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Europe » Macedonia
June 28th 2012
Published: September 30th 2017
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Geo: 41.4331, 22.0119

Finally - after not understanding a single sign that I saw in Greece, I can finally read the signs now that I'm in Macedonia! Well ... I guess that's not quite correct, since I can't actually read Macedonian, but at least some of the Cyrillic characters look a bit familiar, having seen them last year in Bulgaria. It's more than I can say for Greek, which for me resembled something out of a nightmare from the University days during finals cramming, a jumble of symbols you'd normally only find in formulae on the pages of a textbook.

The feel of the Tikves region is also quite the contrast coming from Thessaloniki, from a big cosmopolitan city to a rural region that is just only discovering how to market its over 2000 years of viticulture experience to the masses. Talking to locals, it seems like every family in the region makes their own wine ... I wonder if this is what BC's Okanagan may have been like decades ago, when wine was mostly produced for personal enjoyment, before locals realized they could make crap loads of money off of it?

You can see some signs of money being poured into development - the perfect example is the Hotel Pamela, where I spent the night. The hotel itself was also interesting, being fairly nondescript on the outside, but surprisingly contemporary place on the inside, something you don't expect from a town of this size.

I completely missed the hotel on the way in to town last night, as it is tucked in behind a massive gas station of the same name, with a Pamela tour bus parked directly out front. Not only that, but the receptionist told me that the hotel also had its own winery, offering me up a glass to try, and also sending me on my way with a bottle of chardonnay as a gift! I don't know who Pamela is, but it looks like she's building herself quite the empire in Negotino!

But the most interesting and brash display of an infusion of money was last night during dinner, when I was sitting outside the pizzeria, happily munching away, when a brand new Maserati rolled by! You always hear stories of rampant organized crime in these recently-born Eastern European nations - would anyone from such a small town with legitimate business interests have a car like that? Things
Sketchy Hotel Breakfast ...Sketchy Hotel Breakfast ...Sketchy Hotel Breakfast ...

... bland omelet, with crappy bread. Mediocre cappuccino, too.
that make you go hmmm ...

Before moving on to Kavadarci, the next little wine town in the region, I headed up the road to the Bovin Winery, the biggest in Negotino. It was poor timing, as I had arrived shortly before a VIP lunch, with the poor young waiter still in his T-shirt and jeans having to quickly finish setting the table, giving me a rushed tasting and explanation of their wines.

He did a surprisingly good job, especially considering that he wasn't the normal person working the tasting room. Where he especially excelled was in his tasting sizes - though I was only given one red and one white to try, each pour was at least half a glass. Between that and the glass I was given at Hotel Pamela this morning, I'd already consumed over two glasses - all before 11:30 AM ... I think an enjoyable time will be had in Tikves ...

Before leaving Bovin, three soldiers decked out in camouflage came in to search the tasting
room, with bomb-sniffing dogs - turns out the VIP was extra important, a government minister. Perhaps if I had stuck around, maybe they would've made me the Canadian Special
Treasure at Tikves Winery ...Treasure at Tikves Winery ...Treasure at Tikves Winery ...

... some bottles of wine in the cellar date back to the 50s. Tikves doesn't actually sell any of these, they keep them for special occasions or give them to special guests, family, friends, etc.
Minister of Macedonian Wine, who's sole role is to keep drinking all this fabulous local vino?

The next stop on the wine tour was at the Tikves Winery, the biggest in not only Macedonia, bu also in all of South Eastern Europe. The tour was a perfect example of how far Canadian dollars go in this part of the World - for about $20, I ended up with a guided private tour, and had a top-notch four-course meal at the winery's restaurant, with the fish course being one of the best I've ever had. Not only that, but included with the meal were tastings of six wines, and finishing with a shot of brandy and an espresso!

Each pour was also extremely generous, a half glass - combined with the two glasses from the morning, I was on track for six glasses before 3 PM! Already feeling the effects after the first few wines at the restaurant, I stopped finishing them - had I downed them all, there was only a very small chance that I would be able to successfully walk back to the hotel without getting hit by a bus!

There truly are some excellent wines on offer in
Aleksandar the Great ...Aleksandar the Great ...Aleksandar the Great ...

... tourism manager at the Tikves Winery, giving me a private tour. Neat that the aging barrels are oval-shaped, to maximize the amount of wine they can store.
the region, including the Vranec, a variety indigenous to the region, a white made from grapes native to Georgia, and a rose that had a delicious honey flavour. Particularly enjoyable were the ones from Bovin, as I distinctly remembered what those ones tasted like - unfortunately, by the time I made it to number six or seven overall at the Tikves Winery, the wine was really kicking in, and everything started to taste the same!


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Tikves Dining Room ...Tikves Dining Room ...
Tikves Dining Room ...

... great place to relax over a fine meal.
Fine Piece of Fish ...Fine Piece of Fish ...
Fine Piece of Fish ...

... one of the best pieces of fish I have ever had, perfectly caramelized carp, crisp and juicy. Not normally a fan of fish skin, but I'm now converted - the skin on this fish was excellent, tasting almost like a very thin piece of pork crackling. But the dish wasn't perfect - the potatoes were a bit gluey, and for some reason, they left the bones in the fish.
Tikves Pot ...Tikves Pot ...
Tikves Pot ...

... a local pork stew, with potatoes, carrots, squash, and zucchini, with a very nice aroma of bell peppers. Very tender meat, but a tad dry - good, but not great like the carp.
Too Sweet ...Too Sweet ...
Too Sweet ...

... the pears were syrupy sweet, but the cinnamon was a nice touch.
Like a Macedonian Pot Pie ...Like a Macedonian Pot Pie ...
Like a Macedonian Pot Pie ...

... but filled with pork and mushrooms in a brown gravy. Quite nice, but perhaps not the perfect dish for a hot night, though it was still reasonably light. Macedonia hasn't mastered the art of puff pastry, but the bread cap was surprisingly good, golden brown and chewy, perfect for soaking up the gravy. Dinner was at another pizza joint tonight, as again it was tough to find a restaurant. I know it's a small town, but perhaps people don't like to eat out here? I had walked over 30 minutes all over the centre of town looking for a place, but of course I only found something after wandering back to the hotel and walking down a nearby side street.
Pancakes with Honey and Nuts ...Pancakes with Honey and Nuts ...
Pancakes with Honey and Nuts ...

... simple, but SO good. Would've been great with a coffee, but I needed a good night's sleep after only being able to fall asleep at 5 AM yesterday.


16th July 2012

Im picturing your face being the same colour as the red wine and your giddy smile, I've seen that look on you before, that would have been fun. I love drunk Pat!!

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