Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Scoping out Skopje

Macedonia is incredibly close to Bulgaria. Both culturally and physically. So we decided to go there for a long weekend. It was a fantastic country.
BH and I left on Thursday morning and met up with our friend Diane at the bus station. It was a little cold in Sofia, and we hoped the weather would hold up. Buses leave five times a day from Sofia, and we jumped on the 9:30 bus. We crossed the border a little past noon, and the scenery was beautiful. After two more hours of the bus, we arrived in Skopje. We checked in at the Art Hostel and set out to explore the city.
Living in Sofia, it is hard not to compare new countries with what we are used to. The main stretch in Skopje is quite nice. It is wide and pedestrian only; it also has a bunch of statues ranging from the thought provoking to the bizarre.
The fish itself was cool, but why the weird legs?
Of course, our priority at the time was lunch. We had just spent five hours on a bus. We needed to eat! I thought there would be plenty of Macedonian restaurants to choose from in the center, but all we could find was Italian cafes and Irish pubs. We asked a couple of young Macedonians, and they directed us outside of the city. A short, and cheap, taxi drive later and we were enjoying a delicious Macedonian meal. I had some sort of meat BBQ with cheese grilled inside, while Diane had an amazing stew. The only downer was the beer; only order златен лав if you love watery brews. Regardless, if you go to Skopje, I definitely recommend the Pivnica Krigla. I would guess that most taxis know where it is as well. They finished off the meal with a free pancake stuffed with nutella. When I asked why it was free, they said they don't get foreigners much and want to show us a good time. It was delicious. 
 Dinner was followed by a walk next to the Kale Fortress. We were just wandering back to our hostel when we ran into the grand bazaar. Apparently, it is the largest in the Balkans. The market was great. Easy to walk through, well lit, and plenty of things to choose from. 
Since this was our first night, we decided to head back to the hostel and not spend all our money on the first night. The walk back to the hostel included seeing the old stone bridge (15th century) as well as a bunch of new things under construction. From what I have seen, this is an up-and-coming city. 
After a brief rest at the hostel, we met Kristin at the bus station. Like us, she was hungry. We went back to the city center for dinner. The first unpleasant thing, however, happened. A taxi cab called us over and, after a little haggling, told us he would use the meter. He did use the meter, and was very talkative and kind. When we got to the center, it was maybe 100 denar. However, when I turned to pay him, he tripled the price. I was going to leave him a good tip, but seriously? I hate getting ripped off just because we are foreigners ergo easy targets.
Taxi cabs aside, we finished out the night with a great dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I don't know why we ate Mexican in Macedonia, but it was the best Mexican I have had in a long time. BH and I enjoyed some gazpacho (actually Spanish) and quesadillas. As we were eating, it began to rain. We were a little dismayed, but at least we had good food and good company. The prospects of the next morning and moving on to Ohrid were bright as well.

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