Going Where Few Venture
Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
108Trip End Oct 23, 2009
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At the top of the pedestrian zone I noticed a large clock on the former train station that seemed to register the same time everytime I passed by. A little digging and I found out its hand stopped at 05:17 on July 27, 1963 when a big earthquake shook the city to rubble
Some freezer burned Chicken McNuggets rounded out my perfect sightseeing trifecta and I managed to swallow these little pressed pattie gut bombs for the first time since I was maybe 10 or 11 years old. I couldn't help but think of those old Wendy's commercials where we are reminded that "parts is parts". These crap chunks don't even remotely resemble anything off a chicken. At least I could somewhat manage to mask the rancid grease taste with a coating of that high fructose corn syrup posing as bbq sauce.
Yes, I came all the way to the former Yugoslavia to eat a meal that could be found in any neon filled suburban food court loaded with more fast food joints than are probably in all of Macedonia. And yes, everything else in town seemed to be closed so I was forced hold my nose, sidle right up to the trough and order with disdain at this shrine to Americana. Sometimes the road less travelled unexpectedly branches off into a detour right back to places very familiar. I will do my best to avoid Micky D's and all things American as I delve further into the Balkans.
Luckily my detour was shortlived and as always I arrived in Ohrid today fully prepared to go to all lengths to bring the finest sights and cheesy travel narratives right into the comfort of your own homes. Lake Ohrid with its 940 foot depth is no exception and is one of the deepest lakes in all of Europe. Albania and Macedonia share its shores and today a sightseeing boat traveling between the two cracked in half, killed 14 while 42 survived
First on my agenda was a steep climb up windy stone alleyways under the scorching Macedonian sun to reach Carsamoil's Castle. This 10th Century creation overlooking the lake and city is the perfect place to linger a while for the views. I have no idea who Carsamoil was or his importance to the area but I did like using his home as a rest stop after climbing in the 94 degree heat with only a crushed and melted candy bar and hot water to fuel me skyward.
I am thoroughly enjoying the Balkans and am so glad I have discovered fine places before the tour buses one day disgorge all those obese nomads who pollute Europe from the safety of a tour bus. Oh the things they miss just because they dare not wear out the bottoms of their shoes with a little biped exertion. How many places in the world serve up war damage, Christianity vs. Islam, big modern cities, towns straight out of a few centuries ago, great food, and a mix of feuding ethnic groups all within one region? The disintegration of Yugoslavia into all these nations afresh really has given me everything I look for while traveling, especially the experience of something so 180 degrees different from home
Macedonia has awakened my senses in so many unexpected ways. Yesterday while aimlessly wandering Skopje's sidewalks, I passed a sidewalk cafe where Diana Ross was belting out that song that goes "upside down you turn me, inside out and round and round, upside down and round and round." Well, not Diana herself but a tinny rendition blasting out of wall mounted speakers. Those lyrics describe how I feel down here where things just aren't at all like what I expected. Actually I have noticed that stores and restaurants here play a lot of old songs from the 70s. It all lends an authentic backdrop to the beat up old cars and architecture dating to that era.
Checking out the hostel circuit is something else I am enjoying as well. About fifteen bucks a night buy a nice place to crash and meet other wanderers who like me enjoy veering off the beaten path. I have come across fantastic and interesting people who are gone longer than I will be and who have travelled even further off the normal travel circuit than I ever have dreamed of doing. Now that's the kind of trip I dream of setting out on one of these days.
In Beograd the Green Studio Hostel welcomed me with a free beer the size of a Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull Forty, free laundry service, free internet, free breakfast and a place to hang out the next day until it was time for my late night bus
Since I am not really on any type of planned itinenary "there" happens to be Albania. My newfound friends at the hostel gave me some great tips on how to get there and a couple of girls are even heading my way. Should be fun.