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A few years ago Dave and I traveled around the former Yugoslavia countries – Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, but we didn’t make it to Macedonia until this past summer. As it turns out Dave has two employees in Skopje (the capital) who work for him, and my cousin has a best friend who lives there so it was the perfect occasion to meet them all in person.
During our 9 day stay in Macedonia we were able to see the towns of Bitola, Lake Ohrid and Skopje.
Our full day long bus from Bulgaria arrived into Bitola late at night, which we happily explored the followed day. At the turn of the century this used to be a major center for diplomacy. The city has a European feel as well as Ottoman architecture.
From there we hopped on a bus for a short ride over to magical Lake Ohrid. This is a simply gorgeous small town on a large lake that we both loved. This spot is apparently one of the oldest human settlements in all of Europe. The architecture is gorgeous, there are plenty of historic churches, small alley ways, as well as a lake side promenade.
Plenty of night time live music venues too!
From the lake we made our way to Skopje, the country’s iconic and controversial capital and wow what a city this is. There are obscenely ornate and enormous monuments, sculptures, fountains, everywhere you look. It is simply grandiose and outrageous and completely out of place. After talking with locals as well as going on a free walking tour we discovered the money for these ridiculously lavish constructions is taken directly out of the public funds and the locals are infuriated. As much as we were in awe of the overdone and hyped up attractions in the city center, we were simply horrified upon finding out how the government is treating the people and public services.
Overall the Macedonians themselves seem to be a lively and jolly bunch. What we did notice, is that they love to drink and party. Even on a Monday night the outdoor clubs did not get going until past midnight. You would have thought it was a Friday or Saturday night. We also learned the people love to gamble. Over the years the gambling has increased and from 2009 to 2015 the Ministry of Finance in Macedonia licensed six casinos with 16 subsidiaries and a record 59 online slots casinos. Of course, those who do not want to venture out also have the option to gamble comfortably from their homes.
Regarding the food in the country it is heavily meat focused, not quite the best country for vegans! We did discover that they do have absolutely amazingly flavorful and aromatic tomatoes. The tomatoes in Macedonia are one of the most flavorful I have tasted anywhere in the world. They’re big and juicy, simply exploding with flavor upon first bite. A day did not go by without an enormous salad overloaded with tomatoes. And of course a big plate of meat.
This was always accompanied by several rounds of beers!
Overall we had an absolute blast in Macedonia from strolling around the lake to wandering around the capital city, and best of all the highlight was interacting with two of Dave’s employees and my cousins best friend who all call the country home.
Any time we meet up with locals it always makes the travel experience more rewarding and interesting. We loved learning about the historic and politics of this country and region and it truly gave us a better insight into the daily life in Macedonia.
I only wish we had more time there to see even more of the country!