June 18, 2013

Balkan Adventure: Macedonia

It's 7 o'clock in the morning in Ohrid, Macedonia. I'm sitting in our little 2 room apartment with intermittent internet hoping this story will post. I'm not complaining. I'm actually pretty happy that the 8 of us are staying here for about $35 per night.

I'm now typing on Tymon's laptop instead of the stupid Blogger app on my Galaxy Tab...I'm still frustrated and disappointed that my fat finger hit the home button instead of the space bar and I lost 90 minutes of my writing. The worst is that UNLIKE the computer application, Blogger on an Android device does not automatically save content. Boo! I just need to have some uninterrupted time to craft my story again.

Today, we head back to Serbia and leave the scenic country of Macedonia. One of the great advantages Macedonia has over other places to visit are the prices are super low. We started in the capital of Skopje and stayed in a huge 4 bedroom apartment a couple blocks away from the downtown pedestrian zone for about $75. That is such a sweet deal for a large family in a beautiful city.

It wasn't all rosy though. The Muslim midnight call to prayer and subsequent praying lasted about 45 minutes...and there was no way for a wearied traveler to shut it out. Unfortunately, it happened again at 4am, but this time it wasn't so long. Jovana's friend Filip, who's lived in Skopje (the capital) all his life told us that it's broadcast all over the city and no one escapes hearing its call to worship. I've got nothing against people worshiping however they choose, but it did give me insight into why there seem to be tensions between religious groups across the globe. Worship should not interrupt someone else's tranquility in the middle of the night.


Despite the interrupted sleep, I still really liked Skopje and its many monuments. It's most famous for being the hometown of Alexander the Great and birthplace of Mother Theresa. 


Near Skopje is the Matka Canyon, which sits a few kilometers off the highway nestled into the landscape. The roads are narrow but the views fantastic.


Lake Ohrid looks like the sea with mountains in the distance. It's about 1000 feet deep in the middle and averages 500 for the entire lake...basically, it's huge. We spent a couple of hours on the beach and thought we left before getting burnt. But burns have a way of showing up a bit later...maybe cutting our fun a half hour earlier would have been better for the boys and their red backs. 

The lake shares shoreline with Albania. We came just a kilometer from Albania when we went to the monastery (photos below) but aren't allowed to cross the border with our Serbian vehicle. Jovana explained to us that there are tensions between Serbia and Albania and the rental car company doesn't want anything to happen to their car so they don't allow us to go there. Apparently, Americans are well liked there...it's just Serbs are not.


We stopped by the museum on the water, which is a pile dwelling settlement in the Bay of Bones of Lake Ohrid. It was so cool exploring those little huts and imagining how life must have been for the inhabitants 3000 years ago. They have a diving center, which was closed, but there are ruins of the settlement below that would have been awesome to explore. For any divers out there interested in visiting, the water is clear and not too cold...though you'd probably want a wet suit to go that deep.

 The Naum Monastery had peacocks roaming all over it. Though I never saw more than 3 or 4 at a time, I'm sure there were a dozen on the grounds. They perched on roofs and behind bushes and were generally watching the place as if they were guards. Ha ha. There's even one we thought was a female since she didn't have the colorful plumage that the others had...and maybe peacocks are like mallard ducks that way?

Just next to the monastery on the trail between it and the parking lot, there is a fantastic restaurant on the water. The tables are on rafts and so, if you have a big celebration you can take a couple of waiters to serve and steer, detach from the main restaurant, and have a private floating meal. For about $35, our family had dinner and then got in a boat for an hour's ride to see a little chapel and the source of the spring that feeds the  smaller lake we ate at. There is another little lake that feeds into Lake Ohrid. The sand picture above shows the bubbles of the water in the sand as it feeds in. The water is so so so clear. I love it.


The fortress of Ohrid actually has city walls around it and people live inside. It's almost like Camelot in the show Merlin...except the actual fortress is mostly in ruins aside from the outer walls. Jett was barefoot here and most of the day since we didn't return to our apartment until about 8pm. We helped him if there was broken glass, but otherwise, we allowed him to feel the effects of getting into the car in the morning barefoot.  


And our favorite part of Ohrid is the ice cream. 8 double scoop cones for less than $7. The days are hot in Macedonia...in the 90s (35 celcius) but the nights are a dream. Warm with a breeze and fantastic for ice cream since we can eat it before it drips down our arm and elbow. Of course, that doesn't apply to Kira. Not because it's so warm but more like her aim isn't all that great and she seems to get ice cream everywhere.

I really like Macedonia. If you want an out of the ordinary vacation and low costs, come here. I'm not paid to say this. I'm just telling you how it is. And just so you know, the mosque in Ohrid is much better than the ones in Skopje. They do their prayer call and in a few minutes it's done with and never ever does it keep me up at midnight or wake me up at 4am.
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2 Riveting COMMENTS:

  1. Wow, it looks like you guys are having fun. The pictures look amazing.

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  2. What an amazing trip. I've been enjoying the pictures you have been posting of your trip. What a great adventure for your kids!

    ReplyDelete

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