After the first month in a new location, we always take stock of our opinions with a self-interview. And after the second month, we like to learn more about the locals. So, we set out into the streets of Skopje to interview a few random Macedonians. Given the general friendliness of the people here, we didn't anticipate any difficulties. But as soon as we pulled out the pen and paper, many would clam up. There's apparently not a lot of trust toward foreign media... but we were able to coax a few folks into talking.
A few years ago, things were looking grim for Dojran (pronounced "doy-ran"), a lake in the southeastern corner of Macedonia. It was losing water rapidly to over-ambitious agriculture, and facing total disappearance. But a strict conservation program has brought this small lake back from the brink.
It was a long day of archaeology. In the morning, we hunted down Isar, an ancient settlement dating from the 7th century BC. Later, we drove over to the site of Vardarski Rid, on a hill overlooking Gevgelija. And our afternoon was spent at a museum which collects and displays the best archaeological finds from both sites.
Visiting the wetlands of Monospitovo had eaten up the entire morning, but our day in southeastern Macedonia was far from over. After refueling with a gigantic plate of meat in Novo Selo's Restaurant Lebed, we made our way south, to visit two of the country's most popular waterfalls.
We showed up early in Monospitovo, planning to spend the day at the only swamp in Macedonia. Although unclear about its exact location, we were confident about finding it. Monospitovo is, after all, a one-street village. Not much space for a swamp to hide. But it turns out that we were dealing with a very sneaky swamp.
Just off the "Alexander of Macedon" highway, not 30 minutes from Skopje, Veles is a city which we frequently drove past, noting it only as a marker along the way. "Already at Veles? Making good progress!" But one day curiosity got the better of us, and we decided to stop off and see what the town had to offer.
Filled with savory ingredients like cheese and spinach, twisted into a spiral shape, and baked to flaky perfection, pita is one of Macedonia's favorite traditional dishes. One Sunday morning, we visited the popular restaurant Oreov Lad in order to learn how it's made.
The tiny town of Krklino is on the tourist map of Macedonia for exactly one reason: the private automotive and ethnographic museum run by Boris Tanevski and his family. Their eccentric collection of traditional costumes, antique radios and vintage cars has been luring people away from nearby Bitola since opening about a decade ago.
Founded by Philip II of Macedon, the ancient city of Heraclea Lyncestis is located just south of Bitola. With its location along the Via Egnatia, the Roman highway which once ran from the Adriatic Sea to Istanbul, the city was an important and prosperous center of commerce until a devastating earthquake led to its abandonment in the 6th century AD.
"New York. Australia. Toronto. Ohio. Australia. Australia. New York." We were taking an impromptu tour of Bukovo, guided by a man who had recently returned after fifteen years abroad. As we walked past home after abandoned home, he was listing off the faraway places to which their former occupants had emigrated.