Posts Tagged With: Skopje

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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More about Matka

Just a few more words about Matka Canyon. It is a beautiful place just twenty kilometers from Skopje. It is easily reachable by the city bus (number 60) That takes you just to the place in about an hour. A price of a ticket is 35 Macedonian dinars, which is about 50 cents. This is a really low price for getting to the (relative)  wilderness, an oasis of nature with a refreshing river in the middle of the canyon, a paradise for thirsty, dirty and tired of city noise hitchhikers.

The river (O, dobra rzeko, o madra wodo.)

The river
(O, dobra rzeko, o madra wodo.)

It is a great place for one day getaway (as a hike to monastery that we did), as well as a starting point for a few days mountain hiking trip.

Admiring the views with the pedo cap

Admiring the views with the pedo cap on

The monastery

The monastery

Mountains

Mountains

I was personally absolutely charmed with this special place. Maybe that is way I got furious when I saw locals shamelessly littering the area and, even worse, throwing plastic bags and bottles to the river.

 Our place by the river. Sadly, full of rubbish when we got there.

Our place by the river. Sadly, full of rubbish when we got there.

First fire!

First fire!

But I guess it is a matter of lack of knowledge and information about environment. We thought it might be a nice idea to make some kind of environmental voluntary project there.

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Matka Canyon

Skopje-Matka Canyon

Skopje-Matka Canyon

We arrived to the Matka Canyon half past nine in the night. Even the bus driver asked us why we were going there so late. Good for us, we had someone waiting for us, a little dog that we called “Pulgi” (pulga=flea), who stayed with us until the next evening.

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Pulgi

Because it was dark we couldn’t realize how beautiful the place  was. One kilometer away we find a small path near the river and then a lake between the mountains. It was impressive to find that in the middle of the night. Unfortunately at some point the path passed through a Hotel’s restaurant and the waiter told us that we had to pay 5 euros each to continue because the way was private. He also offered us a room for 30 euros. We had no doubt, we are hitchhikers, so we turn back. Pulgi also agreed.

It was a little bit scary because it was completely dark and deserted, but finally we found a nice spot to sleep after hiking a little bit, and crossing some goats.

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Our home

The next morning we had a coffee in the only bar to charge our mobile phones and camera. I got very amazed when, “Caballero” a Julio Iglesias song sounded in the speakers, the weirdest and cheesiest singer and song ever. That’s my style, I like the place!

Then we were hiking for an hour and a half with all our stuff to reach a monastery on the rocks (St. Nicholas Monastery) . It was worth seeing. Pulgi stood there, probably praying for bones or some other delicious snack.

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Monastery

When we came back to the riverside, the place seemed like Jersey Shore in Macedonian Style. It was full of people, including families and groups of teenagers. To be sincere it was full of rubbish too. We were kind of upset to see how they don’t care about such a beautiful place. Even though it still remained interesting for us to see how Macedonians spend their Sunday.

We had our lunch on the river and  the Macedonians started to light their barbecues on the early evening. When the sun started to go down we walked to the nearest corner shop. The owner was the typical old woman you expect to find in a place like that. With a permanent smile on her face she managed to communicate with us with means of signs. She even gave us two chair for the time she spent to look for our change.

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Matka Kanyon

Then we came back praying that no one had been occupying a perfect hidden spot we had seen in the morning. It was a magic place just near the river  but only accessible by crossing a bridge and walking 10 minutes trough the bushes. The perfect place for a wild camp. We got it, and just when it became completely dark we lit a fire in an already prepared fireplace. We drank some beer and we also started to write a song about our trip (soon worldwide available).

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“The body”

The next morning we said goodbye to this special place with a morning naked bath in the river. Once clean and fresh we returned to Skopje and charged our food handbag in another strange shopping mall. Then we started to hitchhike.

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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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