The largest town in the west of Kosovo is inhabited almost entirely by ethnic Albanians, who call it Pejë. For Serbs, however, this is Peć, site of the first patriarchate of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The complex of monastery and churches, dating from the 13th century, is located just outside the city, on the road running in the Rugova mountains.
The patriarchate is guarded by KFOR soldiers and access is allowed only to holders of foreign passports. I arrived too late on the first day and was told by a couple of bored Slovenes to return the next day. When I had come back the following morning, they were replaced by similarly bored Italians. In exchange for my passport, I was given a visitor’s pass and allowed to walk through the outer gate.
A gently winding stone path led past a herd of cows to an inner gate, where a sign still boasts that the site was a monument of the People’s Republic of Serbia. The monastery church is unusual in that it originally consisted of four churches built side by side, with a common entrance built to connect them. The ancient frescos inside are lovely, though many have deteriorated completely.
I didn’t find this monastery particularly welcoming. None of the several nuns standing near the entrance spoke to me, except when one chided me for having a backpack and offered me no place to set it down. Perhaps a suspicion of outsiders has grown due to their isolation among an Albanian majority.