Archive for ‘Macedonia’  

Macedonia : Do Gledanje Macedonia

Monday, 28th April 2008

Goodbye Macedonia!

After breakfast we went straight to the bank to try and get Jan’s card back, but found that all the banks are still closed today (last day of Easter weekend). To get the card back, would mean another day in Skopje and we have already stayed an extra day. We’ve decided to cut our losses and canceled the card.

We had to hang around and chill for the whole day while waiting for our train tonight – one thing we have really learned to do very well over the last month! But at least we had another “home cooked” meal at the hostel – quite a luxury at this stage for us.

The train leaves Skopje (Macedonia) at 20:00 and we get to Nis (Serbia) at 01:00. We then have 1 hour before the next train leaves at 02:00 and will arrive in Sofia (Bulgaria) at 07:00. We got some very good recommendations for Youth Hostels in Sofia from the guys here in Skopje, so we will make sure we find a nice spot to relax after our overnight journey.

Macedonia : Hostel Hostel / Skopje

Monday, 28th April 2008

‘Hostel Hostel’ in Skopje is perhaps one of the friendliest and comfortable hostels we’ve stayed at. Thanks guys for the great service, clean rooms and free breakfast and internet. We’ve had a great time here.

Thanks especially to Ajet for all the advice and info – much appreciated! We owe you a cold Skopsko beer!

Check out Hostel Hostel’s website.

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Macedonia : Skopje day 2

Sunday, 27th April 2008

Photos of Skopje here

So short into our trip, we had our first real bad luck – Jan’s card was swallowed by the ATM at the bus station. But all is not lost, the guys at the hostel very kindly called the bank and we should be able to get it back tomorrow. This means that we had to change our plans slightly and stay an extra night in Skopje (instead of taking the train through to Sofia tonight).

As we now have an extra day, we had a very last minute brainwave this morning and decided to go to Prishtina in Kosovo for the day. When we checked out the website and saw that the bus left in 15 minutes, we just grabbed our stuff and ran to the bus station (normally at least a 15 minute walk).

We actually made it in time, but then found out that the only bus back to Skopje is at 14:30, which would give us only 1 hour in Prishtina. We had to sit down in the station afterwards to cool down and wait for the colour in our faces to return back to normal (at that stage a slight shade of purple from all the running!).

After all this excitement, we then had the whole day to explore the sights (all 3 of them) in Skopje. The Old Town is very small and very run down – you really notice the relative poverty compared to Western Europe. Apparently the average salary in Macedonia is only 200 Euro per month.

The capital is not a beautiful city, but there are many small cafes (even a McDonalds!) and clubs and the young people here are sure to make this an upcoming place. The people are very friendly when you speak to them, but seem fairly reserved otherwise.

We are going to cook a meal at the hostel tonight – the first “home cooked” meal in a month – are will just chill with a cold Skopsko (the most popular Macedonian beer).

We shared a room with a very nice Austrian guy called Andreas Steinbichler. He has just returned from Tibet and took many photos of the situation there that have been published in various magazines and papers. Check out some of the photos here.

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Andreas joining us for the ride to Belgrade

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

Macedonia : Outing to Ohrid

Saturday, 26th April 2008

Photos of Ohrid here

After heading straight to Greece from Italy and missing out on Albania and the subsequent trip to Macedonia through Ohrid, we decided that a daytrip from Skopje is worthwhile as it is the highlight of Macedonia.

Our bus left at 10:00 for Ohrid and we got up at 8:00 to get ready and enjoy our free breakfast at the hostel, but realised just before we left that we were still on Greek time and had another hour to relax. But first we woke up the poor hostel manager to make us breakfast and it was only after he told us that we realised our mistake.

The bus was supposed to take 3 hours, but with all the many stops to pick up locals along the way, it was closer to 4 hours. Ohrid is truely the jewel of Macedonia and a beautiful little town. Both the town and the lake (of the same name) are Unesco World Heritage sites and they have gone to great lenghts to protect and preserve some of the sites dating back to the 3rd Century BC.

We met two very nice and interesting Austrians on the bus, Jetmir (a freelance journalist at the Cannes film festival – check out his website at www.uncut.at) and Birgit, and they even bought us our first Macedonian coffee – thank you guys!

We didn’t have that much time as the bus left Ohrid again at 17:45 and there were plenty of small sites to enjoy. It was definately worth the visit, but unfortunately we were unlucky again with the weather as it was another overcast and windy day.

Tomorrow we are exploring Skopje and will report back before we board another overnight train through Serbia (Nis) to Sofia in Bulgaria – joy!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

Greece, Macedonia : Kick’n Skopje

Friday, 25th April 2008

Because of the Easter weekend coming up in Greece, the trains were absolutely packed and we could not get a place on any of the ones to Thessaloniki yesterday afternoon.

We finally managed to get two seats on last night’s overnight train at 23:59 which arrived at 6:50 am in Thessaloniki. The train journey was quiet a dog show with 2 guys almost attacking each other right behind us due to a dispute over an open window, 2 women screaming at each other because the one started smoking in her seat (!!) and people standing everywhere in the corridors (even when the trains are full, they still sell standing tickets – 7 hours overnight!).

We then just had 9 hours to kill before our subsequent train straight through to Skopje in Macedonia. In Thessaloniki we spent the first few hours sleeping in various uncomfortable positions on benches inside the station before we were asked to stop doing so by station attendants. At noon we finally decided to lock away our bags and went for a quick stroll through the central part of town. We took in a few of the sights, but unfortunately there was a constant drizzle, which put a bit of a damper on things. The town is OK, but in the end we were glad not to have spent a night there.

We left Thessaloniki at 16:15 and after very long-winded passport checks going through the border from Greece to Macedonia we arrived more than an hour late at 9pm in Skopje. We thrashed around a bit at first to find our way to the Youth Hostel, which we had picked out before-hand, and got mobbed by the usual over-eager taxi driver squad.. But we’re finally in our little Hostel (actually called Hostel Hostel) and it’s very nice with kitchen facilities and free net access again.

We’re currently alone in a 6 bed shared dorm room, but the manager, Ajet, a really top guy, said he’ll try his best to keep it empty for us.

We’re planning on staying here for two nights and have already booked bus tickets to make a day trip to Ohrid (Macedonia’s highlight) tomorrow – a beautiful lake that forms part of the border with Albania.