Posts Tagged With: Republic of Macedonia

From Ohrid to Tirana

Ohrid-Tirana

Ohrid-Tirana

We walked to the only high way at the end of the town. It was a little bit hard because of the heat, but at least we discovered  different kinds of neighborhoods, not touristic at all.

Watermelon fountain at the outskirts of the city

Watermelon fountain at the outskirts of the city

We stopped at a gas station and we started to hitchhike. As in the rest of Macedonia, the people around did not care at all about us. After 5 or 6 cars, whose drivers always apologized, one stopped. It was a young small guy with a “tuned up” car. It was clearly a wrong choice. I do not have any complain about him as a person, he really wanted to help us, but he could not keep the car on the line, specially when he spoke with Aleksandra who was on the back seat.  I had to advice him for three times that we were going to die. The ride was initially to be 10 kilometers long but he insisted on driving as five kilometers further. In ten minutes I lost 3 kilograms. When we finally arrived,  we restarted to hitchhike at the entrance of a small village, just few kilometers before the border. After we had to decline around ten taxis, a small van stopped. He was already carrying another hitchhiker couple from Czech Republic. We exchanged some experiences and tips as fast as we could because we arrived very fast to the border. Because we are educated hitchhikers we let them catch the car first, so we lost some time but we felt good. We went some meters away, already on the Albanian side, and after twenty minutes we saw them passing by. The sun started to go down and we were a little bit worried, all around there were only taxi drivers, gipsy families and kilometers of mountains. Fortunately, another Audi with Italian plates stopped. They were two Macedonian guys going to have some fun in Tirana, it was Friday. Before getting in we clearly explained that we had no money and they seemed to accept the fact. We had a quite pleasant trip, switching between German, Italian and Elf language. Unfortunately once in Tirana we got disappointed, when the passenger asked again for money. We had no troubles, but the goodbye became kind of weird. Fuck you, you did not got our sticker.

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Ohrid

Ohrid is a beautiful city. Before coming here, we heard some contradictory opinions about it. “It is a really nice city, you have to see it”, versus “It is so turistic, it is  hard to stand”. Now we really have to see it, we thought, and decide on our own what we think about it.

Just when we got here we already knew it is a little bit of both. Just us we got of the car, we got “attacked” by the locals offering us private accommodation. With every step the price got lower. The cheapest offer was 5 euros per person, not a bad deal, but not at all attractive for us, we felt still fresh and clean after having the last bath in the river, and we wanted explore some cool camping spots in Ohrid.

When we got to the city center we got honestly surprised by the beauty of this small city. We  did not expect a typical mediterranean town with small white houses spread around two bushy hills. With a beautiful view on the Ohrid lake. The water in the lake has color as lasure as the mediterranean sea at the Lasure Coast, but with refreshingly fresh water.

Ohrid lake

Ohrid lake

We were so charmed with the city, we couldnt get bothered with looking for a place to camp before the dusk. We just sipped some beer admiring the views and wondering what is waiting for us on the other side of the lake ( we could see the hilly Albanian shore of the lake).

somewhere in Ohrid

somewhere in Ohrid

When we finally decided we should look for some place to camp, it took us about   ten minutes to find a good place to camp, quite remote from the houses, with a lot of trees around and some flat places to put a camp on. When we already decided where we wanted to stay, we saw some men with torchlights. Our imagination started to produce macabre images  in our heads, of serial killers hunting for victims in the forest. We had to run.

At the bottom of the, on the cliff coming down to the lake, we found a nice church with a pretty an appealingly flat lawn. There were still people visiting the orthodox church, some couples making out and some kids drinking probably their first beer, and the church was pretty illuminated, but we decided that this is our place. We took out the guitar and practiced a bit our travel song.

In the morning we knew it was a good decision:  the views were better than in any other place, there was a stone bench with a great table, where we could have  our breakfast of champions, and a potable water point, were we could refuel our water supplies and even (a complete luxury) clean our teeth and faces.

In the house of our Lord

In the house of our Lord

The Church

The Church of St. John at Kaneo

One of the best breakfast spots!

One of the best breakfast spots!

Just below the church, there was a small beach, where we spent our whole afternoon.  The most of our attention drew a local wiseman with a long white beard. We didnt actually understand what he was saying, but he spoke with a such a low, deep voice, all he said sounded as words of wisdom. To contrast his general appearance, his actions weren´t so sophisticated: he was gutting small sardines and storing them in an empty Marlboro box. He was accompanied by identical twins, two local sirens with long tanned legs and heads full of lovely wavy hair. We suspect the local authorities send these three to the beach as a tourist attraction.

wiseman and his marlboro sardines

wiseman and his marlboro sardines

In the lake

In the lake

Another special detail of the beach was a couple of hairy cats from a local bar. One was completely grown and was a fierceful hunter of all the insects. Other one was just a baby, learning the art of catching small animals. He was such a dutiful student, he followed a dragonfly all the way until the bottom of the lake. Once everybody saw this pitiful animal, all wet and shivering, it got more affect and attention than all the sun, beach, lake, drinks with umbrella and all the touristic crap all together.

Our little friend

Our little friend

After the beach, we hade a lunch and decided to continue our journey.
Ohrid is a nice city, but one day is enough.  And being constantly on the move is for us an addiction we can´t (and won´t) give up.

Cooking in the centre of Ohrid

Cooking in the centre of Ohrid

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From Skopje to Ohrid

Skopje-Ohrid

Skopje-Ohrid

Hitchhiking in Macedonia is like taking a taxi. We had three different drivers and we waited in total around 5 minutes. In the whole Balkans you can see the city where the cars are from on the plate, so if you want to get a quick ride you should wait for a wanted destination and ask the person to join the ride, that’s it.

