SKOPJE + OHRID
Yesterday I woke up at 750, Drew's bus was leaving at 830. I looked over and he was still laying there. "Drew, It's 10 to 8" I said. He stirred and said righto, it not really registering properly. 2 seconds later he sat bolt upright and started packing. I was well and truly over his company so I went back to sleep. Waking only when he walked out door.
I went back to sleep… Until 1230. I don't think I've slept that late in so long ever!! I got up and Anas soon followed. He was hungary, for a change, so we went to the student canteen. It was really cheap here. One and a half Euros, except I didn't pay. Anas spotted me as you needed some weird card things to pay for the meal. I dunno where he got them from.
From there I went into the same café as the day before and wrote in my diary, ordering my coffee and laughing at the people around me who were quite astonished at my accent.
After that it was back home for more relaxing. I spent the afternoon half on the internet half watching a movie and half sleeping, it was great.
At 9 I left to meet Sandra in town. We were meeting at the square at 915, Luay, Anas and Nuno were supposed to be coming with me but they were running late (Anas was actually asleep) and I didn't want to be late for Sandra. I got there a couple of minutes late and it wasn't untill 930 when someone showed up. It wasn't Sandra, but Nuno Luay and his girlfriend Catarina. Sandra was running late.
Sandra had let them know the name of the place we were going to so we set off for it. It was a bit of a hike but we eventually got to a place. It was in a back alley off a carpark. Here Sandra appeared with Ivica and Den (I think) her allusive boy friend. She informed us we were at the wrong place. Thank god.
She took us down an equally dodgy back alley to an equally dodgy set of steps to an equally dodgy place. Where she'd taken us was a Kaffanna, from the word Kaffe (Coffee). It's a typical Macedonian half restaurant half café. "A typical Dump restaurant" were Sandra's words.
At the moment I'm on a bus from Skopje to Lake Ohrid with Sandra and Nuno. We're on a really respectful highway. I haven't seen a double laned highway in weeks and when the bus just changed lanes a actually presumed we were overtaking on the wrong side of the road on a blind corner in the rain. Just to make things interesting.
It wasn't too bad though, inside was quite respectful and clean. We sat at the table Sandra had reserved a long wooden bench able to seat probably 12 people. I then noticed there was a band playing in the corner. They were playing traditional Macedonian music. But sounded more like a Turkish Arabic band. I guess it's understandable considering this place was under Ottoman rule for 4 or 5 hundred years. The funny thing too was every one knew all the words to all these songs it looked really really funny.
The menu came out. 1 menu for 8 people, kinda pointless, but even more so because it was in Cyrillic. I just had Sandra suggest something for me, it was a good choice too.
Some drinks were ordered. Everyone but Nuno (as he's allergic to Lemon) shared a massive bucket cocktail thing. In the bucket was a drink called Buno, maybe. It's one litre of wine, one litre of mineral water and a quarter liter of bitter lemon. It was really really nice. Heaps refreshing, it would make a really good summer cocktail.
The food came out soon too. Sandra had picked a salad called Shopska, it's like a greek salad, but I shouldn't say that in Macedonia, it's got cucumber tomato and a couple of olives. But the really distinct feature is the massive amount of sweet shaved fetta (or white cheese as they call it here) on top. The salad was awesome, a definite war winner.
The meat Sandra had picked came out soon too. It was nice, a bit full on, butt nice. It was a burger patty with melted yellow cheese on top. That would have been fine, except there was cheese all through it was well. It was really tasty but kind of disgustingly so, and I knew straight away I owed myself about a 10 km run to pay off this one.
We sat around eating, drinking and singing, well everyone but myself and Nuno were singing. Nuno had to leave pretty soon though, something wasn't agreeing with his stomach. I was left with a bunch of Macedonians. I thought the night was written off. I don't expect people to speak English just because I'm around, But I really appreciate it when they do as if they're not I may as well not be there or have my head phones on.
Nevertheless I was involved in a lot of the conversation so it stayed mostly in English. I was talking a lot of the time to this one really cool guy, quite funny and really jolly. I could tell that this was the token 'rotund' guy that belonged to the group who everyone liked. He was a good laugh, and we were pretty soon drinking Rakiya. This Rakiya was really good. It felt like you were swallowing fire but it was good. I really liked it. Just sipping it talking with this fat guy. I've no idea of his name even, but it was good fun. I even ordered another one, much to the surprise of many people around me.
We continued singing and drinking untill about 130 when we grabbed the bill. I payed for my food but true Balkan style the fat guy insisted on paying for my Rakia, I wasn't going to argue. And we left.
