MACEDONIA - SKOPJE
After going to sleep last night at about 830 I woke at 6 and spent the next hour trying to re-enrole for university should I happen to go back to Australia next year.
After a quick bite we packed up and headed down stairs to get the fat guy to order us a taxi. He wanted us to leave 5 Euros with him, apparently he’s ordered taxis for people in the past and people have just caught the first thing that’s driven past, and he’d been lumped with the bill. There was no way I was leaving 5 euros with him so we just went and sat out the front and waited.
Our taxi driver was pretty cool. He didn’t speak any English bus he did understand that we wanted to go to a bakery on the way to the bus station he took us down these little back roads past a heap of bakeries insisting he knew ‘the best’ it was the best and after sitting in the car wondering for 5 minutes how much longer my liver was going to be in my body we pulled up outside a bakery. It was the best. So good.
The bus ride to Skopje was fairly uneventful, although arriving in Skopje was fairly refreshing. It’s a lot cleaner relatively to podgorica, Tirana and pristine. And the sun was out all adding to the illusion.
The bus pulled in and we were immediately hounded by taxi drivers offering us there services. We quickly sheltered inside the bus terminal and I left drew at the ATM and I went to exchange some cash.
I quickly learnt the Macedonian way of ‘lining up’ I stood behind the man who was already at the exchange counter and people started standing beside him. As soon as he’d received his money the people on each side of him were pushing their Euros into the teller. I ended up having to do the same thing, pushing in from the side to get my money changed into Macedonian Denars.
I went back to Drew and he had a solomn look on his face. “The F***ing machine didn’t give me my money” He’d tried to withdraw money and the machine had gone through the motions except when it said to collect his money it didn’t spit any out. And to top it off he’d stuffed up his maths and tried to withdraw 6000 denars, which equals about 100 Euros.
I left him to it and walked around the bus station trying to find a toilet and grabbed a sandwich we then went out to grab a taxi. Luckily Sandra had told me that it shouldn’t ccost more they 200Den because the first guy who we approached tried to charge us 10Euros, which is closer to 600 Euros.
We ended up having a guy offer to take us for 200, which was still inflated but we took it anyway. This guy knew the street we were going to but not the numbers. So we ended up crawling along our hosts street for about 500m, really annoying all the cars behind us who were constantly on the horn.
We eventually got to the appartment block of our host. A guy named Anas, one of Sandra’s Friends, another IEASTE member. We messaged him and he came down and met us and showed us to his appartment. It’s a pretty cool pad, typical guys place, homely but messy. And including myself and Drew there’s now 5 guys living in this 2 bedroom flat. Us, Anus, his twin brother, and another IAESTE trainee; nuno a Portuguese guy.
We sat around for a bit and soon Sandra joined us for a quick welcomE. Her work wasn’t far so she just dropped in. We decided to go to the main branch of the bank of which drew lost his money to. Luckily Anus didn’t have anything so he came along with us.
We walked through town Anus showing us the main sights. The central part of Skopje is very cosmopolitan, yet still quite Baltic without too much touristy impact like Dubrovnik. We tried at the bank to no avail. Anas doing all the talking while we stood there just looking pretty.
On the way over the bridge we were approached by a bunch of Gypsie kids, begging for money. We did our best to ignore them, but when they started patting down my pockets I drew the line, I told them where to go and was really tempted to hold them over the side of the bridge, MJ, style. But I figured it wasn’t really there fault, they didn’t look older then 5 and I knew that they were just working for there lazy ass gypsie parents.
We ended up deciding to go for some food. Anas took us to an awesome little Turkish place in one of the back streets in the old bazaar. This place only serves one dish, and is really underground. The dish was this like pizza thing with a meat paste spread over it and some chopped up lettuce. We had two of those each and this sour yoghurt that Anus loves. Drew and I thought very different of it, it was disgusting, off milk would have been nicer, it was like drinking sea water flavored sour yoghurt.
On the way back from the restaurant we walked past a shoe polisher. He called out a few times to Anas, who was wearing leather shoes, they exchanged a few words and Anus walked a little closer. Anas later told us that he was asking to see the leather, Anas put his shoe within reach and bang, the polisher was onto it, giving it a quick clean. As a result Anas had one shoe looking different and was suckered into getting his shoes polished.
This guy was pretty funny, he went onto polish Anas’s shoes and insisted on giving mine and Drew’s shoes a quick going over with some water. Anas translated what he was saying and when he found out we were Australian he went on to tell some story about Harry Kewel kicking some goal against croatia which tore his heart in two. Haha. At the end he then had the nerve to ask for money from myself and drew because he forced a wet rag over our shoes.
We left and decided to go to a museum where one of Anus’s friends had some photo’s on display, we were almost back at Anus’s place when I reminded him of the museum. Oh you still want to go he asked, I said why not and we turned around. We got almost all the way to the old Turkish bazaar where we ate. Anas stopped. “Where are we going? We were talking and we have walked straight past it, again”. Eventually we got to the museum only to find that the exhibition was finished.
We went back to Anas’s and just chilled. We met Nuno at the door he was sitting on the stairs waiting. He was pretty cool. We just talked for a bit, watching TV and eventually we were all asleep. I woke myself up at one stage quite violently, for some reason I’d decided to take a bite out of my own tongue.
At 740 Drew and I left to go and meet Sandra for Tea in the centre. Kiki’s brother was joining us too. Apparently he’s the responsible one and I was looking forward to meeting him. After Ivic joined us Sandra took us too a place that does her favourite dish, melted cheese.
