Thursday, September 8, 2011

Macedonia and the end of my 24th birthday

We crossed the border into Macedonia with the four backpackers, who quickly flagged down a passing car and hitched a ride to Ohrid. We turned left off the main road at the first opportunity and descended back towards the lake. We walked past a church, a barn, a combine harvester (!), and down a road to St Naum's monastery, built at the site of the afore-mentioned springs that bubble up in the region, forming a short but rapidly flowing river that feeds the lake. We met a few travelers on the shore; 2 girls from East Germany, an artist from Kosovo, and a couple from Poland with whom we exchanged our Albanian money, chatted, skimmed rocks (record: 17), and watched the sun set over the lake. J bought me a burger for a birthday dinner and we ate in the company of two girls from Vienna. Though one was a med student, both were chain smokers!

We took the last bus to Ohrid, and considered spending the night at that lakeside town. At the bus station, however, we made a 10 minute connection to an express to Skopje, and with minimal drama found ourselves in the large, well organized concrete bus/train terminal of the Macedonian capital a quarter of an hour before midnight.

We walked across town and, guided by the world's worst map, found the 'Hostel Hostel', in which we availed ourself of free tea, checked email, and I spent a while parrying birthday wishes on Facebook.

Next morning we tip toed from the dorm, showered, ate some pie for breakfast, then wandered into the city. In the main square is an enormous poster of Alexander the Great, and we crossed the stone bridge towards a series of enormous building sites. In the adjacent old town we saw some beautiful mosques, the kale fortress, and the old market, complete with drinking water fountains, baths, a caravanserai, a locked section for valuables called the bezestan, and many other wonders.

We found an eatery under a tree and feasted on the traditional dish of tavche gravche, which consists of beans cooked with spices in a terra-cotta pot, all wrapped in a great name.

Sated but not yet supinated we returned to the bus station, spent our last denars, and spent most of the next leg to Prishtina (Europe's youngest capital city) chatting with L, a veteran couch surfer from San Francisco, and the only other person we've met who has taken a similarly minimalist approach to packing.

Photos by October... I promise!

UPDATE: Photos.

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