As our first month came to an end, we began to realize the extent to which we had underestimated Macedonia. Thus far, our explorations had focused on Skopje, Ohrid, and a couple central towns, but we hadn’t been to the east, seen the wine fields, nor visited any the major national parks. So, there was a lot left to look forward to.
Mike: I’ll go with our hike from Marko’s Towers to the Treskavec Monastery in Prilep. That was a perfect day out, alone for hours in the stunning Macedonian hills, and it was a great way to recover from the Beer Festival we’d attended the previous night!
Seeing Lake Ohrid
for the first time. From the view at Sv Jovan Kaneo, the crystal clear waters of the lake took my breath away.
Mike: I can never get enough ajvar, a condiment made of crushed red peppers and garlic. For a main dish, my favorite is turli tava: chicken, onion, eggplant, okra, and more veggies all baked in a clay dish.
I love the Macedonian meat stews served in a clay pot and sealed with bread. Best with tavče gravče
and a huge salad!
Mike: I’m surprised by how comfortable life is here, particularly in Skopje. We had expected to struggle, but almost everyone speaks decent English, and many speak German. The internet is fast, and almost every cafe has free wifi. Movies are shown in their original version. The river is a great place to jog. Basically, we were able to adjust to life in Macedonia without any problems at all.
This is kind of showing off my own ignorance, but I was surprised by the complexity of Macedonian history
. This little region has played such an important role in not just the story of the Balkans, but of the world. It’s crazy how overlooked and unknown it is.
Mike: “Disappointing” is the only word that can possibly describe the simmering ethnic tension in Macedonia. We’ve met plenty of Macedonians and Albanians, and all have been nice, normal people. Unfortunately, there is little will to understand the “other side,” let alone achieve a feeling of brotherhood. The worst is that it’s not just politicians; on every level of society, even among the nice folks we’ve met, distrust and antagonism toward the other is common.
Macedonia is filled with natural beauty. Many areas are untouched and pure, so it’s frustrating to see people dumping trash in nature or throwing plastic and cans into the streets, despite the fact that there are plenty of bins.
Mike: The Macedonian word for “New” is “Novo.” In Cyrillic, that’s written “HOBO.” So every billboard advertising some great “new” product becomes a source of unintentional hilarity. “Check out our Hobo Furniture!” “Enjoy this Hobo Ice Cream!” “You’ll feel like a king in your Hobo Car!”
We attempted to drive up to Gali?nik to see the wedding festival
, but our car broke down on the way. Within thirty seconds, three groups of people had stopped to offer assistance. It was nice, but also ridiculous. At a certain point, it felt like they were competing with each other to be the most helpful.
How Expensive? From 1 (cheap) to 10 (expensive)
Mike: 3. Food is wonderfully cheap, and living on a budget is no problem. You can still splash out, if you wish; name-brand clothes aren’t much cheaper here than in Western Europe, and hotels can be pricey. But overall Macedonia is very cheap.
Macedonia is very affordable, especially eating out and transportation. There are reasonably-priced hotels but prices can climb in high season. I would give it a 4.
People from Macedonia Are…
Mike: … big, friendly and loud. They love to chat, but be warned! If the topic rolls around to politics (and it often does), you’re going to hear some opinionated, passionate speeches!
… always ready to share their food and drink with a stranger. And as I mentioned above, they’re extremely helpful!
Macedonia in Three Words
Mike: Undiscovered, Underestimated, Unbelievable
Ajvar, Rakija, Na zdravje!