Despite the floor episode from Hungary to Serbia, night trains are rapidly becoming my favorite way to travel. Not only are they incredibly reliable (in over 6 months of traveling Europe I’ve never known a single one to be late) but they are comfy fun and cheap and you (mostly) wake up in a new country! What more could you ask for?
The sleepers come in 3 forms. The expensive 2 bed type, the second class 4/6 bed type and the much more fun open and full of beds type. Unfortunately I’ve only enjoyed the open type once. The journey from Belgrade to Sofia was comfy and dotted with bouts of laughter as Danny’s top bunk collapsed folding him away into the side of the compartment.
However, due to the restricted train services down here my train fetish will be put on hold in favor of the much more boring ‘sweaty bus’.
They say that ‘you are what you eat’. This means that three weeks ago I was a meat-filled pancake with sourcream. This week I am a Shopska Salad however, throughout these changes at least one arm has remained a shashlik kebab.
Talking of food – the other day a Frenchman stole my croissants. It’s just weird on many levels.
Why does it always rain on me?
When Frans from Travis posed this question the answer was not because he ‘lied when he was 17’ but obviously because he lives in Scotland! In my case it’s Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia! Yes – it’s rained (in fact thunderously) in every single one. Maybe I lied when I was 17?
There were two very obscures and quite worrying sights while out and about in Bulgaria. The first was a young girl (probably just over 10) selling magazines. Not so bad in itself until you look closely and see that they include a number of ‘adult’ titles. Buying Playboy from a 10 year old is just wrong. The second was a group of school kids (from about 10 to 16 years old) who were disco dancing at 2pm in a nightclub in town. Again – it’s just wrong. OK, so it’s holiday season but they should be riding bikes and playing with action figures not attempting the 80’s style robot dancing to loud turbo-folk. Thankfully the 12 of us from Hostel Mostel managed to raise the average age to an acceptable mid-twenties.
The more astute readers will have worked this out by now – this is where I am, in Macedonia. More about this below.
The nice folk in Macedonia have taken their own approach to the internationally standard cuppachino. The Mac-Cupp is made by taking a coffee and squirting lots of that instant whipped-cream on top of it. Whilst it actually tastes ok, coffee purists and all Italians should bare this in mind before ordering.
I’m not going to stop harking on about HC. Not yet anyway and not while I continue to meet nice folk like Daniela, her friend and Aleks. I met Daniela and her friend (who’s name I have embarrassingly forgotten) on Thursday night and, while out I also met (very briefly) another HC’er Aleks. All three are great friendly people who speak great English. Strangely I seem to be a HC first for everyone I’ve met! …Let’s hope I don’t put them all off!
Stupidly Macedonia and, Skopje in particular get far less foreign visitors than Bulgaria. However I like this place much more and all the people I’ve met here are incredibly nice. Skopje has a large modern city center with numerous open cafes and bars along one side of the river and an old Turkish style ‘old town’ on the other side which includes a few impressive old buildings, a fortress on a hill and a massive market/bazaar selling everything from fruit to plumbing equipment. Apparently it occasionally gets bombed but thankfully the local ballistics experts chose not to practice their craft this weekend. Skopje has plenty of entertainment for those who enjoy loud music and beautiful crowds and I managed to enjoy a good does of both. The whole stay was made much better thanks to Danielas expert knowlegde and great hospitality and on Thursday I saw the international DJ Plastikman, who I’ve never heard of and on Friday I shared a beers with Chuck Jordan (guess where he’s from?) a friendly and very American Regional commander from Kosovo and a local celebrity producer Milcho Manchevski.
unfortunately one thing Skopje doesn’t have is any cheap accommodation and at 18 Europs a night my stay here was getting expensive.
While Chuck gave me his contact details and told me to call if I arrived in Kosovo for various reasons (money, non-recognised border crossings into Serbia and the good advice of everyone in Skopje) I decided not to hop across the border at this point. So instead I have continued west to the fantastic lake Ohrid.
Here you can slide your way down the shinny marble walkway passed numerous gift shops and cafes to the crystal clear lake. Mingle with 100’s of Macedonian (and a few other) holiday makers and sun yourself on a Sandy beach. What’s more at a wallet-friendly 5 Euros a night this place is much more affordable and very, very scenic. I’ll be here of a few days and then on elsewhere. Prizes for guessing where?
As they say here – Ciao.