren
Sinan Pasha's mosque, according to inscriptions, was built in 1615. Its architecture demonstrates strength, compactness, gracefulness, and elegance. In regards to the type of architecture, it represents a rarity in Islamic art. Thanks to its position, elegance, massive properties and the graceful minaret, it dominates over the surrounding part of the town. The enormous dome is fitted harmoniously into the square mass of the building. The interior of the mosque is decorated with geometrical designs, still life, and draperies, while the other parts of the walls are painted in strong light colors.

One of the oldest standing structures in Prizren is the Sh'nm'ria Levishka Church (shown on the picture). Built originally as a Roman Catholic Church and one of the primary churches of the Catholics of the region, Levishka was later converted to an Eastern Orthodox Church.

Left: the house in which the Prizren League was organized. Right: the Prizren League Museum with the statues of Sami Frash'ri and Ymer Prizreni

In the center of the town, on the bank of river Bistrica, stands the house in which in 1878, the League of Prizren was organized. It was an assembly of representatives of all Albanian inhabited regions that demanded autonomy from the Ottoman Empire. This event was the starting point of the Albanian liberation movement which eventually led to the declaration of the independence of Albania in 1912. The house archives many of the documents relating to the League of Prizren.
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