I had been meaning to visit Macedonia for some time, I have a friend from Skopje who lives in Malta and she is always telling me I must visit Skopje & Ohrid but I never get around to it. I finally got a chance but had to tie it in with other plans so only got to stay for a few days. Just enough time to give me a taste of Macedonia and leave me wanting to go back for more.
We arrived in Skopje early in the evening, I did my usual trick and let a taxi driver rip me off, tired from a bus journey from Serbia and getting used to yet another new currency this is becoming a regular occurrence. Tip: When you arrive here contact your accommodation and ask them to organise a taxi for you. The drivers at the bus station will probably rip you off!
We finally arrived and checked in to the hostel then went looking for somewhere to eat nearby. There was lots of choice here and we found a square with a few restaurants that looked pretty lively then chose a table that had the added tack factor of being serenaded by music. The food was really good and really good value. As was the beer which led me to knock back a few to many. Speaking of value Macedonia is one of the best value for money countries I have been to, it is ridiculously cheap to get by here.
The next morning we went for a day trip to Pristina in Kosovo. When we got back to Skopje my lady friend had arrived 2 days behind me from Bulgaria and was waiting at the hostel. I met her and we went out for more food then hit Skopje city centre to check out the night life. It was fairly quiet (It was Sunday night) but the city still had a bit of a buzz about it. The main areas for bars were down the river side and in the old Bazaar area. There was lots to choose from.
The first thing you notice when you rock up in Skopje is the statues. I mean they are everywhere, like statues of statues. The city of a thousand statues as it has become known. The reasoning behind this was to give the city a different edge and to attract tourists. I was not attracted here by the statues but found them amusing. Unlike some of the locals I met and my Macedonian friend who think they are an eye saw and a complete waste of money.
Whether you like the statues or not, beyond them Skopje is an interesting and nice city to explore. On one side of the river lies the modern end of the city. After most of Skopje was flattened by an earthquake this side was rebuilt in to a modern city center. Across the bridge is the old town and Bazaar backed by Skopje fortress which sits on a hill overlooking the city. Skopje old town aka old Bazaar is a mix of market stalls, cafes, bars and shops competing for space among many narrow streets and old buildings. It is a cool place to pass a few hours wondering around which is exactly what we did the next morning.
Feeling like we had just arrived it was time to leave and jump on yet another bus, this time to Ohrid. There was probably lots more to see and do here but a long weekend also felt like enough time to explore Skopje.
Ohrid was just a flying visit but a place I simply have to go back and spend more time in! We got there late, found the hotel in the rain then went out for some more decent local cuisine at silly cheap prices before crashing for the night. The next morning we got an early start to make the most of the short time there. It was the end of season so quiet but the sun was out and the lake looked like a mirror reflecting the mountains of Albania in the distance, our destination that afternoon.
I did take loads of photos but my phone decided it was out of memory so was going to delete them for me. This is the only salvageable one I have. I will get more some day soon though for sure 🙂
There was something really sweet about Ohrid, the lake front with a few nice eateries and the old town were a cool place to hang out for a few hours. Plenty of friendly locals and visitors but still off the beaten tourist trail. We did not have time to take full advantage of it though. My travel buddy had to get to Tirana in Albania by that evening to tie in with her other plans so we did lunch by the lake then went to figure out how exactly we were going to get to Tirana.
Ohrid to Tirana / Albania
For anyone looking for information on how to get to Tirana or Albania from Ohrid then this is how we managed it. I went in a travel agent looking place to ask for advice. She told me there was buses running to Tirana and other parts of Albania that we had to go to the next town to catch. I cant remember the name of the town but apparently asking at the bus station is the way.We had left it a little late in the day for another Balkan bus adventure so as we pondered another night in Macedonia and an early start I noticed my girlfriend outside talking to taxi drivers.. She speaks a little Bulgarian and Russian, not much but there is a few similarities in the language and just enough for her to do what she is good at, bargain a better deal.
So we bagged a taxi from Ohrid to Tirana for the equivalent of €80 with a local driver. Not a bad deal at all for what turned out to be a 4+ hour cross border taxi ride split between 3 of us! My 3rd cross border taxi ride this year and the most scenic and interesting one to date. As I will explain in my next post 🙂