Archive of ‘Macedonia’ category

Culinary Macedonia.

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Baba Cana in Kumonovo, Macedonia is probably the best restaurant in Eastern Europe.  They serve traditional “granny” style food on simply decorated thick wooden tables with traditional fabrics, colours and patterns. 
Matt and I knew nothing about Macedonian food before we arrived so we had no idea what to expect. The spices are Turkish, a result of 500 years under Turkish rule,  the meat is prepared with an Eastern European technic, cured,  smoked, salted, delicious.  They use olive oil and tomatoes like their Greek neighbors and even their wine is fantastic.
I fully support Macedonian food,  what a treat!

Making friends in the neighborhood. Gevgelija, Macedonia.

We always say hello to people as we walk by little curbside restaurants and cafes. This time we were welcomed to join a small table of Macedonian men for a drink and a chat. Next thing we know we were invited to a house to meet the whole family (and extended family), drink some coffees and play with the kids. This family lives in a 600 year old Turkish apartment building with the grandparents living in the suite next door. Interesting to see how people live around the world.

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Blue Bridge in Veles, Macedonia.

It’s a beautiful sunny day in Veles, everyone is off work today due to the Macedonian public holiday. The cafes are busy with cheerful young people and the water banks are filled with older men in hip waders fly-fishing, what a beautiful day!

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Skopje Zoo, Macedonia.

A few years ago this zoo had a bad reputation, the chimpanzees were chronically depressed and their only elephant died at age 23, only a year after moving to Skopje. Thank goodness they got their act together in 2010 and spent over 9 million dollars modernizing the zoo. 

Even though it drizzled rain while we walked around the whole experience was great (especially the $2 entrance fee).

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Kumanovo, Macedonia and friends.

As you well know our lifestyle is a little unconventional, we never really know where we will be next, who we might meet and when our next real shower might take place.

This story is about our last stop in Macedonia, Kumanovo. I’m not going to lie, 99% of the town looks like a dump, forgotten over time; poor road conditions, extremely low hanging electrical wires (very scary when driving a 3 meter high vehicle),  garbage everywhere, rundown vandalized buildings, the works…PERFECT! Matt and I are all over it! The first thing in order when arriving in a new city is finding the perfect parking spot, I dream of the days when we will have a tiny scooter “parkable” just about anywhere. Next step is checking for free Wi-Fi waves and/or finding a generous person to host our electrical needs. Our requirements usually consist of recharging our deep cycle battery, keeping the fridge cool and maybe a small space heater on chilly nights. This time we tried a little corner store deep in suburban Kumanovo but unfortunately the language barrier was insurmountable which lead Matt to panic and accost everyone who walked by. “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” he asked. Luckily within minutes a young man exclaimed “Of course I do!”, thank the heavens, lets get this going. With the help of our new translator we concocted a deal with the store owners where we could park safely on their property and receive electricity for the night.

Matt befriended the translator and invited the young man for drinks later that evening. Alexander and his wonderful curly haired beauty arrives at 9 pm prompt with gifts of homemade spicy roasted red pepper and eggplant dip, homemade pickled vegetables and homemade moonshine. OPA!   20130309_214856

The conversation flows as does the booze. Differences between Canadian rule and Macedonian government are vast yet we all seem to have the same forward thinking agenda; invest in education, clean up our surroundings, respect one an other and pay no attention to religion and self pitters.

Night falls and we hit the road, first stop we try out an apartment/mall/bar situation. A few minutes in and we’re informed that there are too many young people and we must proceed to the next bar (keep in mind that our hosts are about 20 years old, 10 and 20 years our junior…I promise we’re not narcs!).

Bar number two is a tame biker bar with a live band playing “famous” Serbian rock anthems. Matt and I dance like two idiots without a care in the world, pretending to know all the words to the songs. Thankfully Alexander, our host, and his friends enjoy our humor and we laugh and toast every five seconds.

