Archive for December, 2010

Macedonia -Ptyradactal crap and late night accomodation!- 1-2nd september

Myself, Gordana and friends!

I leave Bitola in Macedonia around 9am.  The bus trip takes around 3 hours and I find myself kicking around the capital-Skojpe (Skoppee-a) killing time at the centre shopping district.

I’m a little bit exhausted from my night out with Tomo the night before but a few inquiries tells me that the nearly bankrupt government has free wifi for the public in the main parks!

I spend the next three hours taking it easy in the park, doing some Blogs and e-mailing Gordana.  I met Gordana about six days ago in Barcelona international airport, we bid farewell In Bulgaria on the promise to meet up in Skojpe and she would show me around.

I asked if she had a place to stay.  She lived with her parents so no chance there, and her friends were out of town.  I decided to chance it as, for reasons beyond my understanding accomodation is very very expensive in Skojpe.

Whilst e-mailing Gordana in the park a bird that I must assume to be the size of a pteredactal craps quite firmly on my backpack.  I decide to give it a quick clean when two gypsy boys turn up and give me a hand.  I try and send them packing but they’re rather insistent.  They more or less clean the offending mess and then give their best ‘innocent look’ and hold out their hands.  I dig through my wallet and give them a few coins, perhaps two Euros worth I’m not sure.  They seem happy and head off.

I notice several locals laughing to themselves quietly at my prediciment, but i figure two euro is a good price to pay to get rid of ptyradactal crap.

I then head to the agreed meeting place.  The main stone bridge next to all these crazy statues in the middle of Skojpe.

The statues are heroic looking ex politicians on horses, sort of Napolean-esque, as well as various novelties such as a statue of someone diving into the river (quite clever actually) and random odd looking giant people walking around the city.

I’m about to learn that the public perception is that the government should be spending money on things such as health and the crazy unemployment rather then showy and irrelevant statues.

A slight mix up due to my bad sense of directions means i’m a few minutes late to the meeting place, within ten minutes Gordana arrives, all smiles explaining that she went looking for me when I wasn’t there on the agreed time.  Oh well, lucky I’m wearing my ‘hey look at me I’m a tourist’ outifit as usual.

Gordana shows me around, we stop off for a beer and a pizza which I struggle to eat.  My stomach still wants to sue me for seperation.

We chat, catch up.  Gordana has already been back to work for a few days.  She has travelled a few times to Serbia and Crotia mostly, but wishes to travel further.  Her work as a pharmicist is starting to pay dividends after a few years of gaining an education.

I tell her about meeting Tomo in Bitola and my so far very positive view of Macedonia and it’s people.

She takes me on a quick walking tour through Skojpe ‘old town’.  I’m amazed by the intense concentration of different cultures.  Walking through the shops, Gordana points out the Albanian shops, Turkish and Macedonian.  That explains why there is three jewelers, 3 clothes shops, three souvineer places right next to each other!

“There is rarely any conflict however,’ Gordana explains, “people just get along.”

I’m amazed by the ease at which people associate.

Gordana takes me to her friends place where I am able to leave my backpack for the time being, we’re still unsure as to where I’ll be staying for the night.

A quick drive up the mountain gives us a great view of the surrounding area.  Gordana explains that she often walks up the mountain where there are no roads! Very fit and adventurous woman!

We sip a nice Macedonian coffee at the hotel at the top of the hill and head back down to the stone bridge to meet Gordana’s friend.  I’m not concerned about my lack of accomodation, but it would be nice to have it taken care of at this point, being after 7pm.

Gordana’s friend studied in America and her English is probably better then mine as a result!  We hit a few bars and check out a few sights.  Gordana shows me the old train station.  The clock is frozen in time showing the exact time that the monster earthquake hit way back in 1963.  It was 6.1 on the richter scale and 80% of the city was destroyed.  just over 1000 people were killed and 200 000 people left homeless.

Time of the earthquake, damage on the left of screen

Mother Theresa (Skojpean born) returned home during the crisis to do what she could.  Her house was reconstructed a few years ago in the city as a quaint little tourist destination.  (One of the sites Gordana showed me).

The frozen clock of the old train station is a haunting reminder of what happened that day, being night time the musuem is closed… Maybe next time!

Talking with Gordana’s friend she asks if I’m virgo.  “Yes I am.”

“Ah, virgos tend to worry,” she says.

“Well that’s not me, it’s (checking watch) 10.30pm and I have no accomodation for the night and I ain’t sweating on it!.”

She seems shocked.  A quick phone call later.  “Is 30 Euro too much for a night?”

“Oh my yes,” I reply.  The average dorm room in Eastern Europe shouldn’t be more then 15 Euro, and most you can get for 10 or less.

Gordana and I bid farewell and head out to meet more of her friends.  A young local couple we find in the pub district of ‘old town’.

We walk past one pub that is purely Albanian.  “No women, they’re not allowed out,” Gordana explains.  They don’t seem to drink much either, they just seem to be playing what seems to be Rummiking, or Rummicub.  A game of Tiles that i played as a child that was about matching runs like a straight in poker or getting triples or four of a kind of the same number.  The goal is to get rid of all your tiles if I remember correctly.

The next pub is Turkish.  Many beards and many smiles.  The crowd is spilling out onto the street and the music is playing loud.  I feel like I want to join in.  We move onto the next pub where we find Gordana’s friends.

In what turns out to be a wierd coincidence, the woman is actually friends with the two women who were in the car with me leaving the airport in Bulgaria (see earlier post- ‘out of Spain into Balkens’)  scary would we live in!

