Edit Blog Post
Published: September 30th 2017
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 ...
... 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 ...
... 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 ...
... 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!
Tot: 0.098s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 8; qc: 28; dbt: 0.0141s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.2mb