Friday, 26 December 2014

Macedonia

I over stayed my visa in Ukraine by 3 months, and had to go through more beurocracy and fines to be able to get out. They made a mistake on the fine that stated that I only over stayed one month, and I was very worried while going to the airport that the border control people won't let me out. I only had 40 minutes till the flight departs, and the documents might've taken up to 3 hours. But thank god, they just took me to the office, photocopies the forms, and wished me to have a good flight :)
An hour till the Sofia-Bolgaria bus station and 6 more hours to Skopje - Macedonia. The views are beautiful, mainly mountains. I'm tired but can't fall alseep, and they show weird movies on TV with no sound and no English subtitles.
We have a tight schedule cause Alex only has 2 weeks and he chose to see 2 countries, Macedonia and Albania.
We wake up and it rains!! How can it rain when the weather forcast shows sun and 0% percipitation?? 1:30pm blue sky, not a cloud in sight. First I wanted to skip Skopje, but Alex wanted to see the capital. I'm so lucky we stayed, Skopje is beautiful! I think it's a statue and a fountain city. The center is amazing. Old castle, new modern buildings and renovated old buildings surrounded by 10s of statues on every corner with playing fountains. The buses are modern double decker and I don't feel like I'm in one of the poorest countries in Europe at all! Oh, and did you know that mother Theresa is from Macedonia? In 1973 an earthquake hit the city and destroyed 75% of all the buildings, so this city is pretty new. Even though it's a Christian country, the Muslim heritage is very visible. Mosques are everywhere, and churches are almost invisible. After a huge modern square we passed a 500 year old bridge into the biggest old bazzars in Europe, where on every street they sell differnet items, like shoes, cloths, gold, pots ... The food is good and very cheap. A huge salad is around $2, meat is about $3. With an appetizer, main, garnish, and 2 drinks we usually pay around $10 and leave the table with unbuttoned pants :)
There are only 2 buses a day that leave to the next village Krusevo. One is at 7:45, the other one is at 3pm. We put the alarm for 6, I happily slept through it, while Alex turned it off and went back to sleep. At 6:45 I asked him what time is it, and I jumped off the bed. We were at local bus station only at 7:15, and I was red with fury. How can you be so irresponsible!!! There are things that you want to do, and there are things that you have to do. I know that no one wants to wake up at 6, but seriously!
We arrived at the bus station 1 minute bofore the departure, and somehow we actually made it. It was a miracle! The way was very nice, hills, small mountains, vineyards, but it still rains :(
Arrived at Krusevo, the weather is nice, and it's small enough to visit before the bus to Bitola. We left our luggage at the bus station and went to explore. The village is left in 100 year old state almost untouched due to difficult access, as it's the highest town in Macedonia, at 1500 meters. The village is cute and nice, and 3 hours gave us enough time to wonder around, eat and collect a bunch of fruits that are grown everywhere, enjoy the views and even visit a gallery. I was happy that I had a travel insurance for this town, though I'm not sure if it had any coverange for falling fruits on your head :) Oh man, if you could only know how tasty are the fruits in here, nothing compared to what is sold in the stores in Toronto. Only the color and shape is the same. Plums, fruits that I never loved, I couldn't get enough in here, and in bazaars, they only cost 75 cents/kilo. After the vendor will weigh them and tell you the price, he'll always add some more to the bag.
When we arrived in Bitola, we did almost all the sight seeing while looking for a place to stay. It's pretty much a one road town. It has a European charm to it, since there were a lot of consuls in here who brought with them the European culture. It's always strange to see mosques in the middle of Europe, but at least no one was yelling from the speakers. We stayed another day in the city to see some ancient Greek ruins, but if I knew that they would be like that, we would've taken the first bus out. Oh well, you never know what you gonna get, where you gonna get it and how you're gonna get it.
That was a strange day, everything hurt, my stomach hurt, I put my hiking shoes on for the first time and I was limping for hours, then my hips started hurting. I couldn't and didn't want to walk anywhere, and sent Alex to the hotel to pick up all our stuff.
We arrived in Ohrid, the "jewel of the crown" of Macedonia. We took an appartment on an upper floor overlooking the lake and the old town, so beautiful! A few facts about Ohrid: One of the oldest human settlements were found in Ohrid; the lake it sits on is 3 million years old; it's a UNESCO city.
The whole day we climbed around the old town, with it's narrow cobblestone streets, flowers, many churches, mosques and cats. Next day we spent the time just absorbing the peaceful setting on a beach restaurant and then lied for an hour on a beach chair. Again, if we knew earlier, we would've spent 2 days in Skopje and 3 days in Ohrid. There were so many places we didn't get to see. The guide says that the most picturesque part of the lake is 10 kms from the town, where it enters a national park. In the evening we went to Struge from where the bus leaves to Albania. The guide says that Struge is a poor's man Ohrid. But I wouldn't call it that. I hated it, and my mood plumeted. We were there only for a few hours in the evening, but there are no views on the lake, there are no hills, it's broken down and dirty. Our hotel was expensive and they didn't even give us towels, not soap, and the sheets were dirty, and no one was sitting in the reception to complain to.
In the morning we woke up in the rain and took a bus to Tirana, the capital of Albania.

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