Straight from the border of Greece, myself and my motorcycle driver and ‘Brit friend’ Mark, drove right into MACEDONIA with the color palette of fall beginning to glow before our eyes. An old Yugo-Citron 2CV Zastava zipped passed us rattling up a storm of dust as the driver gave us the stink eye as we slowly glided along that dirty road. The trees were swaying in a colorful breeze of fallen leaves ~ in all directions ~ as they floated past us as if in slow motion. Sometimes, I’d close my eyes on the motorcycle and just smell the air when we entered into a new land and culture. I somehow could always feel there was a change of surroundings and it didn’t take long to see and experience the differences.
Way off in the farthest distance past the corn fields, where mountain crests were sparkling from the sunlight, we could see hidden mountain villages with unusual brick round dome ‘mosques’ and Orthodox Christian style churches.
As you drove in closer to a village, you could catch a call to prayer if you timed it right, or even the church bells ringing on the hour. It was such a cultural shock to experience such varied cultures in such a juxtaposition. This is what traveling does…opens your eyes and your senses!
As we grew closer to city life we noticed stone homes around the town of BITOLA with the wattle and daub walls along with several concrete and metal industrial buildings that seemed to be fully functioning. On occasion we’d spot the out of the way ‘never completed’ building that looked abandoned and was returning back to mother nature. You wonder WHAT HAPPENED and we were thinking WAR HAPPENED.
We drove through every kind of weather, through all different kinds of beautiful terrain and mountain passes. From dim lit gray to dark dense gray fog, from mysterious mist to faint drizzle, then pouring buckets of rain to peeking sunshine all within a couple hours time. The roads were slippery slick and bumpy and at times covered in mud so thick you could barely make out the white lines of the road let alone the pot holes from lack of highway maintenance. All I can say is….HOLD ON TIGHT and really watch the roads!
I loved those old commie cars that you didn’t know whether to stare or to laugh as it rattled by and kicked up a fog of dirt and pebbles! I was often taking photos while on the back of the motorcycle, trying not to drop the camera as well as hold on tight, frame, and shoot a moving target…and it was never easy with a burst of wind coming up behind me. I just never seemed to run out of things to photograph…especially these old retro cars!
Motorcycle insurance was really a rip off and we believe we got taken advantage of at the border crossing (no receipt given, really? $50 cash). Thinking, once again, Tourist Price and Local Price often varies!! We hoped that it would be used towards fixing roads rather than lining pockets of poorly paid employees! We avoided toll booths by taking all the smaller country roads which are by far more interesting in the long run.
We passed loads of pepper and onion fields, cow pastures, various fruit and apple orchards. I saw horse driven wooden apple carts and even a few loud and rough looking MAD MAX large motorized go carts hauling fruits, mostly apples through small towns in the southern lake region near OHRID. I loved seeing the homes drying fresh red peppers along their walls and the livestock wondering around the fields. It was a very natural setting with not nearly as much city life as other eastern countries. Sometimes you’d come across a mom and pop “house shop” selling wood or the other odd ball fruit and vegetable stands. Around every corner was something a bit out of the ordinary for us westerners
We often passed old gray haired married couples working as a team in the fields with their pack mules that wore old wooden saddles filled with tools. Sometimes they’d be hacking on trees and sometimes on their old tractors working the cabbage fields or tending bee huts. Creeks always ran along side us on these semi deserted roads with the occasional person walking along the road…for who knows how long or how far, or perhaps just a drifter. Sometimes the pack or the single wild dog would chase us and ALWAYS got too close for comfort, but they tuckered out and gave way to the road side dirt and just kept barking mad. A rest stop, a warm meal and a cold drink was always welcomed after a long ride and a dog chase!
Sometimes we just got STARED AT.…I mean really just stared at for a really long time. Maybe because I was a woman on a motorbike of which we saw very few bikes at all anywhere especially in the countryside and rarely any women on them. Once in a while an enthusiastic rider would stop us along the street and want to express his love for motorcycles. We talked to a few police who were polite at best and friendly to our questions or inquiries for directions. I found the people to be shorter in height and more blonde or dyed blonde at least, lol, in very casual wear.
We stayed in the popular village of Ohrid along bearutiful Lake Ohrid and it was absolutely FABULOUS and a lovely place to visit and spend some time in. The inside of the old town area near the lake had a lovely church and lots of rustic buildings and was lovely in the light of the moon. Lots of nice outdoor lakeside cafes, a vegetable market, restaurant areas, and a walking and shopping zone within minutes from the lakeside. The mountains surrounding the town were full of bright fall colors and really accented the whole region. I was actually quite impressed with this area and would highly recommend it when traveling within Macedonia.
I only got to see the southern part of Macedonia but I am sure there are more spectacular places to visit in that vast country and Fall Season was so very pretty and colorful. Our journey was 2 days short through this beautiful land but I hope someday to return and visit the north and more of it’s pretty mountainous regions! Here is my parting shot of my wonderful new friend, MACEDONIA!