We walked back via Sandra's house, myself, Anas, Catarina and Nikola, as they live very close to Anas'. when we were saying good bye to Sandra a guy approached us selling these red cards with a big X on them. I assumed that it was an adult themed advertisement of some sort. Turns out he was selling car fresheners, the type you hang from your car mirror, to mid 20 year old party goers at 0130 on a Saturday morning. The worst part was he totally cut in right after I'd made a really funny joke, totally negating all the laugh credits I was receiving.
We got back to Anas' at about 2 after a quick stop at a bakery where I had some more food, which I didn't need. The rakia had totally woken me up so I jumped on the internet for a while before deciding that as I needed to be up in less then 6 hours I better get some sleep.
Yesterday I woke at 630, after 4 and a half hours sleep. For some reason I couldn't nod off. I had no idea why. Not long after Luay got up and turned on the washing machine. Sleeping had no hope now. These damn Frontloaders the Europeans use are so noisy, everything on the top jumping around making some sort of Laundary symphony.
At 915 I rang the cab company. This was a real gamble I had no idea if they were going to understand me, I didn't really want to have to wake Anas up, especially because his girlfriend had stayed over the night before. Luckily the cab company lady spoke English and I was able to order a cab. Cab number 21, my lucky number.
I got in the cab and asked the price, "meter, meter" the taxi man said pointing at the centre console machine that looked 20 years older then the 30 year old car. Presuming I was going to be ripped off I got my map out of my bag, loosely following where we were to make sure the taxi man didn't decide to do zig zags on the way to the bus station. The taxi ended up costing 100Denars, half the price Drew and I paid a few days before hand.
Negotiating the labyrinth bus station was a bit of a pain. The bus station had been shifted to the train station after the Earthquake in 1963 knocked most of Skopje over, including the bus station. We eventually found our way in, Nuno ordered a coffee and I went to grab some burek, there was no burek with meat so I grabbed the pizza burek. It was grosse, it tasted like it was filled with spaghetti from a tin. Yuk!
We got into Ohrid 3 hours after leaving the bus station at 1000. It is really beautiful. The day was pretty average, it wasn't raining (Yet) but it was overcast and cold. Nevertheless the lake did look beautiful.
We were met at the bus by this skinny lady in a pink puffer jacket. I thought she was Sandra's friend from Ohrid but it turned out she was just the lady from the appartment we'd booked. Who'd met us to make sure that we didn't go anywhere else.
From the Appartment we stepped out to explore Ohrid. It was raining, so we back tracked to get our umbrellas. Ohrid was really nice. We walked down through the main street, which was closed off to traffic and went to a place called Pink panther for some food.
Just before arriving at pink panther we went past a stage that had a heap of kids were dancing a traditional dance. They were in a semi circle skipping around while the guy at the end twirled a handkerchief in the air. They'd be chanting "Hey Hey Hey" over the band, which was really good, a bunch of young kids playing what seemed to be improvised.
At pink panther Sandra's friend, Jovanna, joined us. She was a local and an IAESTE member, the official member who did all the guides of Ohrid. We set out to go walking around the town. It was raining a little harder now and over the next two hours it became darker and darker until it was pitch black and the rain got heavier and heavier untill everything below my knee line was saturated.
We set off paralleling the water line a little inland. We went past a couple of Orthodox churches, one of which was just over 1000 years old and up to the fort. Unfortunately the guy at the fort wouldn't let us in unless we paid. It was a pretty dismal day so we didn't' bother going all the way through it. I managed to get a few decent snaps while Sandra was attempting to negotiate anyway.
From the fort we walked down the hill to where there was an old monastery on a cliff on the edge of the lake. We walked past it all the way down to the waterline and walked along the lake back to the town as the last glimpses of light left the sky.
Soon after getting back to town Jovanna left us and we went for coffee. We were drenched but the coffee was great in a place overlooking the lake. Soon after the coffee's arrived Nuno and I had finished. Sandra on the other hand took at least 3 times as long as us to finish hers. It's a real Balkan thing to sit around talking for upto 2 hours on the one coffee.
We got back to the apartment and stripped off and hung our pants socks and shoes on the heater. Nuno and Sandra both had spare changes of pants. I hadn't bought any spare clothes, not even socks, it was only one night so I figured I didn't need them, although admittedly a clean shirt would have been nice. never the less I just walked around the apartment in my jocks.
I had itchy feet so I jumped up got into my tights and footy Guernsey and grabbed my skipping rope. I spent the next half an hour skipping. It was really frustrating. I used to be able to easily go for half an hour with out stopping. Not now though I kept on hitting my shoes and every 4-5 hundred skips I had to hit the timed light switch. It felt good though, I really, really want to get on top of this fitness thing.
