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Friday, July 4, 2014

MACEDONIA, INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

FROM BULGARIA TO MACEDONIA


Despite "Hostel Mostel" being the 'top rated hostel in Bulgaria', I only got a couple hours of alcohol induced sleep there.  The hostel qualifies as what I term a 'high density feedlot' type of place.  Lots of tourists in and out.
A great place to meet up with other travelers, not so much for languid relaxing.

I'd gone with some nice people I'd met to the first bar on their nightly pub crawl and ended up hanging out with three Bulgarians discussing the history of the region as well as Macedonia.

Every patron was outside of the bar - whether they smoked or not.  Due to the rather silly law of 'no smoking inside buildings'.  This is a law which has failed.  How would Logan do it?  Every bar would get to choose whether they wanted to be a smoking or non-smoking bar.  This must be advertised large outside of the bar.  If a bar wanted to change from smoking to non-smoking, a group of non-smokers would be sent in to make sure it smelled fine.  A bar could change only every set period of time (quarterly, bi-yearly, yearly, whatever).  This would allow both groups to get their way.  As the laws now stand they do not seem to have the interest of the actual patrons in mind.

Despite sleeping in my clothing, I nearly left my security pouch behind.  Better to be lucky than good, as they say.

The person who checked me in to the room forgot to mark me as paid so the person checking me out wanted more money.  Fortunately, my fanatical devotion toward getting a receipt any time I hand over money paid off.

Since their wifi was out (at the 'top rated hostel in Bulgaria') I went to the bus station a couple hours early.  Not a recommended hostel for more than a night unless you are wanting to party.



SKOPJE

This is one of those countries where the capital city is more expensive than the villages.  Rather than competition driving down the prices, they charge more.  Why, I cannot say.

After my usual period of bumbling around, I lucked out and found a nice private room for 15 euros per night (Lounge Hostel).  Even more luckily, I made friends with the owners.  In the 'bonus round' of luck, the owners mother has some property I will rent out on a later part of my journey through Macedonia.

Unfortunately, I had to hike 5.5 KM with everything I own to get there.  Well, that's stubbornness for you.  It nearly killed me but I made it.

Skopje seemed find but was more expensive than I'd thought it would be.

On the city itself; a lot of people are making fun of it saying they are trying to make it into a sort of 'Disneyland for tourists' by putting up a lot of statues and other tourist crack.  Personally, I think they are 'making an effort' as the British would say.  It will look great in a hundred years when everything has gotten to age some.

I liked Skopje just fine.  Considering it is the largest city in Macedonia, it really didn't feel that crowded.



COFFEE?

Like much of the Eastern Europe, it is a 'cafe culture' here.  People enjoy sitting around outdoors under umbrellas, sipping drinks and discussing things.  Much as many Americans believe it is.

It was time for coffee.  Because they are large, I ordered a coffee 'Americano'.

Owner:  "No Americano!  This is Macedonia!"
Logan:  "Ah.  What kind of coffee do you have?"
Owner:  "Turkish!"
Logan:  "...okie dokie then..."

A quick note on coffees.  If you stir the coffee for any reason, don't get close to the bottom at all.  There is a layer of sediment you don't want.  If you stir it into your coffee, it will be gross.  Leave it alone.

Within Eastern Europe, I've seen people having beer and wine (though not at the same time) for breakfast.  Without the Puritanical views America got stuck with, these are seen as just something different to drink.



SKOPJE TO BITOLA

Because I wanted the romance of the train...  I screwed myself.  (Yes, I was warned but I'd already bought the train tickets).

You would think a metal tube with open windows would get some air.  You would be wrong.  Sweated all the way here.

Rather than the compartments it was one long seating thing.  Blerg.  Nothing I'd want to repeat.  Take the bus instead.  Trust me on this.

Because the train had stopped for awhile and I decided to risk a cigarette outside, I discovered I'd reached my destination.  There were no announcements.



BITOLA

My first impressions were very positive.  The narrow, medieval streets (known as 'crack for tourists') called to me as did the crumbling buildings.  It looks like quite an interesting place to explore.

Unfortunately, the prices are such that I'm eating once or twice in a day and sitting around sucking on a warm two liter of cola the rest of the time.



MACEDONIA

Some extremely friendly people here.  These are the "I will drive you to somewhere you need to be" or "I will walk with you to your destination".  Not because they want anything from you - they are just that damned nice.  

Less German is spoken here than Bulgaria but about the same amount of English in the couple towns I've been thus far.



LIST OF PLACES TO CHECK IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A LONG TERM RENTAL

For folks who ask 'where do you even get started finding a place', here are some suggestions:

1)  The hostel/hotel you are staying at.  They may know someone or they may offer you a lower extended rate on a room.  If no luck there, all other hostels/hotels/guest houses.

2)  Real estate agencies.  These places often rent property.

3)  Travel agencies.  Bit more of a long shot here.

4)  Other.  You don't have to directly ask your waiter if he knows of anyone renting a room but you can mention to him that you are looking for a place to rent long term and are not sure where to start.  Shrug and go back to doing something else like looking at the menu or smoking.  (If you don't smoke, this is a great time to start a new hobby!)  Don't just stare at him like you want him to suddenly solve your problems - but he might.



'MERICA?

Like much of the rest of the world, people want to know where you are from.  If you tell them America (I always do now) they will always ask where.

The reason why is they have relatives in America and or have visited.



COSTS

Excellent salad and two Turkish coffees, 220 dinars.
Private room, 900 dinars.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan | Portugal: Faro

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