Skopie and Ohrid Republic of Macedonia 10 to 14 June 2013

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June 14th 2013
Published: June 14th 2013
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Skopie and Ohrid Republic of Macedonia 10 to 14 June 2013

At the Bulgaria-Macedonia border crossing, on the Macedonia side, we were nearly turned back because we did not have the International Green Card for insurance of the vehicle. In several of the recent countries we have visited (Serbia and Bulgaria), the vehicle is more important than the people, regarding official documentation. We have to show the ownership and registration papers for the vehicle, but additionally in Macedonia we needed the insurance documents. The Customs guy told us we either had to go back to Bulgaria or pay another 480 Euro for Insurance. We knew we had already paid this in The Netherlands.

I suddenly remembered I had an email from the person in Holland who we had bought the vehicle through and the email attachment was the Green Certificate. There we were holding up about 6 other vehicles, showing the customs guy the Certificate on the computer. Eventually he accepted this version and agreed to let us into the country. Next time we are in a city, I will print the Certificate our ready for the next border crossing into Greece.

We found our next Camp Site which was the Best Western Hotel Bellevue, which had Camp Grounds as part of the set up. Facilities were excellent (see photos). Out of the 64 sites available, there was us and another car who set up a tent for the night!!!! It was a great spot

Next morning we drove into Skopie, which has a history back to 4000 BC. Their history is worth a read for any of those interested in history. What a magnificent place this was. Having been destroyed several times by major earth quakes, the most recent being in 1963 (after being flooded on 1962), we saw restoration work going on everywhere. They have recently announced a spending program called Skopie 2014 where they intend to complete major historical site restoration. The famous Stone Bridge is well restored. Other bridges proudly display notable writers, poets, musicians, designers etc on either sides of the bridges. Many walking malls and paved areas along the River are full of Outdoor restaurants – beautiful.

We walked through the Kale Fortress (built by the Ottomans) which was badly affected by the earth quake. It is theoretically closed but a few tourists were walking around the repaired areas so we joined them. What a spectacular view of the township from a couple of the restored turrets.

We then walked through the old town with its small, narrow, and windy cobbled-stone roads, lined with little shops. Tom had been looking for a men’s hairdresser since Bulgarian, but without luck. I spotted one in the Skopie Old Town so he had one of the most thorough haircuts he has ever had and for $7. Good value. Everything in Macedonia (except fuel) is so cheap. There were multiple monuments, fountains, interpretive signs (in English which is unusual in these eastern-block countries) sprinkled throughout the old town and town square.

Tom had the country’s traditional cheesy filo pastry roll – it was pretty greasy but a nice flavor. After lunch it started pelting down with rain. We were walking through the Grand Markets when it started to rain so we caught a taxi back to our Camper (as they call motor homes in Europe). We wanted to go and see the famous aqueduct which was apparently on the edge of the town gut we couldn’t find it and there was massive amount of deepening water on the roads (thank goodness for diesel engines) so we set the GPS for Ohrid.

It continued to rain until we were into the beautiful mountains and over into the next valley. In parts we were only going 50 kms p/h through the climb up the mountains. We occasionally saw little villages nestled down in the valley or on the side of the mountain. We could see a little snow on the high mountain peaks.

The closer we got to Ohrid the weather cleared. Ohrid nestles on the NE coast of Ohrid Lake which is nearly 300m deep and one of the oldest lakes in Europe. The Lake is 30 km long and 14.5 km wide. Down the eastern coast is dotted hotels and holiday spots. There is a mixed standard of facilities.

We looked around the town, seeing windy, cobbled roads again, bars and restaurants overlooking the lake, monuments on the town square and a re-paved main walking mall. We found a lovely little restaurant and tried some traditional food. We shared a cheesy fillo roll each (a little salty), a traditional tomato, cheese, onion and olive pie. Tom then had an Ohrid Muchliklot which was a meat, tomato, onions and peppers in a sauce. I had rolled pork in batter with mixed veggies (cold, chopped onions, tomato, lettuce, chips and rice, with tartar sauce and lemon juice. We had the local wine from the Tikves wine region in central-eastern Macedonia.

We then drove to our camping park about 7 kms south of the town but could not raise anyone. So we parked on the side of the Lake for the night. The sunset was beautiful. This was the 1st sunset that was worth speaking about since we had arrived in Europe. Magnificent.

Tom switched the fridge over to gas for the 1st time. Bit by bit we are learning about parts of our camper. We still haven’t used the toilet and shower so that is next on the list.

After a wonderful sleep and scrambled eggs by the Lake we headed further south along the eastern coast of Lake Ohrid to find a Camping Park for that night. One of our books listed one in Ljubanishta on the SE corner of the Lake. What we saw was a massive weed-ridden area with about 40 caravans, either derelict of just sitting there un-occupied. Everything was really run down and looked as though it hadn’t been used for a number of years – perhaps the owner had gone broke. We saw a number of tourist places that were just left to run-down. There were 3 key towns along the Lake that seemed to be thriving and all the rest were dying.

We also popped into see the Museum on Water which was a recreation of a prehistoric village which was discovered in 1999 and 2004. The poles the huts were standing on were discovered first and later other items that told the story of the village life. They call the place the Bay of Bones.

We drove back to Ohrid and walked around more of the Old Town. The Fortress on the hill, again built by the Ottomans, included a 3 km high wall – impressive. We walked around many of the hilly little cobbled streets. The town had a great feel to it.

We went to Aquarius Bar on the edge of the Lake and had a beautiful cappuccino. I don’t think I have had a bad coffee in Europe yet. They didn’t serve lunch so we went a few doors down to a Pizza place and had some wonderful cheese, ham, mushroom and spicy pizzas. We found the WiFi has excellent so uploaded another blog, Skyped Kerrie and dealt with some emails. Tom works on his Samsung tablet & I work on my laptop. It’s always fantastic to talk to members of the family. I had a great chat with Adam a couple of days before this when the internet connection was good.

As we were heading out of the country, into Greece we had to spend our Denar (46.24 Denar to $1.00 AUD) so we went to the local supermarket to re-stock. After that we were on our way over the mountains to Bitola, then across the Greece border.

We really loved Macedonia even though infrastructure was missing a little but it was so good to see the progress being made in towns and cities that had has devastating histories, border changes, and changes in ruling empires and economic crises. We must come back to see their beaches in the far east of the country.

Additional photos below
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