Bar numero 3 is just down the street and features a wonderful and animated band covering great American classic hits from the 60’s and 70’s sung with fantastically thick Bulgarian accents, emphasizing syllables in all the most “original” spots.

Our fourth move takes us back to the first bar (this time with much more mature 20 year olds) to meet the rest of the crew. A future travel adviser, an actor, an aspiring plastic surgeon, a tall handsome student, an engineer, etc., …and Tom Cruse…well kind of! Our new Macedonian friends are incredible, they  are young, smart, intelligent, insightful, funny, adorable, sweet, helpful, inviting…AHHHHH I love them so much!!!!

Four am rolled around and it was time for Matt and I to hit the hay. A crew of our friends escorted back to the van and bit us fairwell. (I would like to take a little pause here to emphasize and make you understand how insanely fantastic-5000 everyone we’ve met tonight is, no downers, losers, no dimwits, solemnly fantastic, inspirational people). We woke up a few hours later with full hearts and happy  smiles on our faces. Macedonia, Kumanovo, Alexander and your “do you speak English””of course”, that night meant the world to us and I wish a lifetime of friendship between us! Nazdrowie!   

 

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Macedonia !?!

“What the heck are you doing in Macedonia?” That’s the first thing the locals would ask.

We had a great time in Greece and felt a little sad leaving the country of beautiful beaches, great food, friendly laidback people and cheap Frappes (we’ve become hardcore Frappe addicts.)  Matt was pushing to go to Kosovo and Serbia next but when we got the great news that our friend Ryan would be landing in Burgas on March 16th we realized that we needed to get a move on. The new route would have to be through Macedonia; Bitola, Skopje, Kumanovo, then back to Bulgaria.

First stop, Bitola. The main pedestrian street was very clean and lively, everyone is having a good time drinking coffees and beers at the hundreds of elegantly decorated cafes and pubs. We stopped for coffee and a bathroom break at one place and it cost $1 for a regular espresso OR $1.10 for an espresso with cherry liquor and whipped cream. Booze in my coffee? Yes please! 

Deviate even one block away from the main road you will truly see how the majority of Macedonia lives. The buildings are unkempt and every third house is rubble yet people hang tarps and sheets in these spaces and live there. It looks like a post war movie set. Despite their terrible poverty Macedonians are the friendliest and most generous people we have met so far (and Greece is a though one to beat).   

Macedonia is a tiny Balkan country and the drive from the Southern city of Bitola to the Northern capital of Skopje only took a couple hours, mostly through valleys and farms with snowy peaked mountains not so distant.

Arriving in Skopje we were hit by some serious traffic. Yet another protest was taking place which forced the police to barricade two of the major roads and reroute all the cars down a 5 kilometer detour, delaying us by about an hour.

Once parked and locked up we hit the town square for some snacks and people watching. Skopje is like no European city I’ve ever seen before, or maybe it’s more like a combination of ALL the cities we have recently visited but on crack. The main plaza is huge, you could easily fit two football fields in there without blinking. The buildings are tall and impressive of varying styles and colours and the Vardar river runs through main square with several ornate bridges linking the two sides. What makes the city so unique the insane amount of statues and monuments, you think Vegas has a “bigger is better” attitude, wait until you visit Macedonia! Though the locals find them ridiculous and would prefer the money spent more wisely, Matt and I enjoyed walking around taking pictures of them as if we were strolling down an outdoor museum.

 

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Lots of twisty roads through the mountains, luckily the road was in fair condition.

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Skopje!

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We drove up the mountain to take pictures of the 66 meter tall cross but the road was closed near the top and Matt wasn’t excited to hike the last 7 kilometers to the summit.

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Jewish holocaust memorial museum. 

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The cat’s out the bag!

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Matt and I are moving to Europe for a wonderful adventure. We land in Frankfurt and continue on to Poland where we will get our affairs in order. We’re buying an old RV and traveling the continent, taking pictures, making wonderful meals with local food and drinking loads of cheap wine.

Anyone need a fluffy cat?