This place was about a 10 minute walk from the centre of town and down a dark alley and up a couple of narrow flights of stairs. Once we were inside though it was anything but dodgy. It was like a typical Brunswick bar, lots of couches and pleanty of colored lights. We grabbed a seat and picked up the menus. “Can you read it?” Sandra asked me, I looked properly at the menu. It was all in Cyrillic, I had no hope. I just asked Sandra to order for me.
She ordered us her favourite dish, the melted cheese and a beer each. It came out not long after, it was just a ramikin full of meelted cheese, yellow cheese on top and white cheese on the bottom. It was awesome it came with a heap of bread so we just dipped it in the cheese for the meal. It wasn’t very filling and I’m pretty sure I put on 2 kg’s but it was worth it.
After we’de finished we payed and decided to do a bit of a crawl. The first place we went to was of all things a biker bar. It was called custom pub, it was pretty cool. Quite small and it had a small live band in the corner. We grabbed a couple of beers and found some space in the tightly packed bar. The music was pretty cool but soon enough our eyes were starting to sting from all the smoke in the air. It was way too much so we left.
The next place we went to had a salsa night on, it was pretty cool and it was my shout so I went to the bar. The four beers I bought was 400Den, I definitely drew the short end of the straw compared to drews 240Den shout at the biker bar. We left soon after. We walked home, it was only 10minutes.
Back at the appartment we turned the handle, not to sure if it was going to be open or not, it was and we stepped in, someone called out to us in Arabic, both anus and his brother are half Jordanian and lived in Jordan untill 7 years ago thus Arabee is there main form of communication. We opened the door to see Anas, well we thought it was Anas. It was actually his twin brother. We sure looked pretty stupid.
We chatted to him for a bit and he helped us set up our bed, again drew and I are sharing a double bed. We hit the sack at 1230 and slept like rocks.
Yesterday morning I woke up at 630. And could not for the life of me fall back asleep. Between drew snoring, the sounds of the traffic, the elevator and drews fat torso making the double bed we were on shaped like a V, I had no hope. So I put my headphones in and drifted in and out forr 3 hours.
At 930 I got up and went for a run. I felt like crap. My legs felt so heavy and I was out of breath almost instantaneously. Nevertheless I ran through town and to the river. I ran along the river untill I got to 25 minutes then turned around and ran home. In all it wasn’t too bad I guess, I was just out of energy. The melted cheese from the night before certainly hadn’t filled the energy stores.
As a result of the smaller dinner and the run I was starving. As was drew. So after a quick shower we walked into town to a good bakery we’de been told of. The walk seemed to take forever as we were starving, but it was worth it. We both grabbed a piece of Burek and I also grabbed some cheese topped thing. I wanted something sweet but all they had was these chocolate covered croissants that looked like they contained more fat then Opera Winfrey, so I steered clear.
We took our food to a nearby café (where I’m actually sitting now, again) that looked pretty decent. Sometimes I just want to sit in a western styled café where the air isn’t full of smoke and I can open both my eyes properly. We grabbed some drinks and tucked into our food here. It was so good, I didn’t want to ever stop eating.
At the end of our meal (and my two coffee’s) I was feeling well and truly sated. I should have eaten before I went for a run. We paid and left the café and walked over the old stone bridge towards the old fort. This old fort was rally really cool, not as beautiful as Dubrovnik or as big as the one in Romania, but just really cool. They’re in the middle of rebuilding it and digging out all the old walls. As a result the ruined castle looked like it had just been shelled by various forms of Artillery. And it gave a really cool effect.
We sat up on one of the castle walls for about 20 minutes looking over Skopje dribbling crap, before continuing the walk up the hill to the Skopje museum of modern art. There was a Dali exhibition on, and although I’m pretty sure they were all prints it was pretty cool.
There was also a school excursion on up there. And it was really funny watching the kids spend more time looking and listening to Drew and I talk then they were looking at the art. It’s really funny that, we’ll walk through groups of people talking, and as we walk through laughing and joking they just go silent and stare at us as we walk past.
From the museum it was back down the hill across the river and over to the big orthodox church. The Chandelier inside this place was magnificent. Absolutely huge. And it took up a majority of the church, which itself looked a hell of a lot bigger from the outside then from the inside.
We sat out the front of the church for a bit near a fountain taking our time. We’de been walking around for a couple of hours, we’de seen everything worth seeing and it was only 2oclock.
We went back to Anas’s house via Ramstore mall. The newest mall in town, it was built by a Turkish company not far from where we were staying. However the funniest thing about this mall is the symbol. it’s a giant kangaroo… A tall smiling happy kangaroo with a red bow tie. I cant look at it seriously with out wanting to laugh at it or shoot at it.
We had an awesome salad at a Mexican place there and for the first time in my travels I bought something from McDonalds. It doesn’t count as maccas though because it was only coffee and I only bought it there because none of the café’s in the food court would do coffee to go.
This whole talking English thing is so funny, even just then saying thank you very much to the waitress when she brought over my coffee, the people on both the tables to my left and right stopped talking mid sentence and just looked at me, pausing for two seconds before resuming their conversation, its funny to I ofter here the words Britain or Americano in their conversation, obviously they aren’t too familiar with the Australian accent.
The afternoon for us was really lazy. We just sat at Anas’ house relaxing. I did a sit up/push up set but apart from that we just watched movies all afternoon. At about 7O’clock we cracked one of the beers we’de bought and drew and I sat there with our stubby holders having a few drinks watching point break missing the surf with a passion. I cant wait to get to Portugul.