Sunday, July 26, 2015

ohrid and skopje, macedonia

What's the best part about Macedonia? It's the perfect base for discovering the Balkans. Our trip started and ended in Skopje, with a stop also in Ohrid.

Firstly, Ohrid by the lake... Ohrid. Being probably the most scenic city of the country, it was by far the most touristy stop on our route. Streets packed with random shiny clothing stores, a group of old Latvian ladies with their tour guides at every corner, and cafes putting up as many Coca-Cola sunshades as possible to keep anyone from actually getting an idea of the main street's architecture. I'm actually a little sad that we didn't have more time to invest in exploring this place, cause i'm sure the lakeside has a lot more to offer. Thankfully I managed to convince Matt to take a short walk with me to the Church of St John at Kaneo, at least. We got there right at sunset and it was absolutely beautiful! By the way, fun fact: Ohrid supposedly once had 365 churches, one for each day of the year, making it the "Jerusalem of the Balkans".

We arrived in Skopje super late at night and our always loyal Google Maps estimated our accommodation location wrong by about 5km. Macedonia treating us with a middle-of-the-night adventure again. But after an hour of wandering around, spending all the phone credit from Kyle's as well as my phone and making the administrator guy run through the whole city centre (according to him) we finally arrived at our apartment. Have to say, an aparment in the centre for 10 euros per person was a pretty sweet deal by our judgement. The same can be said about our glorious breakfast next to the Alexander the Great statue at the main square. And i have to give Skopje some credit for them seeming to have every single thing in the town centre under construction at the same time, pretty impressive. So that was our Macedonia. Oh yea, and then we managed to lose each other right before our flight. :D

Don't get me wrong, I still love crazy places more than anything.

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And a little bit of Skopje too. Statues. Everywhere.

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And well, what it really looked like. :D

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

albania

Albania was a dream. It went from semi scary to really scary to being the most beautiful part of our trip.

After reading online horror stories about Albanian roads, Matt and I somehow got to the conclusion that driving through the whole country is what our little group needs to do. And I'm happy we did. From the scariest border crossing of the trip coming over from Greece and encountering a dead dog on the road right after that, it could only go uphill from there. Literally. On Albanian mountain roads. Our destination was the little city of Ksamil in the southern corner of Albania, directly across the Greek island of Corfu. Such a beautiful place with the friendliest people we ever met on our trip, even if we needed Google Translate to communicate with them. We spent the whole time there eating the cheapest sea food you can ever find and swimming in the clear water of the Mediterranian. I've never really been a laying on the beach kind of tourist, but damn that was nice. And probably the only reason why the guys were still sane after all these rollercoaster roads. At least studying for finals didn't seem nearly as stressful after that. :D

Speaking of driving, the only information we could find was from 2007 or so, which made us think that nobody had survived after that. In reality, there's actually quite a bit of improvement, that is, new wider highways. The only thing is, though, that they are not connected to each other that good, which means you still need to go through a lot of mountain roads. That also goes for big trucks and buses which makes it even more "fun". Staying in your own lane is a good idea but sadly not always enough to keep yourself from getting killed. Just plan time and nerves for the drive and try not to hit a donkey.

On our way back up, towards the end, we sort of accidentally drove into the city of Elbasan and decided to stop there for as long as we could stand the 40-degree heat. The city is full of colourful and pretty houses. It's also more on the touristy route, I think, which made it the only place where we ever saw postcards or souvenirs for sale.

So yea. First thing we see in Albania? A dead dog. The last thing we see? A puddle of blood on the road and some guys field dressing a cow. :D
But there were a lot of beautiful places and people inbetween those, even made us regret spending so much of our limited time in Greece. But that's how it's like with those places, you never know how it'll be.

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