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  • Day208

    Skopje, Macedonia

    July 27, 2015 in Macedonia ⋅ ☀️ 34 °C

    Visiting Macedonia was never on my list. I jokingly said to dad a few weeks ago that during my free fortnight maybe I'd visit there, or Montenegro, or Serbia, who knew! It was an exciting thought.

    Last Thursday I found myself in a panic. I had no accommodation after Saturday night, I had no idea where to go, but two weeks to fill before arriving in Budapest on the 9th of August. Getting out of Greece over land through the north is difficult. The Greek government shut down all international trains back in 2012 and buses aren’t always reliable.

    I looked at flying into Ljubljana, Slovenia, it was too expensive, another option was flying into Budapest and then bussing it over. But not one to enjoy wasting money, I didn’t want to do this either. I’ve already been to Budapest and I’m going back, I didn’t want to use it as an over night base.

    Budapest is the closest I could fly to from Greece, there are no other flights for the in between countries. Oh! And this dilemma is how I found myself looking into Macedonia. My guidebook kept mentioning all the great wine there, and after spending a fortnight in Greece with shabby wine I was looking forward to a good drop.

    But getting into Macedonia isn’t that easy. For starters the Greeks aren’t happy with the use of the word Macedonia, they feel that they own it for the area called Macedonia in their country. You can only access Macedonia via a bus from Thessaloniki to Skopje, a bus leaves twice a day. And Skopje isn’t even the main tourist area.

    So, with wine on my mind and me looking for a cheap country Macedonia it was. I booked a flight into Thessaloniki for Sunday morning, I found a hostel for Sunday night and showed up at the bus station in Macedonia asking how to buy a ticket for Skopje.

    And it has been a fantastic decision! My bus left at 8:30am on Monday and we arrived into Skopje at 11:30am, with me gaining an hour. A bonus discovery is that Macedonia doesn’t count as part of the Schengra Visa – woohoo! It means I have more days in November to come back to Europe.

    For the first time ever on a bus, for me, we were stopped at the border. All of our passports were collected, reviewed and stamped. We stopped off to visit the duty free shop, before heading further and being stopped again, so that another officer could view our passports and see our luggage area. Then it was straight on threw.

    My hostel, had given great instructions and I found them very quickly after arriving and getting Wi-Fi in Skopje. The taxi drives surround the bus depot like flies to dead meat. Everyone asks you for a taxi, but my hostel had emailed earlier with clear instructions to not use anyone of them at all, but to call them in I needed help.

    I find the hostel with ease, it appears to be an old house renovated as a hostel. The gate is opened automatically and Marjan, the guy on reception today, comes out, hand outstretched introducing himself. I feel so welcomed and at ease straight away. I get a tour of the place and told there is free tea/ coffee and juice all day, and there are oils and spices in the cupboard for my use.

    At this point it’s nearing 1pm and the hottest part of the day. I’m used to all of the siestas in Greece. So I pull up a spot on my bed, turn on the AC and update myself on the world, it’s been a while since I had decent wifi.

    Tonight I plan on visiting a restaurant Marjan has recommended and to visit a grocery store. This is quite possibly my favourite thing to do in each country / town, I love visiting grocery stores.

    Ah Macedonia, you have been the right choice for my 21st country.

    Where I stayed
    Shanti Hostel - str. Rade Jovcevski Korcagin 11, Skopje, Republic of Macedonia

    A fantastic place to stay. The stay are so beautiful and nice. You are immediately welcomed in as if you were a long lost friend. There is a full equipped kitchen, with oils and spices to use, plus free tea, coffee, juice throughout the day. There is an outdoor garden and the rooms are quite comfortable. There is ac and it's relatively close to everything. Highly recommended!
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