Ohrid

Ohrid

The first was JJ, a guy with a big Audi who used to work in Switzerland and speaks German. Aleksandra could refresh a little bit her German knowledge. He was so nice that he called his friends that drove us from Tetovo to Gostivar. They where three black dressed big guys, that looked a bit scary, but they turn out to be also very nice. They spoke English so I finally could spend a trip speaking.

The last one was an old young man (that kind of person very difficult to guess his age). He didn’t like to speak too much but he did his job, quite fast by the way.

The first thing we saw in Ohri: wonderful market full of colours

The first thing we saw in Ohrid: wonderful market full of colours

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Skopje

Skopje is quite an interesting city with great differences between districts. The downtown is modern with lots of fashion cafes with wifi signal everywhere. The riverside is quite  monumental with (in my opinion) too many statues placed with no aesthetic sense. Then there is the old town, very touristic and full of appealing Muslim restaurant. And a little bit further you can find the street markets that is a mix of soviet and Arabic style. In addition of all of that, there are enormous shopping malls breaking the balance, but making the town still more special to the foreigner eyes.

Typical Macedonian horses in their natural environment

Typical Macedonian horses in their natural environment

Pregnant women  sitting on a fountain

Pregnant women sitting on a fountain

We had the impression that it keeps a kind of organization on the Chaos. The best example of all that contrast was a situation we had in the central bus station, that’s under a grey bridge underneath the train station. Every gate had the number of at least 3 different buses (I guess between 1 and 100) but every bus stopped in any place but indicated. Watching that craziness we asked about the schedule to a group of teenagers. They intermediately checked it in their I-phones and we had the answer in half a minute. By the way, in turned out to be wrong. Skopje rules.

Chillin' at the bus station

Chillin’ at the bus station

But the weirdest (and finally funniest) situation I have experienced in Skopje happened when I was sitting alone on a bench with the backpack waiting for Aleksandra. I saw a strange old woman walking in my direction and looking right through me with her crazy scary eyes. She crossed my personal space and without asking took our bottle of lemonade we just bought. I started to speak with her but she didn’t answer. She took a large sip from it, but she was not satisfied. So with any shame she put down the bottle and took our bottle of water, repeating the same action. By this time the people from the nearby cafe were already laughing (they probably knew her). Then she left with no sign of worry. There she is:

Lady in red

Lady in red

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Inđija to Skopje

Inđija-Skopje

Inđija-Skopje

Upon leaving Inđija, we had some coffee and ice-cream for breakfast. One scoop was a size of three normal ones and cost 40 dinars – 0.35euro (I might have mentioned that before, but I’m still in owe). Although my banana flavour tasted like lemon, it was still really good. Coffee (70 dinars = 0,50 euro) was crap, but you know, you can’t always get what you want.

Our ice-cream. So big, so cheap, so good!

Our ice-cream. So big, so cheap, so good!

So let’s go back on the road! Next stop: Skopje! (?)
This time it wasn’t so easy. We had to walk all the way from the city to the pay toll. It seemed much less in the car. And with Igor complaining all the way, it seemed even longer. OK, we are here. Let’s begin.

Part1: From pay toll to Belgrade. Waiting time: 20 minutes.
A really nice, but a bit crazy driver from Zadar took us. wanted to make sure he’ll leave us at a right place, so he called his wife so that we could explain here where we want to go in English. Really fun ride. By the way, as it turns out, it’s completely normal to use rear gear at Serbian highways :).

Part 2: Belgrade – Vranje. Waiting time: 30 minutes.
After a short while Marian, a Serbian truck driver stopped to take us with his truck. He was going to Vranje, a city close to the Macedonian border. We felt bad all the way we couldn’t communicate well. We tried some Polish-Serbian mix, but it which worked more or less, but it wasn’t enough for a decent conversation.

We got out at the outskirts of Vranje. It was already late and dark, no way we could continue today .Marian left us at the exit to Vranje, so we had to walk about 500m to the gas station. The way wasn’t illuminated and we didn’t have any reflective bands. Tip for backpackers: it’s really important to have something to be visible at the road, better safe than sorry. It’s decided – it’s our next purchase.

We slept directly at the gas station. By now, we don’t care anymore about hiding.

Our camping place next to Vranje

Our camping place next to Vranje

Dinner: Noodles with bread crumbs - Yummy!

Dinner: Noodles with bread crumbs – Yummy!

The next day everything was going quite smoothly. We arrived to Skopje in two goes: first we caught a ride to Serbian-Macedonian border.

We passed the border walking. We were so busy arguing, we didn’t even realize we are stepping on the Macedonian land.
We were stopped by the policeman, who concluded we are Polish-Spanish backpackers mafia. He let us through anyway.

Upon crossing the border we already knew that gypsy beggars were ruining our business. We decided to try our luck. Fortunately we look (and are) too poor to attract them. We waited about 20 minutes, but it was clear people were annoyed so they either didn’t want to stop or and drove away in anger. Apart from that, strong smell of piss was hard to bear.
We had to move. We moved 20 m away and all we had to wait to catch a hike was 5 minutes. A Macedonian trucker, Igor stopped to take us to Skopje. He knew some Russian so we could communicate mixing Polish, Russian and Macedonian. After 30 minutes we were in Skopje. Trip Inđija – Skopje in 24 hours.

Could be better, but you know, it’s all about the journey!

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