We spend the next two hours talking and having one or two drinks.  At around midnight Gordana asks if they know anywhere I can stay.  I’m still not too concerned at this point.  Things have a habit of working out for the best.

A quick phone call and then; “is 10 Euro ok?”

“Sounds good,” I reply.

We head off in search of the hostel in question.  It’s out of the way down a residential street and it is pitch black at this point, but we get there.

“Ok Ted,” says my new found accomodation guru.  “If they have a spare bed, we go get your backpack, if not we go to disco and party until 5am then we take you to bus stop and see you off!”

“Sounds great!” I reply, very accomodating Macedonians!

We manage to find the place and the chap in charge wonders on out to greet us.  We ascertain that a bed is available, no problem.  A quick stop to get my gear and then a decision.  Party on until 5am anyway? Or head back and get at least a few hours sleep before heading off.

I’m still realy struggling from my Spanish wog so I elect to hit the hay.

I say farewell to my friends, but I’m on a promise to party hard with them next time!

I give Gordana a heartfelt hug and a farewell.  She’s shown me underneath the surface of a wonderful city and I’ve seen yet again the wonderful nature of these conflicted people.

I can’t wait to go back and see my new found friends again!

My Macedonian adventure is over for now.  Thanks so much Gordana and Tom and all and sundry for a great experience!

I will be back!

Me and Gordana overlooking Skojpe


Macedonia 30th oct 1st- sept -Old friends and new-

Me and Tomo, reunited

Rocket fuel! good stuff!

I manage to shoot off in the morning and take a 45 miute bus trip that takes me from Ohrid to Bitola.  Bitola is a large town with lots of regional populations that seem to have some farming on the go.

The brown scrappy landscape reminds me of home but I’m to

Tomo and his two cousins

learn that the large mountains are prime ski locations in the winter.

From the bus stop I have a quick look around.  My friend Tom who is staying with his Macedonian family has asked his uncle Bill to pick me up from the airport.

Whenever I’m meeting with someone I always wear my bright gold Australian shirts to help stand out.  The things you do when you don’t have a phone… And maybe just a hint of an attention seaker.

I don’t have to go far when I hear “Australia?”

“Uncle Bill?” He smiles, that must be him.

A cheery middle aged off duty taxi driver, uncle Bill takes me to the apartment I’ll be spending the night in.

15 Euro for the night, and it’s a fully furnished functioning apartment! I love Eastern Europe!

Bill shows me how to watch TV and has a beer with me to keep me company.  It’s a notional idea as his English is bad and my Macedonian is sadly lacking.

After a little while he heads off to See Tom ( I think), he then returns to pick me up.  We head out of town to a surrounding small town where I finally catch up with Tomo!

It’s good to see him.  It’s only been a week or so, but in backpacking time is not as tangible as ‘the real world’.

We head into town and courtesy Uncle Bill we get a quick tour of the Bitola.

A quick drive and a hike takes us up the nearest mountain and we get some great views of the surrounding area.

Tomo is rather hungover from the night before but he puts in a courages effort to stay interested and show me around.  We just have to stop every now and again to give him a breather.  Truth be known I’m still not feeling great after ‘the cat box lady’ incident in Barcelona and I would probably be better off not moving around so much.  But adventure awaits no man and his illness!

A well spent few hours has us back at my temporary accomodation and before long Uncle Bill and Tomo’s Aunty have turned up with some of the local rocket fuel.

Sipping one shot followed by a cooked shot (the alcohol is heated on the stove with some sugar.  Quite nice!) and some cabbage to go with it I feel like I’m back in Amsterdam, my cheeks are meeting my eyebrows and I can’t stop smiling.  This stuff is intense!

We thank Uncle Bill and Tomo’s Aunty and head into town to meet Tomo’s Cousins.  As an added bonus Tomo’s Aunty volunteers to finish my washing and iron my new sheets.  Bargain!

Tomo and I have a decent feed at a local restaraunt.  My stomach only partially argues with the sudden large intake of food.

We meet his two cousins and then scoot around to a few pubs and clubs.

I’m amazed by the quality of service in Macedonia, the best I’ve ever seen.  In one club there is no bar service, waiters head around to the two or three hundred ppl and even if u move from one table to the next (many don’t even stay at tables) the waiters keep a track of your tab.  Incredible!

A good night out sees us doing the standard ‘pie run’ at 3am.  Some local baked goods with a big shot of yoghurt.  Not quite a dirty meat pie but it is FANTASTIC!

Seeing how the other side of Europe operates at this point, I’ve gotta say, it feels slightly familiar, at the same time my experiences are expanding drastically and Eastern Europe, specifically Macedonia is shapping up to be one of my favourite parts of the world!

I bid farewell to Tomo and his two Cousins with the promise of catching up soon.  Can’t wait (it’ll be sooner then I imagined).  I’ve now seen two parts of Macedonia with the Capital still remaining… Surely it can’t be more fun then what I’ve seen already??? or can it?

I get a few hours sleep and pack in the morning… My poor Socceroos shirt survived Contiki but it couldn’t survive a Macedonian washing woman….. oh well, everything else is gracefully in tact!

Uncle Bill drops me off at the bus station and we bid farewell!

Me and Uncle Bill

I have tentitive plans to Meet my Macedonian friend Gordana (whom you may recall I met at the Barcelona airport less then aweek ago!) in the Capital-Skojpe!  I have no accomodation booked for tonight.  Who knows what awaits me?!