We left the apartment at 8 and went to a pizza place, "The best in Macedonia" Sandra assured us. And it didn't disappoint us. It was good. Although after I'd finished eating my salad and pizza I died. I was so exhausted, I don't know why, I just hit a wall. In my mind I really really wanted to go out and have fun, but my body was shutting down, a result of my lost fitness. It was really really pissing me off. I sat there half falling asleep while Sandra and Nuno talked about languages, admittedly I didn't have much to input to the conversation but this was in excusable.
At about 10 we left and set off looking for a Jazz club that Sandra said was good. We did some circles for a while, while Sandra tried to remember it's location. We eventually found it but it was empty, so we left in favour of another place called the Duck Café. I spent much of the 10 minute walk there trying to expain the phrase, "do duck in and have a sticky beak" I didn't get very far. Nevertheless the walk along the lakeside was really nice and when we got to the Duck café, or Ohrid Jazz and blues club my jaw dropped. It was a magnificent building with an awesome entrance. The white marble steps were flanked by a myriad of beautiful plants and the stairs themselves were covered in red carpet. It really did feel superstar/ exclusive. It was really cool.
Inside was great too. Unfortunately we couldn't get a seat and were forced to stand. This didn't matter tho as if we'd have sat I probably would have fallen asleep and there was a live band playing so we could watch them.
The live band was really good, the lead singer was fantastic, he had a real Jimmy barnes thing about him and they played a lot of old rock. I really really enjoyed it and it completely woke me up. Jovanna soon joined us too which was cool and we half danced half watched the band for almost two hours before finding a table at 130.
Almost as soon as we sat down Sandra fell asleep. Nuno pointed it out and for some reason I felt it necessary to wake her. Both at once I grabbed her and screamed. She sat bolt upright and almost jumped out of the chair soon after slamming her fist into my arm. I felt really bad, not just because my arm hurt but she'd reacted much more colorfully then I'd expected and it must have really really scared her.
We got back up soon after a round of Kamikaze's and some Rakia and watched the end of the bands set. They finished at 2, which signaled the time for us to grab our coats and head back to the appartment.
Again the Rakia had completely woken me up so I sat up reading for half an hour before falling into a deep deep sleep.
For some reason I again woke up after only 5 hours sleep, I don't know why, it's a bit of a problem really but I hate sleeping, I wanna get up and do stuff. So I sat up reading, my eyes stinging I was so tired. Dumb I know.
By 1200 everyone was awake, we'd left the apartment and headed into town for some coffee. On the way there was more dancing going on, this time the kids were much younger, they looked about 10 and it looked like they were really enjoying themselves and hadn't been forced into it by there parents.
We walked around the markets and looked a little more around Ohrid before heading back to the apartment. The owner showed up at 230 to pick up the keys and was nice enough to give us a lift to the bus station. The bus was leaving at 3. It was pretty crowded, Nuno and I were up the back, I had an empty seat beside me, which is more then I could say for Nuno who had a big Macedonian squashed up against him.
I couldn't sleep on the bus, so I spent the whole time writing and reading my diary. Man I've had some fun on this trip. And I've still got 2 months to go!!
We got back to Skopje late. At half way we had a pause for 10 minutes. 15 minutes after we stopped the driver walked up the bus and started half questioning half shouting, there was an exchange from a selection of passengers and the driver. I had no idea what was going on, but another 15 minutes later we were out of there.
Back at Skopje, after catching a taxi home and going to the supermarket, Nuno and I approached the front door. Poor Nuno is sleeping on a bed in the lounge room and hasn't even been given a key to the appartment, so it was a gamble for us, hoping that someone was home. We were out of luck I rang Anas, he was 15 minutes away, we'd been given a break, I just grabbed my laptop out. Out in the stairwell I was able to pick up the WIFI from inside the flat.
I forgot to mention. Once in the last few days I was heading out the front door of the apartment block with Anas, and he asked "do you like our door?" I was a little confused. He went on to explain to me that recently someone had tried to steal the front door of there block, apparently they'd been busted just after they'd removed it so they left the door and ran. The apartment owner then had the door reinstalled paying extra to have it done properly. Undeterred the cat burglars returned not long after and finished the job, taking off with the door. Haha. Nuno told me that the empty doorway was his first exposure to the block of flats. What a way to feel welcome and comfortable in a foreign country.
In the flat I just chilled with Nuno. Anas did however recount a funny story from the Friday night before we left. Apparently about an hour after we'de got home from the kaffanna Ana had gotten up for a shower, when he got out his phone was ringing he got out of the bathroom and I was standing at his door just pointing at his phone, I didn't say anything just pointed, he thanked me and turned me around back to my bed. I have no recollection
Anas left soon after letting us in and Luay returned from Thessaloniki not long after.I was knackered though so by 1030 I was well and truly asleep. I was planning on going for a run in the morning. But I scrapped that idea. I needed the sleep.