Valon, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. First off, from your profile, I see you studied ethnology and folklore, two areas of academia that are invaluable to the guiding profession. Did you choose these subjects with guiding in mind, or did entering into the tourist industry come later?
Ethnology and folklore have worked wonders for my career as a guide; my trips are great because they’re packed with fascinating facts and stories. Right after getting my degrees, I entered into the guiding field because I not only wanted to put into practice straight away all the information I learned in University, but I saw a need to promote Kosovo, so I took it upon myself to chip in. In addition to guiding, I work as a curator in the ethnological museum in Prishtina.
You have extensive knowledge of Kosovo’s heritage and history, as well as its people. What are your favorite things about each?
The Republic of Kosovo may only be 10,800 square kilometers large, but we are very rich culturally, and the land is incredibly beautiful. I like that one can see artifacts and archeological locations from the neolithic, Roman, and Greek times. For example, we have beautiful caves that date back millions of years, and they’re some of the best in Europe. I also appreciate that our country is influenced by both the East and West; being multi-dimensional is a gift.
In working as a tour guide in Kosovo, what has been the biggest highlight?
When Madeleinel Albright, a Czechoslovakian-born American politician and diplomat, and the first woman to have become the United States Secretary of State, came to visit!
What are some tips you have for visitors to Kosovo?
Talk to the locals; they know the most interesting things about Albanian history, and they can tell you stories that have been passed on for generations and generations, stories that nobody else knows.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Depending on the season, each day I work for between 5 and 10 hours, but, in reality, it never really feels like I am working because I love my job so much. I live for this stuff. Daily, I meet people from all over the world, which means I have been able to create lasting friendships from America to China. It’s great.
What is the best trip you have ever lead?
Since my goal is to make every trip the best trip, this is too tricky to answer!
Ever had any odd requests from clients?
Since we go by the motto over here that tourists are kings, no request could ever be too odd, wink wink.
Since I’m a stranger to your part of the world, and since you claim, “the food is very tasty and cheap,” I’m curious as to what the cuisine is like. What’s your favorite local dish?
Well, because of our mix of East and West influences, we have some awesome spices going on in our cuisine. The traditional dishes that I most prefer are flija (multiple crepe-like layers brushed with cream and served with our rendition of clotted cream), leqenik (corn bread, often filled with spinach or cheese), and kaqamak (a delicious kind of maize porridge).
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Japan and Canada! I want to visit Japan because of the awesome technology and the rich sense of tradition. Tradition is priceless.