Mother Theresa was born here, Alexander the Great has connections to here, and the Greeks have a problem with its name. I’m in Macedonia, well technically, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
I arrived at the hostel at around 6pm having walked, for what felt like forever, up a steep hill. I entered to the happiest dog I’ve ever met. In fairness, this dog, named Zhile, was the reason I decided to stay here and I’m honestly so pleased at this decision. I dumped my bags down and joined everyone else in the common room. After a couple of hours, my new hostel mates and I went out for dinner and then back to the hostel, I ended up crashing out before midnight! With only one full day in Skopje I thought I’d try to explore as much of the city as possible. I walked down the hill and found myself in front of the main gate to the city, well the main gate and a good few armed military. It did make me feel a little safer. I walked through the pedestrian area and crossed the old stone bridge to the Turkish bazaar. I strolled through with little interest in the products but more the setup of the market. Exiting the bazaar, I climbed up, yet another, hill and walked through a gate into the old fortress. A lot of the interior is still under archaeological protection but the walls themselves were fully open for tourists. I followed the path until I reached a dead end and then repeated my footsteps back to the gate and down the hill until I reached the pedestrian area again. Just off the main square is the museum dedicated to Mother Theresa, she was born in Macedonia to Albanian parents so both countries try to claim her as one of their own. Getting a bit tired, I decided to tread lightly down the river and as I started to become more and more lost, I decided to head back up to the hostel. A bit of a nap in the hammock and I felt pretty refreshed. The only downside to my day? I didn’t get to learn about any of the history in this town/country.
In the evening, a group of us, and our host even, went out for dinner. This time it was not a restaurant but a fast food diner with probably the most chaotic burger I’ve ever seen! Two burgers, a ton of sauce and probably two portions of chips, all in the bun! This decimated everyone, once again, and after a quick drive up the hill, I was in bed before midnight.
The next day I was still full from dinner so I skipped breakfast and then the same group from the previous night, plus Zhile, all hiked up the Vodno Mountain just behind the hostel. One of the guys had previously attempted it earlier but it got the better of him, this time he was insistent he would reach the top. We all joined him.
Having done a good few hikes in the last month, I thought this would be pretty standard, it’s really not. I want to say this was the most difficult hike I’ve done in a good while, I think most of that is due to my mental fitness, and of course the insane burger from dinner. The first stretch was alright, started off on the road before a minor incline onto a dirt path. If it was all like that then I would have been fine, but of course it got harder. The incline got steeper as we progressed and then thankfully plateaued out onto a car park. This was only half way up. The hike only got harder as we continued and the higher we went, the more the path started to climb until by the end, it was rock climbing.
Eventually, we reached the top and all my (mental) whinging was worth it. The view was almost all the way around, and it was at the top we took in the scenery, and had a much needed and well-earned rest.
Setting off back down the mountain, it felt like we were abseiling for the most part with the path on such a decline. Half the group then dispersed, almost breaking into a sprint and the other half, me included, fell back in order to take it at a more leisurely pace. The way down was a lot easier and I wasn’t sweating as much as before. The group and I stopped off at the halfway point to have a spot of lunch before finishing off the hike at the end. A quick shower, I packed my bags and then headed off to the bus station. Who knows where the bus’ll take me!
Ohrid, its taking me to Ohrid.