Well Skopje and Ohrid were two nice cities that I never expected to see.   Just kind of decided out of the blue one day to check out Macedonia.  It is out of the hustle and bustle of mainstream tourism and that is what I like.  

It turned out to be a really nice trip and I enjoyed my stay.  Although I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.  I probably won’t because I am 70 now and have to figure all the other places I want to go to.  Time is getting short now and I have many places left to see!

Well Ohrid Macedonia is a beautiful little city on Lake Ohrid.  It is a huge lake bordered on one side by Albania.  I can see the Albanian side in the far off distance from my balcony.  It was the capital of the the First Bulgarian Empire at the turn of the 10th century.  Here is how the lake is described in Wikipedia:

Lake Ohrid is the deepest lake of the Balkans, with a maximum depth of 288 m(940 ft) and a mean depth of 155 m (508 ft). It covers an area of 358 km² (138 sq mi), containing an estimated 55.4 km³ of water. It is 30.4 km long by 14.8 km wide at its maximum extent with a shoreline length of 87.53 km, shared between Macedonia (56.02 km) and Albania (31.51 km). Of the total surface area, 248 square kilometres (96 sq mi) belongs to the Republic of Macedonia and 110 km2 belongs to Albania.  Measured by its surface area of 358 km², Lake Ohrid is probably the most biodiverse lake on Earth.  There is much more written about it if you care to look it up in Wikipedia.

The bottom line is it is an incredibly beautiful lake!  There is a very long esplanade running for what seems like miles along the shore.  I walked a couple of miles and never did see the end of it.  Saw a lot of swans along the shore though and tons of minnows so that is a good sign the lake is very healthy.

There was a Triathlon going on where I stopped.  It was athletes from all over the Balkans including Turkey.  Pretty cool stopped there and watched what was going on and got to see the winners coming across the line.  Beautiful day for it!

I have now hiked up the surrounding hills a few days to see the various sites of the old city that sit on top of the hill.  There are many old churches along the hike.  They claim there are 365 and they date from the 9th -13th century.  There is a huge fortress that was built over an existing fortress dating back to the 4th century BC.  It is the main feature on the top of the hill overlooking the city.  Today’s existing fortress is from around 950-1000 AD.

The city is pretty nice really laid back and quiet.  Maybe a little too quiet for me but I am staying for a couple weeks.  I have really liked it so far.  The people are super nice and most speak English more so than in some of the other Balkan countries.  Although most of the Balkans have a lot of English speaking people.  The food is good in the restaurants and prices cheap cheap.  Perfect!!!

I love how all of these Balkan countries over here have kept the old traditions of dancing in the plazas alive.  From the very old to very young they all participate with the traditional attire of days gone by.  People from the street join in and the dance goes on.  It is Great to see!  It is really nice to see how people with an average monthly income of 200 euro on the lower end to 500 euro on the upper are so into living life.  They are very Pleasant, Happy and Smiling for the most part.  They have this great attitude too!  Of Live and let Live to Each His or Her Own kind of life.

It is a stark contrast from the USA nowadays where so many have so much money and time on their hands.  They have nothing better to do then to be in other peoples faces for any little thing that doesn’t fit into their narrow minded lifestyle!  Sad!!!!!!!!!

The really amazing thing to me is I have been here almost two weeks now and have not seen a mosquito!  You would think in a place with a lake this big and many many spring fed fountains constantly running all over town.  That it would be a big problem!  Can’t figure it out but sure don’t miss getting bit by them!!!  This is a great little city and like all of Macedonia somewhat out of the way of the beaten down tourist paths.  Definitely worth a visit.  I will probably be back sometime in the future!

So I am in my apartment in Skopje.  It was easy to meet up with the owner so that was great!  The place is nice so all set for the one night then move tomorrow to another place.  May come back here after the other place not sure yet.

The place I move tomorrow is overlooking the main square here.  I don’t think this place on the square has the room available after my 3 days but she said she knew someone else that had one so we will see.  Then I will choose where I stay from there.

