It's really cold here in Pristina. I didn't pack an overcoat because -- follow my reasoning here -- it was pleasant autumn weather when I left Bucharest, and Pristina is about 150 miles (250 km) further south. Heck, Pristina is only about 120 miles (200 km) from the lovely Adriatic coast, where orange trees and olive groves bask in the sun. How cold could it get?
Answer: too damn cold to be out without an overcoat. It's been snowing on and off for three days now. The temperature is about -5 Celsius or 23 Fahrenheit right now, and it's supposed to hit -8 or 18 Fahrenheit before dawn. By way of comparison, it's currently -1 (30 F) in Bucharest, falling only to -2 (29 F) in the night. Why? Why is the more southerly city so much colder? Because -- DUH, Douglas -- Pristina is much higher up than Bucharest. Kosovo is a plateau surrounded by mountains, like a mini-Tibet in the heart of the Balkan penninsula. While Bucharest sits at a reasonable 60 m or 200 feet above sea level, Pristina is about 600 meters or 1900 feet up. And it's surrounded by mountains that go a lot higher still. The lovely Adriatic and the wine-dark Mediterranean might as well be on the other side of the moon; this is a completely different climate zone. We may be at the latitude of Naples, but the climate is more like Wyoming. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Nor buying an overcoat, either. That would be like, um, admitting weakness or something. Meanwhilere, there are these birds. All through central Pristina, every night at sunset, huge flocks of black birds come and settle in the trees. Really huge flocks. Tens of thousands of them. As darkness falls, they descend on the city, sqawking and screeching. They fill up the trees like black fruit. And then they _stay up all night_ making the most incredible racket. Really. They cackle, they squawk, they scream. Every few minutes one tree-load, driven by some unknown cue, will lift off en masse, wings whirring, and circle around for a while before landing somewhere else. They do have certain trees they prefer. You can tell because the ground beneath these trees is white with birdshit. I'm not overly paranoid about germs, but I've quickly learned to give these trees a wide berth. Someone told me that the birds only do this in winter. Apparently they leave in the spring and spend the summer in the countryside. They winter in the city because... I don't know. It's warmer? There's more food here? Anyway. I've also heard that these birds are called kos in Serbian. And this is where the name of the province comes from: Kosovo Polje, the Field of Blackbirds. Maybe. What's more interesting to me at the moment is that I can't tell what sort of birds they are. They seem to be some sort of corvid -- the family of birds that includes crows and ravens, rooks and magpies -- but I can't tell just which. Interestingly, the flocks include a few hoodies... hooded crows, corvus cornix. The hoodies are bigger than the other birds, and seem to take the highest (dominant?) positions in the trees. But they're a minority. Most of the flock is composed of these smaller black birds. Rooks? Some sort of crow? Is there anyone out there who knows? Whatever they are, they're loud and they're dirty. I can hear them outside my window right now, and (I know from grim experience) they'll explode into a particularly raucous chorus right before dawn. On the plus side, Pristina has very few feral dogs. Apparently they used to be a huge problem -- as bad as in Bucharest, or worse -- until a few months ago, when the government wiped them out in a single day.