Went to the market and back decided to just hang out and chill out the rest of day.  Got dinner though and supplies.  I passed out shortly after eating lunch just got up a little bit ago.  Guess I was tired slept 3 hours!  I am good just very tired from getting up at 2 am and all the moving and trying to figure out how to meet people when I get rooms.  It is hard some people are easy to get up with others not so much.  So I always worry how I will find my room once I am in town. 

Well the next morning I went to meet the girl I was supposed to meet for the next apartment. This room the girl was 2 1/2 hours late to meet me.  I was going crazy emailing her calling her on Skype.  She just had a baby so she fell asleep and forget me.  She was very apologetic and I understand it’s very tiring with a new baby.  This new room is really nice and my balcony overlooks the main square.  So I am at the heart of the city and very happy with my new room. YAY!!!!!!!  

By the time I got in the room though I was super nerved up.  I just went to sleep and did nothing the whole day except go to the market for food again.  Did sit on the balcony the better part of the day watching the people and looking at the amazing statues in the square.  It is a real pain in the ass if people do not respond right away and show up when they are supposed too.  I get very worried.  I am good just tired from the trip it has been a long one with trains, planes, buses and rooms.  Plus everytime you move you lose a day just getting situated. 

Turns out she had a couple more nights available so I will be here till the 14th.  That gives me 5 days here to explore so I am good with that.  Would have liked a couple more days but I will get a few more nights after I come back from Ohrid where I am going next.  It is hard to get the amount of time you want when you have to wait till the last minute to get a room.  I just do not always know till just before where I want to go next.  This time of year everyone is on vacation in Europe so you have to get what you can and be happy.  Or be able to book way in advance. 

I heard varying opinions of what Skopje would be like before I came.  I can say that after a few days of being here and exploring that it has turned out to be much nicer than I thought it would be after all the opinions on it.  

There are very few of the soviet era stark crumbling concrete buildings that are so common in the Balkans or if there are I didn’t see many.  The big apartment buildings here at least have a little bit of style to them and the biggest share are well kept, nicely painted and colorful.  There are many buildings under construction and many being restored that have been started but look like they have stopped work on them.  This is a poor country so that is just part of the evolution to get things started and they are headed in the right direction. 

They start these massive projects then run out of money and have to wait till they get more money to continue.  Such is life here and in most of the Balkans.  At least they are trying very hard to develop what they have.  There are huge statues everywhere that look like a giant built them.  Some dwarf the buildings around them.  It seems like thousands of them they are everywhere you look. They are of important people, priests, scholars and animals lining the bridges and placed throughout the parks and plazas.  Some huge some life size. 

One of the bridges crossing the Vardar river is made of solid bronze all intricately embossed.  One of the most famous is the Stone bridge it is considered the symbol of Skopje and is in it’s coat of arms.  Many of the bridges have statues lining both sides all the way across.  There are many of them crossing from one side to the other.  Pretty amazing! 

In the old part of the city there is a huge bazaar mostly made up of Turkish immigrants selling tourist items etc.  They never left here from many years ago when it belonged to the Turks.  The old town is pretty much the Bazaar.  The old buildings are all filled with tourist shops.  So not so nice as far as I am concerned.  The city has a big Turkish presence and many mosques throughout.  It makes it an interesting and diverse culture.  It has a good size castle sitting on a hill across the river from the main square in the old town. 

I think it is a pretty interesting place and it is dirt cheap to stay and eat.  That always has some influence on me liking it or not!  The one thing about it though is I didn’t get that warm fuzzy feeling about it.  I think because the statues are so so massive and so many it is hard to get that warm a feeling.  I personally think it is a little over done in that respect but still a great place to visit.  The 6 days went by fast and I never lacked for new places to see and things to do.  I won’t mind coming back after my trip to Ohrid to stay for a few more days before I catch the bus to Thessaloniki.  It has been a really nice stop along the way for me.  It is a work in progress with good potential.  Glad I stopped to see it.  Life is Good Dave